Arts restaurant review

A hidden luxury

Harvard Square’s historical secret

9806 eastcoastoysters
The East Coast Oysters at Harvest.
9807 steak
The 12 oz Pat LaFrieda Striploin at Harvest.

Restaurant, $$$
44 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Tucked away in a quiet corner in Harvard Square, Harvest offered an unexpectedly vibrant fine dining experience. Boasting a carefully crafted menu featuring seasonal specialities, Harvest has provided a welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy contemporary New England cuisine since 1975. The restaurant has inspired many chefs, and it was even frequented by celebrity chef Julia Child during her time in Cambridge. Harvest has many regulars, and the kitchen often adjusts recipes based on the feedback of their diners.

We were warmly welcomed and seated next to the fireplace on the heated back patio. While the fireplace made our table unusually warm, the patio as a whole was very well-decorated, complete with flowers, trees, and string lights.

The dinner menu was relatively small, but it was easy to tell that each dish was carefully chosen to showcase Harvest’s culinary talent and freshness. The manager informed us that the menu changes seasonally and that many of the ingredients were hand-picked, sourced from local purveyors. This was a stark contrast to the beverage menu, which presented an expansive list of cocktails, beers, wines, and spirits from around the world. (20 pages were dedicated to wines alone.)

For drinks, Cathy ordered the Pigeon Cove Kombucha, which was advertised as a jasmine lavender kombucha from Gloucester, MA. She instead received a blueberry cinnamon kombucha, which we later learned was because the paper menu does not change fast enough to reflect the seasonal menu changes. Though Cathy’s not a huge fan of cinnamon, the notes in the kombucha were subtle enough that the drink was still enjoyable. Tai enjoyed a glass of the Merlot Blend. Merlot is typically a dry wine, but the blend provided hints of sweetness which made it a nice cleanser for the rich food.

We started out with the East Coast Oysters, Sea Scallop Crudo, and a pumpkin caviar soup. The selection of oysters came from nearby Martha’s Vineyard as well Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay and were accompanied by a rose petal mignonette delightfully presented in a nautical glass jar with cocktail sauce and lemons. The freshness of the oysters really shone through, and it was easy to distinguish between the two varieties as the New England oyster was sweeter than its brinier southern counterpart. The Sea Scallop Crudo was a delicately balanced tower of thinly sliced apple sticks, smoked cracklings, bacon-onion jam, and fresh scallop. The scallops tasted light and refreshing, though the cracklings overwhelmed the scallop itself. The smooth and creamy pumpkin soup was complemented by thick pieces of bacon and garnished with caviar and chives, which were overpowered by the soup’s richness.

While we were waiting for the entrée, the executive chef came out to greet us and surprised us with a complimentary scallop dish with caviar, grilled onion, and smoked cracklings. The scallops were tenderly cooked and worked well with the caviar and grilled onion.

For the entrée, Cathy had the 12 ounce Pat LaFrieda Striploin with hasselback potatoes and broccoli rabe on the side. The broccoli rabe was charred and topped with crispy bacon bits and a creamy bacon fat aioli, which nicely cut through some of the bitter notes of the broccoli rabe. The steak was perfectly cooked to medium and sat on a flavorful sauce au poivre. With the large portion sizes the meal felt very hearty and left little more to be desired.

Tai ordered the Beef Bourguignon, one of Julia Child’s signature orders. Beef Bourguignon is a traditional French dish, which Harvest presented elegantly. The tasty stewed bone-in short rib rested upon a bed of lemon and thyme mashed potatoes and was surrounded by honey glazed carrots. The tender meat easily fell off the bone after being stewed in red wine, stock, and herbs for hours. Compared to the Striploin, the portion size was smaller, but everything was cooked perfectly and all the parts complemented each other as well.

For dessert, Cathy had the Bananas & Barley, a banana cake topped with a ring of thinly sliced bananas and drizzled with caramel. It was surrounded by cute dollops of whipped milk chocolate and lime ganache with some pieces of malted milk crunch and perfectly paired with a honey barley ice cream quenelle on top of crumbled graham crackers. The star of the dessert was the milk chocolate ganache, which was not too sweet and tasted exactly like biting into a chocolate bar. The banana bread itself was a little dry but still flavorful and worked well with the creamy toppings. Meanwhile, Tai finished off his meal with the Coconut Cheesecake. The cheesecake was placed on top of a sheet of coarsely ground graham crackers, topped with bits of coconut streusel and passionfruit, and accompanied by a hibiscus mezcal sorbet. The cheesecake wasn’t too heavy and played off the flavors of the coconut and passionfruit well. The flavor of the fruity sorbet was dominated by the mezcal, but it provided a nice contrast to the rich cheesecake.

Overall, Harvest was a delightful fine dining restaurant with well-crafted dishes that highlighted seasonal and regional specialities. It may be on the pricey side for college students, but we think the elegant atmosphere and interesting dishes make it a worthwhile trip for special occasions. Next time you're in Harvard Square and feel a little fancy, make sure to check out Harvest!