- Cuisine: Seafood
- Vibe: Nautical chic
- Occasion: Dinner at sea, cozy date, group dinner
- Don’t Miss: Maine mussels with cabbage and bacon, clam chowder, butterscotch pudding
- Price: Appetizers, $12; entrees, $24; dessert, $8
- Reservations: Recommended
- Phone: (212) 989-6410
- Location: 290 Hudson St., at Spring St.
Do you ever just go out and eat?” a friend asked me at dinner a few
months ago. “Rarely,” I answered before returning to the menu. But a
lot of people do. There are plenty of people who don’t need to know who
the chef is before making a reservation.
Can you picture someone walking into their local diner and demanding to see the chef’s résumé?
There’s no denying food gets much more attention than it used to.
Think about it: food TV, food bloggers, food porn and celebrity chefs
with cooking shows. I thought it might be interesting to just “go out
to dinner” at Harbour, a new restaurant that has opened west of SoHo.
That meant no Googling the chef. No peeking at the menu on the
Internet. No glancing online at photos of the restaurant’s interior. It
was torture. I don’t even remember what life was like before they put
menus online and PR firms began sending press kits.
The only thing I knew about Harbour was the address – 290 Hudson St., near Spring St. – just a few blocks north of the Holland Tunnel.
I walked past two outdoor parking lots in a relatively unsettled part
of town, and what did I find? A yacht. The walls are high gloss, wood
panels lined with portholes. The creamy leather banquettes are circular
and set with glitzy stemware and seashell-shaped candle holders. The
sign on the bathroom reads “First Class Restroom.” It could easily seem
gimmicky, but it doesn’t. It’s not exactly dinner on the high seas, but
it’s an admirable facsimile.
In fact, Harbour is a restaurant on a mission. The menu offers only sustainable seafood. The chef, Joe Isidori,
isn’t in-your-face about it. He simply doesn’t put any unsustainable
options on the menu – no Chilean sea bass, no cod, no farmed Atlantic
salmon and no bluefin tuna. Instead, there’s sea scallops with
cauliflower and raisins, and Beau Soleil oysters with Meyer lemon and
There’s a terrifically smoky clam chowder with bacon, Worcestershire
sauce and cherry tomatoes confit. The menu’s not just ocean-friendly,
it’s also affordable. The clam chowder’s $9, entrées hover around $25,
and there’s a wine list with 20 bottles under $20. I had a great $18
bottle of Gruner Veltliner, one of the many wines they offer with a
screw-top for conservation reasons.
By far, the best deal and dish at Harbour is an entrée of Maine
mussels. It has everything going for it: a fragrant mountain of fresh
mussels, lardon, Brussels sprout leaves, crispy slivers of garlic,
Korean pepper and homemade kimchee.
But there’s a few too many highs and lows here. The lobster salad
was sorely overdressed in ginger mayonnaise and lobster oil. And the
most expensive dish on the menu – a $39 entrée of butter-poached
lobster – was washed out by butter and a smoked-paprika foam.
I do have one question. What’s with all the foam? The yuzu foam
suppressing the broiled char with salmon roe. The frothy yellow curry
dominating an entrée of pan-roasted hake. There was one successful
exception – a wonderful sea scallop ceviche with sea urchin, Thai
mignonette and an airy lime emulsion.
As for dessert: Skip a chalky Black Forest chocolate cake, layered
with a gummy sour cherry gelée. Instead, try the butterscotch pudding
topped with addictive, cream cheese-stuffed brown sugar cookies.