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Rendezvous – I was a regular at The Blue Room, Steve Johnson's old restaurant, for its simple-but-perfect approach to food, and for its excellent wine list (helmed by one of the friendliest wine gurus around, Deanna Briggs). When Johnson left, or sold, or was bought out – these gossipy details tend not to interest me much – I found other venues for my not-up-for-the-expense-of-No. 9 Park dining adventures.

So it was with great pleasure that I noted Steve's long-awaited re-emergence onto the local dining scene. And it's as if he never left; almost literally so, as very nearly everything about Rendezvous will remind his long-time fans of The Blue Room. Some of the dishes (skate, roast chicken) are virtually the same, cooked in the same comfortable, top-notch home cooking sort of fashion that made The Blue Room such a success. The wine list, now constructed by Nicole Bernier, is not quite up to the excellence of Briggs' work, but this is – to subvert a clichι – praising with faint damn, for it's a list with a striking number of "real wine" options from which to choose. And, as at The Blue Room, both food and wine are reasonably priced.

If there's a quibble, it's that the kitchen sometimes leans a little too heavily on the salt (a problem with a recent truffled gnocchi dish, especially). I'm a big fan of salt – I've been known to eat particularly interesting salt directly from my hand – so for me to object to the level of salting, one almost has to expect some sort of accident.

There's a personal quibble, too, but this one is my own problem: the restaurant is in the location of an old, perpetually-dingy Burger King that I used to stumble into after particularly bleary nights back in college...and back when Central Square was a somewhat dangerous place to be at night, rather than the well-past-transitional urban conclave it is now. It's hard to shake that memory, especially since the curved windows at the front haven't changed. That said, the space is a little nicer than The Blue Room – smaller, but with a slightly more classic elegance (it's still casual, though) and a rather nice-looking bar – and few other than me are likely to have this particular disconnection. (2/06)


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