The Harrison

by Susan on June 3, 2008

[Food:3.5/5]

Achieving balance, subtlety, and consistency are the ambitions of many restaurants, though such lofty goals are often elusive. The Harrison could be the poster-child for all three. Amanda Freitag, who has been running The Harrison’s kitchen since January, should be crowned the Queen of Equilibrium. Just the right touch of acid, salt, spice, and texture leaves her dishes poised like perfectly balanced seesaws. But for anyone not paying close attention, Freitag’s performance can easily be overlooked.

The Harrison, which occupies a prime corner lot in TriBeCa, has an atmosphere that matches its food. It’s charming and understated, but a level of concentration is required to appreciate most of its nuances. Somehow the dark wood floors and white wainscot walls disappear into obscurity. If you didn’t study the surroundings, you might never be able to describe them. For some, this is masterfully crafted décor. For others, the subtlety will be unexciting.

The list of Appetizers, longer than that of the Entrees, showed a bit more flair and inventiveness than the larger courses.

A refreshing salad of finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta wonderfully complemented the flavor and texture of Char Grilled Octopus. The salty cheese was an unexpected success.

Rectangular shaped Crispy Shrimp would be more aptly described as a shrimp cake. But rest assured, there was no filler here. The panko flakes were crunchy, the lemon aioli was creamy, and the old bay added kick. Blissful symmetry.

Red beets were julienned and mixed with finely ground pistachio crumbs before being artfully piled like matchsticks atop velvety robiolina cheese. While the beets sacrificed some moisture for appearance, Beet Salad never looked so original.

The sole appetizer misstep was the Yellowfin Tuna whose silky texture and light taste were completely overpowered by an array of pickled vegetables.

There was only one off kilter entrée, a stack of Grilled Trout filets that looked much more balanced than it tasted. While forkfuls with horseradish and sliced almonds effectively jazzed up the bland fish, they were too far and few between.

Expertly Grilled NY Strip Steak was encrusted in marrow butter. The rich exterior carried every bite of the thick-cut meat while a bed of tuscan kale added just a hint of tartness.

If ever a dish could be called feminine, it would be the Slow Cooked Arctic Char. The sweet-tasting and candy-colored fish was delicately foiled by tangy and acidic, pink grapefruit. Honshimeji mushrooms provided much needed chew to a dish whose other components melted in your mouth.

No matter what you order, get a side of Duckfat Fries. No explanation necessary.

The desserts, striving for the balance the savory dishes achieved so flawlessly, couldn’t make the leap. A dark chocolate mousse served in a salty pretzel crust had the right idea, but the chocolate needed more depth and the crust, less salt. Similarly, a parfait of chocolate, marshmallows, and cookies fell flat. It needed more crunch.

Perhaps we needed the desserts to remind us that though Freitag’s dishes appeared effortless, her food deserves much applause.

The Harrison
www.theharrison.com/harrison.html
355 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
212.274.9310

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nycdc June 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

harrison is an institution. solid, dependable. i was last there a few months ago and, besides the food, was really blown away by the service, which was helpful and friendly w/o being stuffy. gramercy tavern-like. the sommelier also made a good recommendation for me.

the desserts, though, definitely are a chink in the armor. why they can’t get that right?

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