Entries in The Harrison (5)


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.


The Harrison


Note: This is a review of The Harrison under Chef Brian Bistrong, who has since left for Braeburn. For a more recent review, click here.

Now might not be the best time for a re-review of The Harrison, given that executive chef Brian Bistrong is leaving at the end of the month, with Amanda Freitag replacing him in January.

Owner Jimmy Bradley says, “We’re going to go in a new direction. 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.”

Be that as it may, I chose The Harrison for a holiday dinner, because I knew (from past visits) that it would be rock-solid—and it was. Freitag has a lot to live up to.

I gave the restaurant’s fascinating background the last time I reviewed it, so let’s get straight to the food:

harrison01a.jpg harrison01b.jpg

Just like last time, flavors and textures were perfectly judged. Fried Oysters ($12; above left) rested on coleslaw and bacon mustard sauce. Local Trout ($25; above right) had lovely crisped skin, overshadowing the haricots verts and the red cabbage purée.

harrison02a.jpg harrison02b.jpg

Everyone raved over the Fall Squash Risotto ($12; above left), which must be the side dish served at the gates of Heaven. One of my colleagues had the Warm Chocolate Cake ($9; above right), while the rest of us supped on after-dinner drinks.

The Harrison seems to be one of the few serious restaurants where the wine prices are still reasonable, meaning that there is are respectable bottles under $60, and very good ones not far above that amount. To boot, The Harrison offers over a dozen half-bottles, something far more restaurants should do. I settled on a 2005 St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer from Alsace that all of us loved.

Service remains a problem at The Harrison. Our server disappeared for long intervals, and it was hard to get his attention. A colleague ordered Dewar’s & Soda, but she was quite certain that she wasn’t served Dewar’s. Whatever it was, the server spilled a bit of it on me while passing it over my head.

As we say goodbye to the Brian Bistrong era at The Harrison, it will be interesting to see how this great restaurant evolves.

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

Food: **½
Service: *
Ambiance: **
Overall: **


The Harrison

Note: There have been many chef changes at the Harrison. Click here for a more recent review.

harrison.jpgIn late 2001, restauranteurs Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams made a gutsy move: they opened The Harrison just a month after 9/11. Obviously the concept had long predated the attacks, but many with queasier stomachs would have postponed the opening or backed out entirely.

In those days, with many of the streets still cut off from traffic, you could barely get to The Harrison. But Bradley and Abrams were confident that the restaurant’s fortunes would rise as the neighborhood bounced back. Two months later, they were proud parents of a two-star restaurant (per William Grimes in the Times).

The Harrison is a close cousin of the flagship Bradley/Abrams property, The Red Cat in Chelsea. But I was not very much enchanted with The Red Cat; it seemed to me a decent neighborhood restaurant, nothing more. The Harrison has a dash of elegance that I found lacking in The Red Cat, and the cooking seems to me more accomplished.

I dined at The Harrison last night with a colleague. Coincidentally, we both landed on the identical menu choices. We started with Pork Belly ($12), a decadently rich preparation that must be one of the highest-calorie appetizers in New York. Breast of duck ($28) was perfectly prepared, served on a bed of quark spaetzle, and accompanied by a kicker of seared foie gras curiously not mentioned on the menu. At the end, we shared a cheese plate, which was also excellent.

I recognize the reasons why immigrants often land in the restaurant industry, but it can be frustrating at a restaurant of The Harrison’s calibre when the server can’t quite communicate. Before we ordered, he blurted out, “We have grilled salmon” (he pronounced it sal-mon). He was obviously telling us a daily special, but couldn’t explain anything about its preparation. We had already settled on the duck anyway (specials should be explained before you start contemplating the menu, not after), but he wasn’t making much of a case for that poor salmon, except that it was “grilled.”

When our plate of seven cheeses arrived, the explanation was incomprehensible. We decided not to trouble him further. Aside from that, service was just fine. Our server clearly understood our orders, even if his explanations were lacking.

I like the room at The Harrison. It’s not the restaurant’s fault that there are large glass doors lining two of the dining room’s four walls, and there are also tables along those walls. Glass is a poor insulator, and on a cold winter night those tables will get chilly. We were at such a table, but luckily it hasn’t been a very cold December. As temperatures start to fall, those tables may start to feel like Siberia. In the summer, they’re probably delightful.

I don’t know if everything at The Harrison is as good as the pork belly, the duck, and the cheese plate, but it has been a long time since a restaurant in this price range hit a home run on all three courses. To drink, we had a sublime Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru, 2001 Chateau Haut-Segottes, at $68.

The Harrison is certainly worth another visit.

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

Food: **½
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **½