Modern farm to table meets Greenwich Ave.
By Mary Kate Hogan
When an old restaurant fades away and a new one moves in, the shift can be subtle (a version 2.0 of the former restaurant) or quite dramatic. In the case of Harvest, the new modern American restaurant with farm-to-table influence that’s taken the spot of Le Figaro Bistro, the transformation is so extreme that there’s not a trace of escargot or pate left in the place. You’re barely in the door when the scent of the wood-burning grill beckons, luring you into an industrial space with exposed brick, rough wood accents and a semi-open kitchen surrounded by a low wall of poured concrete. Toward the back of the restaurant, there’s a long wood-topped bar, where many guests choose to eat their dinner or enjoy a glass of wine.
Harvest is the fourth restaurant from brothers Vicente and Kleber Siguenza, and perhaps the popularity of its predecessors (Cava in New Canaan, Scena in Darien and 55 Degrees in Fairfield) brought some added buzz to this new opening. Whatever the reason, there was not a seat available by 6:45 p.m. on a recent Friday, and the sleek, hip spot draws a mix of younger and older diners. For me, the appeal is not only the cool atmosphere but also the varied menu, a blend of unusual, creative dishes and retro favorites (chicken noodle soup and carpetbagger oysters, for instance) from Chef Eben Leonard.
We had to indulge in the latter—a combo of oysters, beef carpaccio and mashed potatoes; what’s not to love? I enjoyed the starter, though the carpaccio and truffle whipped potatoes overshadowed some of the taste of the oysters; so if you’re looking for a more briny flavor, try the half-dozen from Fishers Island with red-wine mignonette, one of five options on the “Raw” menu. The appetizer that I loved and am craving again is the Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad, which is a tower of finely shredded veggies (think micro cole slaw) mixed with parmesan cheese, on top of a risotto cake, with parmesan shavings and drops of truffle oil on the plate. It is seemingly simple, yet so delicious. Another hit: the pear salad with bibb lettuce and mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, julienned pear slices, and a slightly sweet vinaigrette. A charred octopus appetizer garnered mixed reviews; it’s an intriguing combination of seafood and braised lentils with bacon pieces, big chunks of avocado, sweet red peppers and cherry tomatoes. Though the vegetables were lush and juicy and the lentils tasty, these flavors eclipsed the octopus.
Soon our waiter came by with our entrées in hand—but only three of them. The fourth in our party had to wait for her seared sea scallops, so we gazed longingly at our food, trying to be polite, but the delay was long enough that we dug in before her dish arrived. The wood-grilled veal chop I ordered was beautifully presented, a large portion on the bone topped with pretty spring carrots and garnished with three veal raviolis, all on a bed of creamy spinach. I loved the smokiness of the meat, the freshness of the veggies and the extra treat of raviolis. Seafood Pan Roast, which our waiter recommended, was a stew of clams, scallops, shrimp, mussels and lobster in a tomatoey broth over rice. It’s a substantial meal and great for garlic lovers—we could all smell the garlic before taking a bite. Though late to the table, the scallops with scallion mashed potatoes, haricot vert, almonds and a side of lobster (so good) were pleasing, if a bit salty. Grilled rainbow trout was an interesting preparation with spinach, lentils, pistachios and beet, but the fish was on the dry side.
Desserts capped off our meal on a positive note. Lemon crepes came topped with strawberries and a delicate crème anglaise; the brownie sundae starts with peanut butter cup and espresso nugget ice creams, blanketed with toasted peanuts, warm chocolate sauce, a little strawberry sauce and a generous cloud of whipped cream—heavenly. If you order the espresso nugget ice cream, as we did, you may not need coffee because it’s laced with crunchy pieces of real espresso beans.
As we were walking out, the dining room was still full and more parties were walking in. With its sleek new façade, a menu that will change with the seasons and two pros at the helm, Harvest seems ripe for the restaurant picking.