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Alden & Harlow

Is it open yet? It looks like they're taking reservations, and they have menus online - http://aldenharlow.com/.

Does anyone know how the menu works? It looks like some of the items are entree-sized (burger, steak, etc), but others are likely small plates / appetizers (carrots, mushrooms). But, everything is grouped together and about the same price.

I'm trying to figure out just how spend-y it is before I decide to go...

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  1. I believe it opens to the public tonight. A bunch of my Facebook friends got to attend friends and family; they're all gaga.

    No inside insight from their comments, but it looks a bit like the Russell House Tavern menu, with a lot of dishes meant to be shared family-style. The burger is making a big impression.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    8 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Shared family-style as in a few bites, not as in big plate family-style (e.g. Italian or Chinese), right?

      1. re: emannths

        I don't really know what the portion sizes are like, and I expect not every dish is the same size. Some of RHT's large plates are pretty big.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        I was fortunate to visit during the pre-opening, and yes most who get to do so are typically very positive for various reasons. While I don't think it's appropriate to review soft openings, I will say that overall the food was very good. This probably reflects on the fact that he didn't rush to open the place and spent a lot of time and thought perfecting the menu. Some of the dishes are indeed meant for sharing and grazing. This is the chef's baby and he will be there most of the time for the foreseeable future. I'd expect it to start stronger than some places. The burger is very good, but there were quiet rumblings from those who had reviewed the menu regarding "secret Burger - limited availability" that it might be following in the footsteps of an unnecessary and annoying trend from another local restaurant.

        1. re: black_lab

          Good for Chef Scelfo, I used to hit up North Street Grill twice a week when he was there. A really nice guy making great inventive food. We were sad to see him leave the North End, but glad he's moved on to bigger and better things.

          1. re: phatchris

            Yes, I live around the corner and always enjoyed the food there. Plus, Mike was very friendly and a huge baseball fan.

          2. re: black_lab

            The chef started the "secret burger" at Russell House Tavern probably close to open in 2010. There is still a secret burger at Russell but I don't believe it has ever appeared on the menu as it does at A&H (though it occasionally gets tweeted or facebooked about).

            http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com

            1. re: yarm

              qu'est-ce que c'est, le 'secret burger'? and is it the same animal at RT and here? thx,yarm.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                The secret burger right now at RHT is a steamed burger on toasted white bread as a tribute to Louis' Lunch in New Haven (where they served the first burger), and it has been some wild combinations that included buns that have been fried mac'n'cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches. Basically, chef's whim for a week or two at a time. Check the twitter feed for more information (they have been leaking photos and details lately).

                It's probably the same in theory since the originator of the idea at RHT is the current chef at A&H.

        2. Chicken fried local rabbit. OMG that sounds good.

          1. Add me to the gaga crowds.

            Stopped in for a drink this evening as they opened at 5p - very friendly, welcoming front desk. Large, stylish comfortable space in spite of the very low ceilings. Interesting original cocktails - that taste great - very friendly (and abundant) bar staff - well trained and highly hospitable.

            I can see the Sandhill Crane becoming a regular order for me - balanced (NOT sweet) and delicious with Terroir gin, lime, housemade cranberry shrubb, and maple. Spanked sage leaf garnish was a great ornament and aroma!

            I am eager to get back for full visit and try the food - the menu appeals to me much more than RHT did (e.g., scallop crudo, pistachio kale salad, mystery burger, etc.)

            1. Made it in with some friends, got a lot of food and drink, had an excellent time. Normally, I might feel bad posting a review off of the first couple of days open, but these guys nailed it and deserve the attention. That said, I hope any quibbles I note below are taken in the context of this having been A&H’s first week.

              I’ll go through specific dishes in a moment, but various points of interest first:

              1. I’ll put this first for the people who don’t want to read through all of this: if you go, get the beef neck. In terms of proteins, that’s the dish everyone will rave about, and with good reason. Served in a large rectangular prison, I went to cut into it, and the whole thing just fell apart into an insanely flavorful, tender, mess of meat. This is what every slow cooked short rib etc. dreamed of being when it grew up. If you have a big party, get two. Period.

              2. This is one of my favorite restaurants aesthetically in Boston. They’ve taken a big space and made it feel both intimate and contemporary.

              3. Service was noticeably friendly and trained to be attentive (ie folding napkins when someone got up to go to the bathroom, not something I’m accustomed to in a place that is more informal/so large)

              4. On pricing: as with all places that don’t do a typical three course menu, it is hard to read a menu and know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. One thing I will say is that the portions on plates all seemed attuned to the price: you didn’t feel like one 13 dollar dish was a gutbomb and another one super skimpy, which is great.

              That said, while all the protein heavy dishes did feature a good amount of food (i’d say the average one probably comes in at like 2/3 of an entrée of protein?), they come with a very small amount of starch and veg. In other words, if you want an entrees worth of veg/starch, you need to order it as a separate plate. All in all, I think average eater probably would do two large plates, snack, dessert, and be content: we averaged 40 bucks of food a person pre tax/tip. Ymmv on how gluttonous you are, of course. A&H definitely clocks in well below kt&t, and at least a few bucks below West Bridge (which I enjoy, but definitely has more variability on the price/satiation depending on how you order).

              5. Drinks are great, diversified, and also a bit below the going rate. I consider $12 standard for craft cocktails, and their menu ranges mostly 10-11. Perhaps taking a cue from his former work at ESDK, Seth and his team have a house vermouth and a house amaro going. The latter, called house ‘bitter’ (which I admit I found confusing because I thought they meant something akin to angostura etc.) is a steal at only 7 bucks a pour. The rest of the menu intelligently spreads the board: smoke, tart, sweeter, boozy quaffable, and a heated drink are all covered.

              Finally, some dishes, organized by type of dish, then subjective opinion!

              Pickled green beans with sesame were served at a little item to snack on. Think of it as an alternative to nuts to go with your drinks as you wait for food?

              Snacks:

              Excllent:

              Heirloom eggs, pickled green tomatoes, boquerones: personally my favorite snack. I’d note here that there are a lot of dishes that have some sort of ‘funk’ on the menu. The boquerones here played well with the egg, and the pickled tomato did a great job balancing out the fat.

              Great:

              Squash/currants/pecorino/hazelnut: the squash is cut up into spaghetti strands. Well balanced between the earthy hazelnuts, sweet cranberries, and a very generous amount of cheese that really sold the dish as a play on pasta. That said, and this came up on a few dishes: there seemed to be an excessive amount of oil (or maybe in this case it was the butter) melted on the plate, such that my mouth felt coated after eating a bite or two. It was still a delicious dish, but if I weren’t sharing it, with that much excess fat, I don’t know if could have had a whole plate on my own, or even half.

              The corollary to that is, this was a huge portion for 7 bucks. If you are looking for fullness/deliciousness at the cheapest price, and can get past the oil, I think you could pair this and one protein heavy main and get away feeling full for the avg person.

              Chips & three-onion dip: this is as it sounds, and it is a pretty awesome snack. The dip itself is very thick, and high on the caramelized onion flavor.

              Good:

              Crostino of roasted sunchoke/lardo/sunflower: The roasted veg/lardo combo went well; it was enough lardo for the flavor to really stand out. Solid dish, but I’d try one of the other snacks I didn’t have before I ordered it again.

              ---

              Main plates:

              The excellent:

              Wood roasted beef neck: I’ll say it again. Get it. Get. It.

              Hickory smoked blood pudding: another case of a pretty standard combo of flavors, but in this case, the blood pudding was such a hit with the table that I’d say this is a must-get if you’re into blood pudding. This was both more moist, and flavorful, than any rendition I’ve had in recent memory.

              Island creek oyster gratin: super heavy, creamy dish that got devoured. As with many complex dishes with uni, I can’t say that the funkiness from the uni stoodout against what you’d expect from oysters that have been cooked? But we loved this dish, also wanted more bread for it, and I’d get it again w no issues.

              Grilled carrots: if you’ve read about any of the preview dinners, you’ve seen this dish pop up. Carrots are the new kale, and this is a dish to show you why. Such great texture between the yogurt, carrot, and granola, and similarly well balanced sweet, spice, cream from the ingredients.

              The Great:

              Local catch: golden tilefish (iirc). Served as very tall cube of fish, the meat was wonderfully tender. Good accompanying sauce, but the star was definitely the fish and its flavor. This is not a crispy skin fish, so if you need that out of your fish go elsewhere.

              Secret burger: this was interesting. The patty (3 meat blend I believe, including smoked fat, but memory is hazy) is of what I think of as the ‘super melty’ style (at a place like Curley) as opposed to the chewier gourmet style (at say Craigie). On top is what I could closest describe as a caesar like set of greens, w cheese and (fairly sure) anchovy. Again, love the funky combo, but 1. This is definitely a more challenging flavor profile, I could see people being turned off by this 2. For me, when you go the melty patty route, then all your toppings and bun need to similarly disentegrate, or you lose the benefit of that style. I would say that while I liked the toppings and bun here, they were too much for the patty, and that dissolving effect was loss. That said… this is a pretty meta-level commentary on the burger, I thought it was delicious, and if I were ordering drinks at the bar I would get it again in a flash (being hard to share, I don’t know I’d recommend it in a normal meal where youre splitting amongst friends).

              Mesquite tortellini: 6 large tortellini to an order. great toothsome texture, another dish where cheese, and some funk (from the colatura) were employed really well. But- like the squash salad, this dish also suffered from feeling like their was too much oil, so while I loved having 2, not sure I could have had much more.

              Grilled foie gras: classic flavor pairing with the spiced fruit and sherry vinegar, so you know what to expect. The crumpet is rich: probably a bit too over the top for some, but I loved it. The SO says she prefers a foie with more crust from searing, and it’s true this was not cooked in that manner, but that didn’t bother me. I’d get the dish again just for the crumpet, but, beyond the crumpet, if you’re looking for the more unique items on the menu, you could skip this.

              The good:

              Clams from pat woodbury: this is served more akin to your typical mussels dish. Small plate, probably 12 clams. For sharing, there’s not a huge amount of pig in there so it’s a bit tough for me to say how important it was to the dish. The broth is flavorful enough to warrant extra bread, but this was a just ‘solid, I would try something else first’ dish for us.

              Salt cod & turnip brandade: this was yummy though a bit smaller than other dishes. Should note this is served with the brandade in a small ramekin with the chick pea, fennel crackers on the side to spoon the brandade onto. Compared to the typical brandade, this is noticeably more cod heavy, and a bit denser from the turnip. If this were in the snack portion I’d love it, but it doesn’t have the punchy flavors most of the mains did.

              Chicken fried local rabbit: some people loved this, some thought it was just ok. This is served as sort of one giant nugget, and perhaps as part of that, or just as whatever its fried in, this comes out tasting like a gourmet chicken nugget. I enjoyed it, and the texture was great, but you might be disappointed that this doesn’t taste more interesting/more like rabbit.

              ---

              Desserts:

              Smoked chocolate bread pudding: this is awesome. The smoke flavor comes through strongly in a very pleasing way; it accompanies the dark chocolate flavor quite well. You have the typical cold ice cream/hot pudding balance, and the texture here is super soft: the closest I can descrbe it is… imagine making an entire skillet pan out of just the inside of a chocolate lava cake… that’s pretty close to what you are getting here. It’s just solid enough to pick up with a fork, and it’s one of my favorite new desserts in the city.’

              Parsnip cobbler: it was hard to compete with the above dish, and half the table said they didn’t ‘get’ this dish, and I could understand why. The flavors are dessert-y, though definitely on the very ‘spiced’ side, but the texture of the parsnips is still very starchy- they’re served in distinguishable slices, not mashed up in such a way that you could mistake them as just any old cobbler filling. I enjoyed the dessert and had no problem finishing it for the table, but less adventurous people probably won’t be too turned on by it. I’ll be interested to see the feedback they get/if it changes over time (eg if the parsnips were cooked to a mushier texture/prepped differently, this might become more of a crowd pleaser dessert).

              ---

              I will say one last time that, overall, we had an excellent time, and this is a great addition to the neighborhood, both as a restaurant and as a top spot for drinks.They deserve a huge congrats on a well-executed, delicious opening.

              Look forward to trying what remains of the menu, and seeing how things evolve.

              15 Replies
              1. re: valcfield

                Outstanding, meaty review: thanks so much! Given the long gestation, I can't say I'm surprised Scelfo and his team are humming out of the gate, but you never know until you get out there under live fire what works and doesn't. Can't wait to try it.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                1. re: valcfield

                  Wow, what a fabulous, detailed and balanced review. Thank you, val!

                  1. re: valcfield

                    Nice review! Thanks so much for the details. Gosh, I need to get there soon. Again, many thanks!

                    1. re: valcfield

                      valc, i know it takes a long time to write a piece like this, w/ all the details, so thank you so much for your time. I daresay a number of us may be carrying print- outs to reference when ordering there!

                      1. re: valcfield

                        This report along with my brief and terrific experience on Saturday led us to dinner at the bar on Sunday night - it was GREAT - tried more cocktails - all are very good - the Bell Tower and Sandhill Crane are favorites. Bartender Tina ("tie-nah") was super warm and friendly - bar head Seth checked in with us a couple of times as well.

                        The food was DELICIOUS - the standouts for us were the kale salad with pistachio cream, the beef neck (would NOT have ordered it but for this report), and the chips and 3-onion (carmelized, shallots, and scallions) dip. We enjoyed the cauliflower tapenade, scallop crudo, and oyster gratinee as well, but they weren't our standouts.

                        The dip was soooo good (and it was Super Bowl Sunday, after all - the game was on but muted - saw all we needed to....) that we ordered another round for dessert with an extra side of the chips - $150 with tip for plenty of food and drinks for two. We will be back soon - I just hope we can still get bar seats once it is fully discovered - and that they can hold onto the very high standards they have set.

                        1. re: valcfield

                          I had the smoked chocolate bread pudding and a drink at the bar on opening night, and that dessert really blew me away. It is just so so smoky, and yet so chocolate-y and moist! I am not a big dessert/sweets lover, and it works for me. That said, I think my wife would have liked it a little sweeter (and she vetoed the parsnip cobbler immediately). But for me, I totally agree with valcfield, it's a run-don't-walk, and one of the City's best desserts, perhaps particularly for those with generally savory palates who maybe don't always save room for dessert. (My cocktail, the Bell Tower, was great, too!)

                          1. re: CportJ

                            I'm one of those people who despised parsnips as a kid, love them now. Parsnip cobbler sounds really good!

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              They also have a parsnip purée cocktail...

                          2. re: valcfield

                            I'm not often a fan of long reviews: yours, valcfield, are illuminating and truly stimulate my interest. Thanks for the insightful coverage. I'm looking forward to trying this. Nice to see Brattle street perk up after the loss of several old-time favorites like Casablanca.

                            1. re: valcfield

                              I don't have much to add to this terrific review except a lot of +1s. I went last night (Saturday) and it was busy - lots of energy without being obnoxious or loud. We sat on the far side of the bar where you can watch a lot of food being prepped - highly recommended if you're into that kind of thing. Got a little mesmerized by the broiler and got to chat a little with the cooks when they had a spare second or two.
                              Drinks: I was intrigued by the parsnip drink. The parsnip flavor was definitely subtle, but I enjoyed it. I also got something with rosemary & ginger essence that was tasty. Looks like a good cocktail program to watch.
                              Snacks:
                              The ubiquitous kale salad is such a standout. I'm not sure what they're doing to the kale, but some of it has a crispy texture as if it's been fried or baked, but it doesn't look like it has. The dressing is seriously delicious.
                              Cauliflower caponata. We watched them broiling the toasts for this all night and had to try it. It was good, especially the bread and whatever they put on it.
                              3 onion dip and chips is just a very very solid rendition of a classic. The chips were beautiful, browned crispiness.
                              Mains:
                              A bit of a hiccup here, as our order got lost. They were incredibly apologetic once they realized the mistake. They comped the food and got it sent out pretty quickly. Totally understandable for a new restaurant on a busy Saturday night, and they handled it exactly as you'd hope.
                              The beef cheek is a really beautiful dish (see picture that doesn't really do it justice) and so tasty. Get it.
                              The clams were excellent, especially the sauce.
                              Dessert:
                              I'm not a big dessert person so we split the smoked chocolate bread pudding. I was trying to decide if I liked it or not and realized I was smiling - seems like a big yes. It's a very smart use of smoke, salt, and sweet - very evocative of bacon without any bacon. It's a winner.
                              The verdict: we loved our meal, the service, and the space. I'm looking forward to going back soon.

                               
                              1. re: valcfield

                                add me to the thank you list! went the past 2 nights and worked our way thru the menu--OUTSTANDING! a fantastic addition to harvard square!

                                1. re: valcfield

                                  Great review, have to agree with pretty much everything.

                                  We met there on Valentine's Day for after-work drinks -- I had the delicious Dr Zaius cocktail, my husband had an IPA. We sat and chatted like we had at the old Casablanca and talked about how great the interior looked (and we liked the old space, too). We split the cauliflower crostini as well as the smoked cashews. Don't miss either -- the cauliflower/bread combination is delicious and the smokiness in the cashews were a delight. The pickled green beans as a snack were wonderful.

                                  We also shared the heirloom eggs and green tomatoes (amazing!) and the beef neck. So glad I ordered the beef neck! It reminded of Ana Sortun's beef short rib and was perfect with the parsnip puree on a cold, cold night.

                                  Also, I'd like to really compliment the staff there. Everyone was just so friendly and nice and that made it the kind of place you'd want to visit again.

                                  1. re: MXG

                                    Had an early 5pm reservation on a recent Friday. Walked thru past the already packed bar & seated in a quiet little alcove in sight of the bustling, open kitchen. Among the items ordered: WOOD ROASTED BEEF NECK Parsnips, Vinegar, Radishes - absolutely a "must order" - meltingly tender beef & luxurious parsnip purée so decadent.
                                    HICKORY SMOKED BLOOD PUDDING w/Carolina Gold Rice, Figs, Romesco – 10. Found the blood sausage too dried out but the sticky, tangy figs downright sinful. Chix fried rabbit - tasty morsel, but couldn't discern rabbit flavor vs. chicken, probably due to the prep. Loved the smoked bread pudding, but actually found the parsnip dessert more intriguing. Really liked the new design of the place. Service was very attentive but not intrusive. Our waiter was totally versed in the menu &, when we posed a very specific question,he dashed off to the chef & came right back w/the answer.

                                2. Loved it. Nice room tho we sat near front and didn't see too much of the space ...service attentive knowledgeable and not intrusive. Shared cauliflower caponata and I dunno what he did to that bread but it was transformed into something much more than grilled bread. Roasted carrots were perfect texture with not too much sweetness. Husb had striped bass which he loved ( I didn't taste). And thanks Valcfield the beef neck was indeed amazing. We shared the chocolate bread pudding with sea salt ice cream and couldn't gave been more satisfied or impressed. Everything inventive but not over the top. Portions just right for us with one snack, one app, two entrees and one dessert. One cocktail ( Countdown with vodka lemon cinnamon and kumquat ) , one glass of Riesling and a bottle of CA red and we were at $200 all in.....we will be back. On the rotation without a doubt.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Capeannetoo

                                    Glad you liked the beef neck and bread pudding!

                                    The mussels are definitely on my to-try list for next time.

                                    And, thanks all for the warm feedback.

                                    1. re: valcfield

                                      The Swanks are going next week; you've whetted my appetite!!