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

opinionatedchef Jul 2, 2012 08:06 PM

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. yarm RE: opinionatedchef Jul 2, 2012 10:58 PM

    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.

    http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

    3 Replies
    1. re: yarm
      barleywino RE: yarm Jul 2, 2012 11:06 PM

      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
        jgg13 RE: yarm Jul 20, 2012 06:36 AM

        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
          yarm RE: yarm Jul 23, 2012 07:15 AM

          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. opinionatedchef RE: opinionatedchef Jul 19, 2012 10:12 PM

          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
            Small Plates RE: opinionatedchef Jul 20, 2012 05:58 AM

            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
              opinionatedchef RE: Small Plates Jul 20, 2012 11:51 PM

              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. Alcachofa RE: opinionatedchef Jul 23, 2012 10:12 AM

            "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:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843755

            Also, as mentioned here, the name "Park" does not lend itself well to easy searching:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8451...

            4 Replies
            1. re: Alcachofa
              peregrine RE: Alcachofa Jul 23, 2012 11:43 AM

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

              1. re: peregrine
                Allstonian RE: peregrine Jul 23, 2012 12:16 PM

                59 JFK Street, between Eliot & Winthrop Streets.

                1. re: peregrine
                  peregrine RE: peregrine Jul 25, 2012 11:37 AM

                  Thanks to you both.

                2. re: Alcachofa
                  opinionatedchef RE: Alcachofa Jul 23, 2012 09:05 PM

                  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 .

                3. n
                  nickls RE: opinionatedchef Jul 23, 2012 11:11 AM

                  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
                    s
                    Swankalicious RE: nickls Jul 24, 2012 04:14 PM

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

                    1. re: Swankalicious
                      peregrine RE: Swankalicious Jul 25, 2012 11:38 AM

                      Where's the free parking, please?

                      1. re: peregrine
                        a
                        asutton RE: peregrine Jul 30, 2012 07:10 AM

                        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.

                        1. re: asutton
                          opinionatedchef RE: asutton Jul 30, 2012 03:55 PM

                          that's great info; thx much!

                  2. opinionatedchef RE: opinionatedchef Aug 2, 2012 08:27 AM

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

                    1. Bugsey34 RE: opinionatedchef Aug 29, 2012 02:23 PM

                      I finally tried Park last night and was unfortunately underwhelmed - had really wanted to love it. Maybe it had just been too hyped up for me.

                      The cocktails were a high point - we tried two and they were both fabulous. One was the Raya Rojo which was strawberry mezcal based, had some bite to it so a must for anyone that likes spice. The other was the Paper Chaser.

                      The bacon 3-ways appetizer everyone raves about was the underwhelming thing - again, maybe I had heard too much hype. Each component was OK, the prosciutto/melon combo having the strangest texture and therefore the weakest one. The house cured bacon was definitely of high quality but the flavors were nothing amazing - bacon, an egg, and toast. Bacon tomato, mayo and a piece of arugula... it just didn't inspire.

                      We had the patty melt, chicken sandwich and caesar which were all good but nothing to rave about.

                      I would definitely go here for after work drinks, the library like decor and atmosphere was great, wish the food had measured up.

                      1. Dea RE: opinionatedchef Aug 30, 2012 11:35 AM

                        I also got a chance to finally try this place earlier this week, and loved it. I love the space. It's hard to believe this was the Redline, which always felt dark and dingy to me. We started with the confit chicken wings, which were incredibly tasty, and my DC did the RW menu so she got the pork belly app, which was also very good. Large piece of pork belly on a bed of cheesy grits. Now, I don't like grits, but I liked these. Smoother than other versions I've tried and excellent flavor.

                        DC's RW entree was pan-fried cod on succotash - again very good. The cod was perfectly cooked, which was a nice contrast to the overcooked fish I'd had last week at Orinoco (which I love but won't order fish there again), and the succotash was delicious. There was an unusual spice there that I couldn't put my finger on. I had the patty melt, which was delicious, and came with a mountain of thin fries that were crispy and salty. I brought home half of the burger which I ate for dinner last night, and most of the wings (large order!) and fries. So I'm getting three meals out of one.

                        Oh, and I forgot to mention the cheese and crackers they serve at the beginning of the meal. The cheese was a house-made blend of cheeses (I can't remember which) along with homemade crackers which were between papadum and pita chips in taste and texture. So nice.

                        Finally, we each had a glass of white wine, a reisling and a sauvignon blanc. Nice pour, and well chilled - hard to mess up wine though. My DC also had a cup of tea with her RW dessert, a blueberry and lemon napoleon layered on shortbread. Very fresh and not too sweet. We both can't wait to go back to try some cocktails and more food! I'm very happy this took the place of Redline!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dea
                          opinionatedchef RE: Dea Aug 30, 2012 12:55 PM

                          whew! so glad you had great experience there.

                          bugsey, i hope you'll try the more substantial apps and entrees sometime and i hope they change your mind about the place.

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