Sleek, chic and slender, the Conductor’s Building was built in the early 20th century during the heyday of railroad transit. More than 100 years later, the latest occupants of the 17-foot-by-140-foot Cambridge building are experiencing a boom of their own.
The owners behind two Row 34 locations and a pair of Island Creek Oyster Bars (Garrett Harker, Jeremy Sewall, Skip Bennett and Shore Gregory) have transformed the space into their fifth restaurant this decade, Les Sablons, which opened in mid-April. Using a lot of French techniques on the food, Les Sablons aims for a metropolitan Europe feel in its menu and atmosphere.
“The minute you walk in, you really feel like you’ve just stepped into a metro station in Paris or London,” says general manager Brian Murtagh.
The first floor has seating for 50 at low-tops and a 10-seat bar, with a raw bar display, original concrete floors, brick walls and art from Stephen Sheffield hanging on the wall. The upstairs dining area is more formal with white tablecloths at seating for 100 as well as a 16-seat marble bar. A few curved booths reside near the large windows that flood the room with natural light during the day. The back of the space sports white subway tiles in an area that can be cordoned off for semi-private dining.
“When you walk in, this is [beverage director] Jackson Cannon’s high-end cocktail party. This is where the party is going to be, before you go to dinner or after—or hopefully both,” Murtagh says. “It’s a whole different energy upstairs, but it’s the same cuisine on both floors, and the same service on both floors.”
The basement level houses the kitchen, which will be helmed by chef de cuisine Brian Rae and turn out a menu split into traditional sections of raw bar, appetizers and entrees. Raw bar items will include a few oysters (including some petit belons) and king crab. Appetizers range from a large seared white asparagus to English pea soup with gougere, bacon and orchid. Entrees include a beet and radish dish with red quinoa, roasted greens and truffle vinaigrette as well as a grilled lamb loin with barley and oat porridge.
“We’re more focused on bringing fresh ingredients and ingredients people aren’t using right now to the table,” Rae says. “We’re doing stuff like turbot, which is a fish that’s not used much around here. We’re bringing it back, and we hope some people are happy it’s available.”
In the beverage program, six European beers, one sherry and one wine will be on tap, and the wine list from Lauren Daddona will skew toward Burgundies and Bordeaux. Cannon’s cocktail list includes the eponymous Les Sablons cocktail with vodka, Bénédictine, sherry and lemon. Cannon developed the drink a year ago and had already tested it out across a few other restaurants. Consider it the luxury of operating within a booming restaurant group. Next stop: Les Sablons.
Les Sablons 2 Bennett St., Cambridge (617-268-6800) lscambridge.com