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Review: Harvest Restaurant

Citizen Staff Writer



Welcome to Harvest, where every dish of “seasonally inspired” Contemporary American fare dedicated to “local purveyors of fresh product” is “created from scratch” with a “back to basics” approach.

The owners of this comfortably upscale new Oro Valley eatery have the pedal to the metal in pitching Harvest as modern yet down-home, edgy yet classical and local yet worldly.

It’s quite an undertaking, given the wide-ranging fare, painstaking preparation and commitment to quality ingredients. For the most part, Harvest is hitting its marks well for a newbie. It doesn’t hurt that the ownership group is no stranger to pleasing customers at the two Zona 78s and The Grill at Hacienda del Sol.

A recent visit started with what my companion and I later realized was our favorite dish of the night – the Handmade Gnocchi ($9). The gnocchi was luxuriously fresh and refreshingly less doughy than standard versions. Steamed then lightly sautéed to a nice, golden brown sizzle on their sides, the potato-forward gnocchi was smartly teamed with a generous portion of homemade sausage, sautéed mushrooms and sunchokes, then topped with slivers of good quality Reggiano. The inclusion of the sunchokes – known to some as Jerusalem artichokes – brought a buttery, nutty component, rounding out the earthy mushrooms and irresistibly hearty sausage. This is a not-to-be-missed starter, one that could easily fetch twice the price as an entree with just a little more gnocchi and sausage.

Our other starter, the Harvest Empanadas ($9), showed off Harvest’s nod to fresh, local ingredients. The gently baked fivesome of petite empanadas sported a filling of Double Check Ranch Organic Beef, black mission fig and green olive. The filling was smooth, soothing and sweet, with a side of chunky, vibrantly fresh Chimmichuri sauce providing a good acidity to offset the sweetness.

Entrees, though pleasing in many ways, came up a little short of the stellar starters. The Short Ribs with Grammy’s Garden Drunken Beans, Roasted Squash and Corn, Oaxaca Cheese and Local Tortillas ($17) all came squeezed onto a rectangular plate, the two thick tortillas triple folded into wedges and stacked on one corner. Though the foods were carefully and attractively presented, the cramped quarters made tortilla involvement with the ribs awkward. They should have served this on a bigger plate or just lost the tortillas; though they were of good quality, the dish didn’t need them. The ribs were patiently braised to an exquisitely tender texture and rich flavor, albeit slightly sour tasting. The roasted corn and squash were everything you’d expect and more from a place touting local, organic ingredients – crunchy fresh with a rich, wholesome verve.

There’s nothing local about Arctic Charr ($21), but the pristine quality of this upscale salmon offering speaks well of Harvest’s aim for first-rate fresh product. If you’re not going to get good charr and move it quickly to highlight it’s superior yet fleeting flavor, you might as well just offer lesser salmon.The filet was pan-seared skin-side down to a nice medium, a careful preparation that did justice to the charr’s excellent quality. A side medley of Farmers Market Vegetables were also well prepared, but the toasted orzo, while it did not clash, somehow failed to really complement the dish.

Harvest’s menus are a delight to peruse, filled with imaginative and wide-reaching ingredients and preparations, so the dessert menu left us a little disappointed with its rather pedestrian choices – cheesecake, crème brûlée, an apple crumble that they were out of, and the two we opted for: a lemon meringue tart and chocolate pecan tart (each $8). The soft meringue and pastry on the lemon tart were pleasing, but we found the curd overly sweet. The pecan tart, though loaded with the earthy, fresh payoff of pecans and a pleasing essence of rich chocolate, was dry, clunky, considerably unyielding and downright awkward to eat. It should have been warmed to at least soften it a little or served in a different manner, as it was extremely difficult to break up the wedge with a fork or spoon.

The eatery’s layout in the former Torino Ristorante has been nicely upgraded and updated with two large and attractive banquettes and subdued yet stimulating splashes of amber, brown and other harvest hues. The service on two successive visits was timely, pleasant and professional, despite big crowds on both nights.

Though we were a little put off by the desserts, judging from the entrees and starters, Harvest is already doing a lot of things very well, and has the potential to be a signature dining destination for Oro Valley and the entire metro area. The nod to locally produced foods, the considerable effort and imagination of the offerings; along with the way they’re prepared and served should bode well for this newbie.

Harvest should produce a following in no time


Address and phone: 10355 N. La Cañada Drive, 731-1000

Prices: Appetizers $8 to $12, soup and salads $7 to $14, entrees $16 to $26, desserts $8.

Bar: Full

Vegetarian options: Several, including Farmers Market Vegetable Medley ($14), Roasted Squash Soup ($7) and Organic Spring Mix salad ($9)

Desserts: Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Pecan Tart, Apple Crumble and Crème Brûlée.

Latest health inspection: Passed opening inspection Nov. 11. Has yet to undergo its first unannounced inspection.

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