Harvest Wine Bar opened at 64 LaSalle Rd. on May 24, with a menu that focuses on modern American cuisine prepared with local ingredients.
By Ronni Newton
Harvest Wine Bar had its soft opening just a few weeks ago, and already the restaurant’s tables have been filled with diners enjoying Executive Chef Nube Siguenza’s spin on modern American cuisine.
It’s abundantly apparent – even to the casual visitor driving through town – that West Hartford has a large number of restaurant choices. And as restaurants continue to open, it becomes even more challenging to find new concepts to entice diners.
While there are certainly other American restaurants in West Hartford, Harvest is the newest to this market, but differentiates itself with a proven formula honed on the Connecticut shoreline (there are locations in Greenwich, Westport, and New Haven), the chefs add a unique spin to familiar dishes.
“It’s been amazing,” said managing partner Jorge Guerra about the reception Harvest has received in West Hartford. “We already have some regulars.”
“Harvest,” as the name would imply, is committed to using fresh, in-season ingredients for its menu. The restaurant owners, siblings Kleber, Vicente, and Nuba Siguenza, have formed personal relationships with the purveyors of their beef and the growers of their produce. The other part of the name – “Wine Bar” – is a nod to the extensive selection of wines to complement the food, many available by the glass, and the bottles that are a focal point of the decor.
Inside the now-combined space at 64 LaSalle Rd. formerly occupied by two women’s clothing retailers – BK&Co. and the Contessa Shop – Harvest has a warm and casual, earthy feel, not at all fussy. The entire front of the restaurant opens up to the sidewalk, where an additional 20 seats now occupy the patio area.
Justine Holleran, of the JS Restaurant Group corporate office, described the concept as “modern American cuisine with Asian, Latin, and Mediterranean influence as well as an extensive wine list from the United States and around the world. By supporting local and organic farms, Harvest makes it a top priority to serve the freshest and highest quality ingredients and offer a farm-to-fork dining experience,” she said.
Diners will find traditional favorites on the menu, but it’s the preparation that makes the dishes unique.
It’s tempting to fill up on the warm bread served with hummus and an herbed olive oil, but then you’d miss out on appetizers like the calamari – grilled and topped with lemon aioli, cilantro, red onion, and a drizzle of Minus 8 vinegar.
Other selections on the “snacks and shares” menu ($12-$17) include mac and cheese (short rib or lobster versions), wood-fired Harvest sliders, meatballs, tartare (spicy salmon and steak), and charred octopus (served with roasted garlic white bean puree, sweet piquillo peppers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado).
Starters ($10-$15) include the shaved Brussels sprout salad, a baby kale salad, crispy artichoke, and a jumbo lump crabcake (with chipotle aioli, pineapple mango slaw, and arugula).
“Seconds” ($18-$35) include an assortment of homemade pastas like ricotta gnocchi, mint and sweet pea ravioli, and a seafood linguini ($27) that combines lobster, shrimp, scallops, peas, and rustic tomatoes in a brandy and lobster sauce.
The seared sea scallops – with fresh maine lobster, scallion potato mash, haricot verts, and citrus segments – is a fresh, summery dish that’s a comfort food at the same time. It would not be surprising to see this turn into one of Harvest’s signature dishes.
Guerra raved about the Wood Fire Harvest burger ($18). “Many have already mentioned it’s one of the top burgers in West Hartford,” he said, just two weeks after Harvest had opened. Made from grass-fed and all natural beef from Sweet Tree Farm in New York, piled high with bacon and crispy onions, and topped with smoked tomato aioli and grafton cheddar, and accompanied by “everything spice” fries, it was delicious.
In addition to wines from throughout the world, Harvest features a selection of seasonal craft cocktails. The Harvest Infusion, served in an etched copper mule mug, combines pineapple-infused vodka, ciroq coconut, dry curacao, and cranberry and pineapple juices. Draft beers include selections from Connecticut breweries (Back East of Bloomfield and Two Roads of Stratford), regional (Brooklyn Brewery and Nirvanna from Cooperstown, NY), and some other favorites like Guinness, Stella, and Pilsner Urquell.
In addition to the four Harvest Wine Bar restaurants, JS Restaurant Group also owns 55 Wine Bar in Fairfield, Scena Wine Bar in Darien, and Cava in New Canaan.
“We are thrilled to be expanding outside of the Fairfield County and New Haven area. We believe Harvest is a perfect fit for the vibe of West Hartford,” Holleran said.
Harvest is now open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Happy Hour, Monday through Friday at the bar from 4-6 p.m., features drink specials and a selection of small plates ($2-$8). For more information, visit the website, or call 860-518-5176.
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