Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston, is sometimes called 'Boston's Left Bank'. The small city, reputed to be the brainiest 18 sqkm in the world, prides itself on its unusual and international dining scene. Craigie Street Bistrot, 5 Craigie Circle (craigiestreetbistrot.com) This French bistro is in the basement of an apartment building. Step inside and you're in a Parisian neighbourhood restaurant. 'We want you to feel like you're stepping into our home,' chef Tony Maws says as he waves towards his 20 little tables, at which one might see classical musician Yo Yo Ma or US Supreme Court judge Stephen Breyer, who are regulars. Maws turns out contemporary versions of rustic favourites such as slow-roasted organic veal sweetbreads with surprise ingredients such as peanuts and a maple-aigre doux. Fans of the often hard-to-find pied de cochon farci will love it. Prix-fixe menus are HK$476 to HK$585. UpStairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St, Harvard Square (upstairsonthesquare.com) Walking into UpStairs on the Square is like stepping into a 1940s jewellery box, an eclectic fantasy of pink walls with silver, gold and copper leaf, gilded ballroom chairs and a cheetah carpet. New England cuisine always means stellar seafood, but here it goes global. The Wellfleet oysters are served with slivers of Asian pear and yuzu ice and Maine lobster is butter-poached with coconut rice and curry sauce. Main dishes are H$172 to HK$312. Rialto, 1 Bennett St, Harvard Square (rialto-restaurant.com) Celebrity chef Jody Adams is anything but haughty despite having her restaurant named by Esquire as one of the best new eateries in the US. Every evening she takes time to chat with guests about her regional monthly menus, each of which reflects a different Italian regional cuisine. Tuscany month, for instance, features dishes such as braised beef short rib in red wine with gorgonzola-potato fritter (HK$117) and a secondi piatti of faro stew with black truffle and salt cod (HK$281). Adams, whose cookbook has been praised by The New York Times, says that although her new restaurant is exclusively Italian, she is forced by fans of a restaurant she used to run to serve old favourites such as slow-roasted duck with braised escarole and Sicilian olives (HK$281). 'That dish is so popular,' she says, laughing, 'that I will go to my grave cooking it.' Helmand, 143 1st St (helmandrestaurantcambridge.com) This Afghan restaurant, owned by a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is the darling of the Harvard and MIT set. The menu includes the speciality of Afghan-trained chef Carlos Diaz, lamb lawand sauteed with onion, tomatoes and garlic drenched in spices. Bring an appetite - when asked by one diner for small portions of the items on the menu, manager Osman Rasuli shook his head: 'With Afghanis and food, there is no little.' Mains are HK$117 to HK$250. Oleana, 134 Hampshire St (oleanarestaurant.com) Chef Ana Sortun has a passion for Eastern Mediterranean spices and herbs, and whips up dishes that burst with flavours such as lemony sumac from Turkey, Jordanian za'atar and oregano harvested on Mount Olympus. Her lamb steak with Turkish spices and fava bean moussaka is a local favourite, but perhaps most popular is a Turkish street-food dish of fried mussels with hot peppers and a tangy sauce. Rumour has it one Turkish visitor was so moved by the authentic taste of home that she cried. Prices are moderate at HK$109 to HK$203.