we've been interested in harvest for a couple of years now, as they consistently garner rave reviews from both local and national media. harvest has made a name for itself by serving local and/or organic produce. according to their website, harvest "takes American cuisine to a new level, transforming seafood, steaks, chicken, game, and vegetables into multi-tiered presentations of flavors and textures." with the help of an opentable.com kickback check, we finally pulled the trigger last night.
harvest is a strange fusion of modern furnishings and southwestern colors and patterns. it's difficult to say whether or not it works, but enough of the decor was confusing enough for us to comment on it numerous times. the lighting was exceedingly dim (what harvest calls "warm"), and the noise was not an issue, despite eating at the peak of a dinner rush. we really dug the wine racks, which conveniently serve as a partition between the dining space and the kitchen doors. the table settings did nothing to interest us, aside from the harvesty-autumn brass napkin rings. one thing we like about the setting is the different levels that help make the space more dynamic.
our primary waiter was quite good, and from the minute we exchanged words with him, we felt comfortable. he responded with a brief hesitation when we told him we only needed to hear about vegetarian specials, but he rebounded quickly by showing us his willingness to discuss options with the chef. in fact, he made two separate trips to the kitchen to inquire about veg-friendly menu items. the staff assisting our waiter were competent and very friendly.
we were excited to eat at harvest because we've read numerous reviews that celebrated harvest's commitment to the locavore movement (see quote above). we started off with an organic greens salad. organic = good. harvest salad = underwhelming. not only was the salad a touch limp, it was also quite uninteresting in terms of flavor and presentation. it came with an herbed cheese toast, and this was actually the highlight. still, organic does equal good, and we really appreciate when a restaurant makes the extra effort to serve organic produce.
moving onto the next course, we received a bowl of onion rings with maytag blue cheese dip. the onion rings were nicely breaded and the dip was yummy, but we were stunned by the enormity of the serving. so. much. greasy. onion. we conceded at mid-stack and moved on to the final course: a side of kennebec potato "frites" (we're still not sure why frites is in quotation marks) and our entree, ricotta gnudi. we ordered the former because, well, we're suckers for frites; we ordered the latter because the main ingredient was chanterelles. the frites were quite good, as was the truffle mayonnaise. nuff said. the ricotta with gnudi was soft and flavorful (unlike most ricotta) and the spaghetti squash was a great touch, but the dish was ultimately a failure because of one fatal flaw: fried chanterelles. ordinarily, we don't like to question a chef's decisions, and we understand that he probably chose to fry these beautiful mushrooms in order to add texture, but it was absolutely the wrong decision. instead of tasting the mushroom, we tasted the batter coating the mushroom. what a shame. beyond this flaw, the dish was swimming in butter. ick. perhaps this is why they started their spa menu? still, we were expecting the butter sauce to be a seasoning, not a soup.
we went to harvest expecting a fresh, vibrant, veg-friendly meal. instead, we left feeling greasy and unwell. to be fair, it was our fault that we ordered onion rings and frites, but it was the treatment of the food that let us down. there just didn't seem to be a commitment to "letting the food speak for itself," which is a mantra nearly all locavores chant. why is a restaurant like harvest even offering onion rings and frites? why drench vegetables in either butter or oil? sad, really, but still we applaud them for committing to local produce. next time, though, we'll stay away from the fried foods.