The Harvest Vine

2701 Madison

Reviewed: 9 June 2007

Whenever we arrived early for dinner at Rover's we'd often explore the stores and restaurants that line part of Madison, and we'd always look in the window of The Harvest Vine and vow that we would try them, if only we weren't going out to dine at Rover's. This time we made a special trip up Madison, and we went straight to The Harvest Vine and settled down at our table upstairs across from the bar. We had a spectacular meal, even better than anything we had eaten at Tapeo in Boston or even Tia Pol in New York.

The dining room upstairs was cozy, with tables along the walls across from the bar. We arrived at five, and by six o'clock, the restaurant was full upstairs, and the larger dining room downstairs was filling up as well. Meanwhile, the kitchen was turning out wonders. There was a lighter than air revuelto with porcini and sea urchin which gave it a delightful sweetness. Revueltos are the Spanish, or Basque, version of scrambled eggs, but when done right, as they were done at The Harvest Vine, they are so much more.

The octopus salad was a pile of delight, with starchy pochas beans, tiny bits of chorizo and spicy piquillo peppers setting off the smokiness of the tender octopus. The stuffed squid in its ink, an Iberian classic, was magnificent, with sweet squid in a dark, but subtle sauce. The Harvest Vine let the squid ink speak for itself rather than oversalting it. The roast cod was also given a platform, and stood out richly against the green notes of the sauteed pea vines.

Every dish was imaginative, with wonderful pairings of flavors, all evoking the Mediteranean. Sea scallops were set off by caramelized onions and crispy strips of serrano ham. Squash blossoms were stuffed with blood sausage and pan fried in egg, rather than simply deep fried. The meal was a veritable symphony, with a hearty rabbit rillette on garlic buttered crostini with sour cherries and caperberries for contrast. Many ingredients were combined, but nothing was fussy. There was no sense of the chef trying too hard. Even classics, like the grilled venison with oyster mushrooms, let each component of the dishshine, even as they formed something even better on the plate.

We left the restaurant in a happy daze. We have long been fans of the small plates of Iberia, but The Harvest Vine just does them better than anyone else.

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