With so many chefs riding the locavore wave these days, it’s no surprise that restaurants like Harvest and Seasons 52 (reviewed last month) are popping up around the western suburbs. It certainly should be an easy concept to grasp for most folks, as rolling farmland remains a visible part of our local landscape. And as the increasingly vocal “buy local” contingent continues to grow, you’ve got yourself a genuine trend—one savvy local restaurateur Dave Magrogran couldn’t resist.
No doubt, there are some similarities between Harvest and Seasons 52, the new King of Prussia outpost of the national chain. To his credit, though, Magrogan had been kicking around the idea for Harvest for at least four years. And with Brian Duffy at the helm, it does make a real difference. A former chef at the Magrogan-owned Kildare’s restaurants, Duffy has forged lasting relationships with farmers and other purveyors of locally produced foods.
In keeping with Magrogan’s knack for creating loads of atmosphere, Harvest is a lovely spot, with nice curb appeal and plenty of aesthetic bells and whistles. The granite bar is sleek, as are the tables topped with recycled glass and the floors made from reclaimed wood.
Other touches include paperstone dividers, floor-to-ceiling windows, a rich variety of dark woods, stone walls, and brown and gold paint accents. Harvest’s interior is spacious, and with the carpeted floors and upholstered banquettes in the main dining room, noise shouldn’t be much of a problem on crowded nights. A small patio outside boasts a piazza-style fountain as its centerpiece.
Somewhat surprisingly, the local beer selection at Harvest is underwhelming, though the cocktail list shows some ingenuity, with vodka and gin as the highlighted organic spirits. As you’d expect, the menu changes seasonally and offers a few appetizer and entrée specials. Summer items included crab cakes, roasted jerk chicken, pork tenderloin, summer vegetable lasagna, watermelon salad and a grilled veggie sandwich.
To kick off our meal, we went with the chicken flatbread appetizer and a trio of edamame. One of Harvest’s signature offerings, the wafer-thin flatbread was covered in pepper jack cheese and sprinkled with tiny bits of Poblano chiles, green onion, roasted corn, bell peppers—sort of like an open-face quesadilla. The edamame came in salty, spicy and sweet variations—all perfectly al dente.
The refreshing watermelon salad combined Bibb lettuce, arugula, avocado, mango and crushed nuts with a subtle lime vinaigrette. The Pennsylvania Niçoise was the heartier of the two salads we tried—a substantial mix of watercress, French beans, roasted sweet potatoes, teardrop heirloom tomatoes, almond-crusted goat cheese and three types of pickled beets.
Served with carrots, asparagus and fingerling potatoes, the salmon entrée was cooked and served on a cedar plank. It arrived with a nice crust, a medium-rare interior and a too-generous coating of sea salt. For $18, the portion was on the small side.
While delicious, the pan-seared butterfish made us suspicious. We later learned that it was not butterfish at all, but escolar. And instead of the bok choy, the dish came with carrots, potatoes and asparagus. Considering that the fish was prepared with an Asian flair, the bok choy would’ve been better.
Served as a roulade, rather than in horizontal layers, the lasagna was the night’s winner for presentation. Alas, its eggplant filling was chewy and undercooked, and there wasn’t a trace of the Kennett Square mushrooms listed in the menu. On the positive side, the roasted tomato sauce—tangy, rich and chunky—was a perfect match for the light noodles. Lacking, though, was the creamy ricotta or mascarpone required to balance the tanginess and add flavor and texture—further proof that it’s tough to pull off a great low-calorie, low-fat lasagna without cheese.
The scallop entrée wasn’t bad—though three for $19 might not seem like much of a deal. The scallops were caramelized to perfection, if a bit rubbery. Better was the accompanying whole-wheat orzo, which was loaded with yummy pepper bits, cooked al dente and tossed in olive oil. The grilled, caramelized pineapple was a nice addition to this well-conceived dish. (If only there were more of it.)
In keeping with Harvest’s less-is-best credo, the mini-portions of Key lime pie, apple crisp, chocolate mousse and other sweet treats each weighed in at about 200 calories. We skipped dessert, however, and actually left feeling quite sated. In the end, portion size is not the issue at Harvest so much as entrée pricing.
THE SKINNY: Though not quite perfect, Harvest definitely has appeal. And thanks to its prime location in classy Glen Eagle Square, shoppers can wrap up a morning or afternoon of retail therapy with a guilt-free lunch or dinner.
Like all of Magrogan’s establishments, the bar is a real selling point. And with Harvest’s focus on healthy eating, it’s likely to be a popular alternative this winter, when heavier, cold-weather fare often leads to a few extra inches around the waistline. And knowing chef Duffy’s track record, any early missteps in the kitchen will be reconciled.
HARVEST SEASONAL GRILL & WINE BAR
Location: 549 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Glen Mills; (610) 358-1005, harvestseasonalgrill.com
Cuisine: Seasonally inspired New American prepared solely with organic, locally grown or produced foods.
Cost: Fall entrées top out at $22; appetizers $13.
Attire: Casual but polished.
Atmosphere: Easygoing service and crowd; hip interior with flashes of urban slick.
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.. Dinner: Sunday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday until 11 p.m.
Extras: Courtyard dining, diet-conscious menu, fireplace.