Chez Henri’s Conch Yaniqueque

Have your Johnnycake and eat it, too
By KENJI ALT  |  December 14, 2007

Usually when I go to Cambridge for a taste of the Latin-inspired French-bistro cuisine at Chez Henri, I sidle up to the bar for their signature combo meal: a pressed Cubano ($12.95) and a mojito ($7). For under $20, the best pressed-pork sandwich in the city and a bartender to match is a no-brainer. But on my most recent visit, I dug a little deeper into my wallet for the full-blown restaurant experience, and sat down in their elegant, red-walled dining room. Though every dish I tried was a keeper (highlights included a surprisingly light and summery pork-belly pozole rojo, $11.95, and a decidedly French duo of baby lamb chops, $32.95), the standout was the Conch Yaniqueque.

The deep-fried Dominican version of a Bahamian Johnnycake (like hushpuppies are to cornbread), the dish starts with a shatteringly crisp golden-brown crust that breaks open with a puff of steam to reveal a light and fluffy interior riddled with chewy pieces of conch and green onions. Grilled shellfish is often tough as a rubber ball, but the chef here has managed to deeply char the pair of shrimp on the side of the plate while maintaining their tender brininess. With a drizzle of habañero-spiked honey, they’re good enough to eat blackened tail and all. Finishing off the plate is a pile of pickled green papaya and pineapple, its sweet, sour, and fresh crunch refreshing the palate between bites of deep-fried indulgence: the icing on the Johnnycake.

Available for $13.95 at Chez Henri, One Shepard Street, in Cambridge. Call 617.354.8980.

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