Entries in Amanda Freitag (3)


The Harrison

Note: This is a review of The Harrison under chef Amanda Freitag, who left the restaurant in September 2010. The restaurant closed in late 2014, due to a rent increase.


Since the Harrison opened in 2001, just after 9/11, several big names have run the kitchen, most recently Amanda Freitag, who joined in 2007. She put a more Italian, less French-ified twist on the menu, a ploy clearly designed to pull in Frank Bruni for a re-review. It worked: the man awarded two stars.

Not that the Harrison needed a lot of help. It was a hit practically from the beginning, and it’s a hit still. It seems to be consistently full. Both Freitag and partner Jimmy Bradley keep themselves in the public eye, and no doubt this is good for business.

We’ve dined at the Harrison twice before (reviews here & here), but both pre-dated Freitag’s tenure. We were overdue for a re-visit. We won’t be rushing back. Our meal was a bust, with both appetizers and entrées disappointing.

Prices are lower than I remembered them, but perhaps the Harrison, like many places, has dialed them down. The current top entrée is $34, the current top appetizer $14—both a couple of dollars less than they were in the Bruni review. Most entrées are $25 or less.

An octopus appetizer ($14; above right) came with a sweet tomato and cucumber salad, but it was overwhelmed with celery. Lamb Cripinettes ($12; above right) were over-cooked, and dry.

Calf’s Liver ($22; above left) was too slimey, and the log-shaped pieces into which it was sliced resembled an unappetizing scatological object. Potatoes puréed to the consistency of baby food and dull mustard greens were not much better.

Fluke ($27; above right) was torpedoed by a butter-lemon sauce that was too watery, leaving the fish a soggy mess.

To the restaurant’s credit, the server noticed that I had barely touched the liver. It did not appear on the bill, and the kitchen sent out an eclair (right) as partial recompense.

The room, always crowded, is fine for what it is, but it was never especially inviting. The service remains top-notch for a “casual-plus” kind of place.

For those who care about such things: we cannot assign a rating to the Harrison. We gave it two stars after our last visit (under another chef), but this visit would get zero. We suspect the Harrison is not quite this bad. Rather than assuming that, we will leave it with no rating at all.

The Harrison (355 Greenwich Street at Harrison Street, TriBeCa)


The Payoff: The Harrison

After a week off, Frank Bruni returns today with a review of The Harrison, clocking in at the upper end of two stars:

How often, really, do you go through four appetizers, entrees and desserts without confronting a total bore, a total bust or an overwrought underachiever?

Take it from someone who spends as many hours dining out as a cat does dozing: not often. Even the best, most exciting restaurants stumble from time to time over their own ambitions. They’re exhilarating rides, but also risky ones.

The Harrison, in contrast, is the very definition of dependable, poised to impress you, if not quite wow you…

Like the Red Cat, which is technically its older sibling but feels like its younger one, the Harrison doesn’t promise or deliver out-and-out excitement. But it safeguards against disappointment as well as just about any other Manhattan restaurant.

We haven’t yet visited The Harrison under new chef Amanda Freitag, but Bruni’s review captured the spirit of the place as we recalled it from past visits, though his complaint about the décor seemed off-key: “…the Harrison’s visual evocation of a country inn in the big city still strikes me as more stodgy than cozy.” We don’t find it stodgy at all.

We win $3 on our hypothetetical one-dollar bet. Eater, who had predicted three stars, loses a dollar.

              Eater          NYJ
Bankroll $87.50   $103.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   +3.00
Total $86.50   $106.67
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 39–18   41–16

Rolling the Dice: The Harrison

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni takes a pulse check on TriBeCa standout The Harrison under new chef Amanda Freitag. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 10-1
One Star: 6-1
Two Stars: 3-1
Three Stars: 5-1 √√
Four Stars: 12-1

The Skinny: It may not be fair, but chef changes at existing restaurants don’t get the same press as brand new restaurants, even where the change is fairly dramatic. The Times is the only paper in town that at least makes the attempt, however irregularly, to re-review restaurants where there has been a significant change of personnel—and indeed, sometimes when there hasn’t been.

When Amanda Freitag took over at The Harrison, owner Jimmy Bradley told Grub Street, “We were doing French cookery in a New American style, but with Amanda the menu is going to be lusty, soulful, rustic Mediterranean-inspired cookery.” That’s enough to make The Harrison, for all intents and purposes, a brand new restaurant. But as it’s still called “The Harrison,” the rest of this town’s critics have basically ignored it.

So I don’t have any kind of critical baseline to go on here. I can tell you that William Grimes awarded two stars shortly after The Harrison opened in 2001, with the Little Owl’s Joey Campanaro in the kitchen. Bruni wrote a favorable Diner’s Journal follow-up after Brian Bistrong took over.

I can also tell you that I’ve loved The Harrison both times I visited. The chef has changed, but what hasn’t changed is Jimmy Bradley’s sure-handed touch, which was good enough to attract a generous two-star Bruni review for Bradley’s other restaurant, The Red Cat.

Eater is taking the three-star odds, betting that Bruni will award three stars for the same reason he did at Dovetail: for the price, The Harrison is very good indeed, with appetizers mostly below $15 and entrées mostly in the mid-twenties. We also realize that Italian or Italian-influenced menus, if they are good, often get a “bonus star” from Bruni.

Against that, we haven’t heard the kind of raves about The Harrison that we heard about Dovetail, and we subscribe to the theory that three-star restaurants usually don’t hide in plain sight. Our gut tells us that if Freitag were turning out three-star food, lots of folks would have noticed by now. Bruni has given out a lot of three-star ratings this year: at some point the average needs to return to normal.

The Bet: We are betting that Frank Bruni will award an enthusiastic two stars to The Harrison.