Monday, November 24, 2008

The Harrison, NYC

I'm back from a fantastic but short trip to the city. It was great to finally see the movie I worked on three years ago and to meet up with some old friends. My mom and I carpooled down to New Haven, took a train in to Penn Station, and stayed at my friend Grace's apartment. Grace joined us for the movie and for dinner beforehand. She is a devoted foodie and assembled a fabulous list of restaurant options; after some debate we narrowed the list to two and Grace made the final choice of The Harrison.

Please excuse the lousy photos; the restaurant's candlelight made for great atmosphere but terrible shooting conditions. It was just too dark and I had to resort to using the flash. With food this tempting, we could barely hold off on digging in long enough for me to take pictures, so I snapped just one quick photo of each dish.

Above is Mom's appetizer of black mission figs with blue cheese and prosciutto; it was absolutely delicious and something we will definitely make at home. It's such a simple but satisfying combination.

Grace opted for the oven-roasted sardines with breadcrumbs and garlic oil. It was tasty, but I'm not sure I'm a sardine fan. I've only had them once before, at my second grade class's Oktoberfest (my teacher was German).

And here is the dish that caught my eye from the very first moment I opened the online menu: kabocha, delicata, and brussels sprout salad with pumpkin seed vinaigrette. It was spectacular - the squashes perfectly roasted, the textures pleasingly various, and the sprouts - oh, the sprouts! The sprouts had been marinated and were very, very vinegary, which was fine with me, because I love vinegar. They were plump and juicy and when I bit down they let loose bursts of tangy, green flavor. Brussels sprouts are my new favorite vegetable, and while so far I've tried roasting and pan-searing, now I'm determined to make some sour, mouth-puckering, marinated sprouts like these.

Apparently I'm not alone in my love of vinegar; the chef at The Harrison must love it, too, as he uses it liberally. Sometimes a bit too much, it seems. This is Mom's entree of red snapper with graffiti eggplant, tomatoes, and fregola (a Sardinian pasta akin to couscous). The snapper had a really nice texture, with a surprisingly crisp crust, considering it didn't appear to be breaded, and a nice, flaky interior. But it was a little bland and didn't quite stand up to the robust flavors offered up by the rest of the dish. The server had warned us that the graffiti eggplant was very sweet that day; the sweetness wasn't a problem, but the excessive vinegar was. On its own, I rather liked the eggplant (again, I love vinegar), but it was too much vinegar for my Mom, who ordered the dish, and it definitely overpowered the delicate flavor of the snapper.

I ordered the Black Angus flank steak with red potatoes, pommery mustard, and sweet red onions. I love, love, love stone-ground mustard, and since no other entree really jumped out and screamed "EAT ME!" I ordered this. It was a good choice; the steak was incredible tender, the potatoes and onions were perfect, and there was just the right amount of mustard. The greens that you can see peeking out from under the onions were also doused with vinegar, but since there weren't a ton of greens, it was just the right pop to wake up the tastebuds.

Grace chose the monkfish special with broccoli rabe and spaghetti squash and I believe she enjoyed it. (Grace, if you're reading, can you weigh in in the comments?) She certainly came closer to finishing her entree than either Mom or I did. That's another thing about The Harrison- the portions are quite large. I hardly ever leave anything on my plate when I go out to eat, but I left probably a quarter to a third of my food on the plate. Not because it wasn't good, but because I didn't have room.

Of course, not being able to finish our entrees didn't stop us from ordering dessert. The three of us split the chocolate pretzel tart with sea salt potato chip and malted anglaise. The cream on top seemed to be creme fraiche; Grace also detected a hint of creme fraiche in the chocolate fudge filling of the tart. The crust was similar to a graham cracker crust, only made with crushed pretzels. The tart was good, the chocolate very rich, but I think the salt could have been stronger. It was a little too subtle.

As you can see, we had quite a feast. Not pictured: an order of duck fat fries with malt vinegar aioli. It was the first time I had duck fat fries and I was suitably impressed. I kept thinking they were like regular fries, but then the richer and more complex flavor would rise up. We also started the meal with cocktails - Mom and Grace had cranberry-ginger martinis, which were delicious! I'm not usually a martini drinker, but these were so smooth going down. We're going to try to recreate them for Thanksgiving. I ordered an Apple Bulleit, which was a blend of bourbon, apple cider, lemon juice, grenadine, and something else that I can't remember. It was very good; Mom thought it was too sweet, but it didn't taste sweet to me at all. It tasted like autumn - fresh apples and pumpkin pie spices! I also had a glass of O'Leary Walker 2005 Shiraz, which I enjoyed very much; it had a wonderful smell and a plummy taste that stood up well against strong flavors in the food.

Overall, our meal at The Harrison was satisfying, with interesting choices and food that was generally well-prepared, but certainly not perfect. If, like me, you have a taste for the sour stuff, order away; otherwise you may want to ask your server about how much vinegar a dish contains before making your selection.

The Harrison
355 Greenwich St.
New York, NY


Grace said...

Hi Sarah, I did enjoy the monkfish, especially since it came with two of my favorite veggies. I particularly liked that the fish was on the bone which made it incredibly tender and flavorful. The broccoli rabe had a good kick of red pepper and the strands of spaghetti squash provided a nice sweet conterpoint. While I can't say it is the most interesting dish I have eaten in a restaurant, I was craving a light but flavorful dish and this hit the spot. I have to say my favorite part of the meal was the sardines though--I am a total sardine freak and the butterfield, breadcrumb topped preparation was one I hadn't had before.

Amanda said...

What a fun dessert! I am going to pass that idea on to my pastry-chef sister. Suunds right up my alley.