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Jul 2, 2012 08:06 PM

7/2/12, Park Restaurant In Harvard Square- A Most Satisfying Neighborhood Gem

Just returned from a really satisfying dinner at the new Park Restaurant in Harv Sq. Devra First had given it 2 1/2 stars last wk but i never saw any CH reviews of it. We were there very early so it was quiet, but i imagine it might get very lively later in the eve. Big dark room all black/brown with red banquettes and lots of high top seating for small and large groups. "Modern Pub" decor? Our waitress was topshelf; really knew her food stuff; came from a year at Russell House Tavern (sister to Park). Bartender made a great cosmo; FINally, a cosmo that i didn't need to be squeezing extra lime into. Reds by the Glass list was v. good.

I actually think I liked everything about our meal <Notary Public! Notary Public!>
Table 'bread' is some kind of thin wafer sheet served w/ a soft cabot cheddar drizzled w/ port syrup. The beet salad was probably the best i've ever had and easily the most generous- a rainbow of baby beet wedges scattered across a swipe of tart lemon curd ,with roasted hazelnuts,grapefruit and orange segments, sea salt and baby greens. My Love had Seared Scallops over a corn puree with bacon vinaigrette and shaved asparagus. I had the same set-up with a Scottish salmon fillet that was perfectly grilled rare.Tomato risotto was creamy and perfectly cooked; roasted mushrooms side was good (but paled next to the buttery garlicky Ben's Mushroom side at Strip T's.) Portions, esp for the price, were average for the entrees and sides and generous for the apps.

Park is what Open Table would categorize as a "Neighborhood Gem." The chef has obviously put in his time (Mistral included) and i really enjoyed the way he tweaks so many of his dishes to make them unusual and his own. The things that surprised me about the menu (Park's very first menu)is that it seems to have a number of cold weather dishes- cassoulet beans, duck leg with lentils, pot pies, clam chowder; and unusual whole grain starches are absent.(Bring on the freekeh, bulghur,farro, rye berries and red quinoa!) First found desserts lacking and we were too full to try them anyway.

In the near future, I hope Park's desserts will improve and that the chef will focus more on the summer as it progresses . But it's certainly a very big menu , with many appealing items, and after our delicious dinner tonight, we are really looking forward to exploring it further.

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  1. I can't speak for the food, but the drink program seems like it has a good amount of potential. The bar manager (Daren Swisher) used to be at Meadhall and he knows his beer. His drink palate seems decent too. The bartender who made my drink (Chris Balchum, the tall blond guy with glasses) had solid technique and carefully jiggered the drinks. I will be back in the future.

    3 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      I agree the bar manager seems to know his stuff. The food I had was no better than your average pub though (brisket was dry/ overcooked, the wings were meh). The air conditioning was unusually weak, also, a consideration on hot summer days.

      1. re: yarm

        I had come in here for a few drinks a while back. It was long enough ago that I no longer remember what we had but I do recall being pleasantly surprised by what we were served.

        1. re: yarm

          My bad, the bar manager is Chris Olds who slid over from Local 149 (I believe he was also at Citizen and elsewhere before that) and not Daren. I haven't been served by Chris yet, but the part about Daren knowing his stuff remains.

        2. I'm so surprised no one else has posted about Park.I thought Russell House Tavern ( same owners) got a fair bit of CH love so i figured i'd be reading alot more about this place.......but come to think of it, it has appeared in the past that Harv Sq does not have a large CH contingent
          (unlike Allston or Somerville or the South End.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: opinionatedchef

            We had a group dinner at Park on Saturday, and it was as you described. Delicious. We started with a few apps - the "bacon three ways," which are three little bites - the first a toast with with Bacon, egg and cheese; the second a toast with house cured maple bacon, confit tomato and arugula; and a spoon of prosciutto, melon and balsamic. These were excellent. We also had the tasting of toasts, which were confit tomato, mozzarella and arugula pesto; roasted mushrooms, sweet garlic and Tellegio; and pickled shrimp and smoked tomato jam. Of these, the mushroom toast was the standout. My dining companions had the salt and pepper shrimp (didn't really do it for me, but they loved it), and the crispy mussels with preserved lemon and horseradish sauce. These were wonderful. Light and sweet - and the horseradish sauce was perfect. The surprise for me was HOW GOOD the tempura lemon slices were - WOW - who knew?!?! For my main, I chose two apps - the Summer Tomato Tarte Tatin - which was great. The tomatoes were sooooooo sweet, and the pastry very light. I could've had double. The bulk of the greens on the plate was unnecessary, in my opinion - others may feel differently - they were good - but the abundance of greens took away from the star. I transferred half to my husband's plate so I could see my tomato tart - LOL! Then I had the chowder. It was a very hot evening, and I could have done without it. Don't get me wrong - it was very. very good. Thinner than most - but tasting perfectly of the sea. One minor quibble is that my bowl was overloaded with chunks of potato that were not the right size for the bowl. Very minor. This is a very good bowl of chowder. My husband had the patty melt on rye, which was perfect. My kind of burger. The others had a pepper-crusted NY strip - which was cooked perfectly, and the brisket with cassoulet. I did not taste this, but it looked great. We skipped dessert and moved into the adjacent lounge for a few cocktails. The soundtrack was very good - like a day in the life of the good fnx playlists. I think this is a great spot, and we all vowed to come back with a group in the Fall. All in all this is one of the most enjoyable meals/outings with friends we've had recently. Recommend highly - there is something for everyone on this menu.

            1. re: Small Plates

              Yay! So happy to read this! If there's another uncommonly cool night like this tomorrow or Sun, we may just run back for that cassoulet and tart and our much loved beet salad of course, and... and... and....! So glad you had so many more dishes than we did, as they expand the playing field considerably!

          2. "I'm so surprised no one else has posted about Park.I thought Russell House Tavern ( same owners) got a fair bit of CH love so i figured i'd be reading alot more about this place"

            Well, it is also the same owners as Grafton Street, which deservedly gets NO love from CH, and Temple Bar, was started off meh, then got good, now I don't know how it is. So, where does that leave us?

            And it has been discussed. One example:

            Also, as mentioned here, the name "Park" does not lend itself well to easy searching:

            4 Replies
            1. re: Alcachofa

              so where is it???
              street address or intersection, please, not "where xyz used to be"

              1. re: peregrine

                59 JFK Street, between Eliot & Winthrop Streets.

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  ha! well, i did do a search before starting this thread, but your IT / 'search' skills are way above mine! thx so much for those links. If people read them, they'll now get a pretty complete picture of the CH Park posts to date.

                  and peregrine, (in addition to the address above)it is in the basement of the large Galleria bldg (is it still called that?) where, when the bldg first opened, there was a movie theater. The Galleria abuts the west/river side of the Grendel's Den park and is across JFK from the large dark grey with orange clapboard multi-shops building .

                2. Just stopped in here recently for a quick dinner at the bar, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how good an experience I had. When I looked at the cocktail list and saw the Old Cuban, I was already happy because I was thinking on the walk over that either an Airmail or an Old Cuban would hit the spot. Everything was jiggered, long shake, double strain, tasted delicious.

                  For dinner, I had roast salmon which came with green and wax beans, feta cheese, several varieties of cherry tomatoes, and olives. The salmon fillet was cooked nicely on the rare side, and included crispy skin, which I love, along with a generous hand on the salt. The fish was delicious, the veggies were plentiful, and I felt everything made a harmonious whole that added up to an excellent summer meal.

                  Only quibbles for me was that the salmon was bordering on being oversalted, and the drinks were a bit sweet for my taste (also tried the Tom Terrific). Still,a great meal from an unassuming restaurant that stood up to meals at places charging $5-10 more per entree. A lot of the tables were open on a Friday, so this place may be battling the somewhat hidden location.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: nickls

                    Agreed. Delicious, satisfying food and good service too. Plus free parking!

                      1. re: peregrine

                        Free validated garage parking* is available Sunday – Wednesday with dinner. On Thursday – Saturday, validated parking is $2 off with dinner.

                        *At the Harvard Square Parking Garage at 65 JFK Street. The entrance is on Eliot Street.

                  2. In her Food Trends article in today's Globe Food section, Devra First raved the sriracha wings at Park.