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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dinner at Harold's Restaurant

Harold's  is a restaurant in the Regal Plaza in Fort Myers, FL.



They just opened up for business 2 weeks ago and at the urging of  friend, went to check it out. The buzz was Chef Harold was a really, really good cook and had quite a local following. Hearing that, I wanted to go dine there.  I usually wait a couple of months after a new restaurant opens to try their cuisine to give them an opportunity to work out all the kinks. 

As you walk into the restaurant it is very intimate, probably room for about 25 diners.



I like that, and they have a small bar area accommodating a very limited amount of diners if that's your thing with a great selection of wine and craft beers.

My dining companions (DCs) and I sat down and eagerly awaited our menus. Harold's prides themselves on the farm to table thing pioneered by Alice Waters at her restaurant, Chez Panisse, almost 50 years ago. Their menu changes weekly. Here were our choices that day.


 
We started off with an Amuse Bouche of pickled Watermelon Radish.


An amuse bousch is really a "mouth amuser" and traditionally is supposed to be representative of the theme of the kitchen. I really prefer nascent watermelon radishes both for their appearance (courtesy of oauhfresh.com)




and flavor.

Bread was brought to the table after this, and was not bad.


 We then tried a few starters.

Soup was first, and we sampled the sweet potato curry Bisque with clams.



I loved it as they brought this dish to the table, it was 6-8 plated clams and a small pitcher of soup, a really nice presentation, before combining them. The soup was really good.  It was spiced with coconut milk, cinnamon, curry, cilantro, and a bit of pepper among other things.  However, clams, and most shellfish for that matter, are so delicate that pairing them with highly spiced things just doesn't work in my mind. You just can't taste the shellfish. I think a more flavorful pairing such as Chorizo or Andouille may have been better. This starter was really good but just my 2 cents.

We moved onto the braised pork belly.


It look really appealing, with fried potatoes, baby corn and cilantro aioli. I am a really big fan of pork belly, and with pork belly, fat is where it's at both in texture and flavor. The pork belly was dry and not very flavorful. I really felt this dish fell short.

I love beets and goat cheese, a classic combination. We ordered the roasted beets with goat cheese.


This dish was served with apples, goat cheese with hazelnuts and a poached egg. It was good and the presentation was good. I found it unremarkable though for the many other beet and goat cheese dishes I have had over the years.

My DCs and I then moved onto sampling a couple entrees.

The lion fish was next.


Seared lion fish was served with braised fennel, tomato and saffron. As with all these dishes, the plating and aesthetics were beautiful but again, this dish was just not up to par. The tomatoes were much too acidic and the flavors were just too dissonant to me for the fish. The server described this as similar to hog fish and you would just not pair such strong flavors with a fish such as this. Again, just my two cents.

We also ordered a side of vegetables, the roasted Brussels sprouts.




I usually love these prepared like this, but again this dish fell flat. I called post dinner and was told they were braised in a bacon/wine preparation. Disappointing.

Although I have not been enthusiastic about the food up to this point there were rays of brilliance in every dish and I think they just need to work out the menu out a bit more.

This thought was confirmed with the duck entree.


This was fantastic, and was a duck Confit leg, served with beans, potatoes and seasoned with a bacon/duck au jus demiglace. Excellent!

We were asked if we had room for dessert but but we did not. Here was the menu that day.



I chatted with another table about the menu and they showed me one of the dessert presentations, apropos for a farm to table restaurant. 


The picture quality is terrible but the spirit of the presentation is not. Again, I think they need to work out the kinks. I asked myself, why would you serve food in a flower pot? It is not meant as a vessel for foods for human consumption. God knows what is in that.

I have heard really good things about Harold's cooking, even from accomplished local restaurateurs. Harold's was open for less than 2 weeks, and at the urging of a friend, I violated my cardinal rule of visiting a new restaurant. Does the restaurant need tweaking? Yes. Do not take this as a put down. I see a very accomplished chef with some really great cooking in the future at Harold's. So much so, I can't wait to go back in 6-8 weeks and hope it will be one of the better restaurants in Fort Myers, FL.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Harold's
15250 S. Tamiami Tr. S.
Fort Myers, FL 33908
(239)849-0622
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