Dish Gal's guide to getting the most out of life, one meal at a time...

Z-Square in Harvard Square

Skylar and I found ourselves in a foodie predicament this past Saturday night: 7:00 p.m. and we had no reservation for dinner. We wanted to try somewhere new, but knew all the usual hot spots would definitely have a looong wait.

So Skylar and (let's call her) Michelle and I finally decided on Z Square in Harvard Square, as they had availability for 3 people at 8 o'clock. Conveniently located just steps from the T, we passed through its "cafe" upstairs and descended to its subterranean restaurant and bar.

The restaurant had a small bar area, with large rectangular high-top tables with groups sitting around nursing bottled beers and havin' a laugh ("are you havin' a laugh??" gotta love Extras). The main dining room was very open, and reminded me of a really nice dining hall or cafeteria.

So was I back in high school? Not with these prices. Maybe I’ve become spoiled by the influx of moderately priced restaurants in Boston, but whenever entrees start migrating towards the $30 mark, the joy I feel from dining out starts to get a little overshadowed by the guilt I feel at taking away money I could be using for other necessities (like a silly thing called “shelter”).

Dish Gal’s tummy wasn’t feeling up to its normal happy self, so I decided to stick to some nice, light fish. As I scanned the menu I saw this wouldn’t be a problem—Z Square actually featured quite a few fish dishes, ranging from sea scallops and swordfish to tilapia and cod. I selected the coconut fried tilapia with sugar snap peas and a cucumber-mango relish ($22). However, neither coconut nor fried seemed to appeal to me, so I simply requested that the waitress ask the chef to make it just grilled or poached tilapia.

Now, Dish Gal usually doesn’t like to alter her food at restaurants—she knows that the chef created it the way it comes for a reason—but in extreme circumstances like this one, she has to stray a bit from the menu. Having waitressed before, I’ve heard some very strange requests before, but changing the way a fish was prepared was not one of them. However, our waitress awkwardly said that I couldn’t change the way the tilapia was, but that I could sub-in another fish instead. (Does this mean that the chef pre-makes the coconut fried tilapia? I was confused.) I sub-ed in the swordfish kebabs ($24) and called it a day.

In the end, the swordfish was very nice, light and flaky, and mixed in with the rice and the cucumber-mango relish, I patted myself on the back (in my head only, of course) for actually creating a nice little meal for myself! And my stomach thanked me afterwards.

My dining companions, on the other hand, tried quite a lot—they seemed happy with everything, although no “oh my god this is awesome” remarks. I took a bite of their roasted pear and prosciutto salad ($9), as that combo is one of my favorites, and it was quite tasty.

The verdict? Z-Square kind of reminds of The Cheesecake Factory for urban folks: If I’m in the mood for a fantastic meal out, I’m not going to head there. But friends are in town and no one can agree on a place and food is not the priority but rather good conversation and an overall nice time? Just might end up there.

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