After some deliberation we decided to celebrate a recent anniversary at Harvest Vine on Madison. We had a great meal here a few years ago, and we hoped that we'd get to enjoy a similarly monumental meal this visit too. We were not at all disappointed!
We asked the server to choose a reasonably priced wine suitable for celebration, and he was happy to oblige. He chose a very nice Tempranillo for us. I believe it was a 2000 Bodegas Alion Ribera del Duero. Very very good and we were quite happy with the choice. Medium body, fruity, good balance of oaks and tannins, and so on. I never know what to say about wine other than whether or not I like it. I just haven't developed the vocabulary I guess.
After an amuse bouche of marinated red beets on a bit of toast, the meal started in earnest with the following:
Boquerones en Vinagre - anchovy filets cured in vinegar with pickled guindillas
This is a signature dish at Harvest Vine, and really great. Delicious firm meaty anchovy filets paired with green olives and small pickled peppers. Every bite was bright and tasty and refreshing.
Mejillones en Escabeche - mussels in vinegar pimenton sauce with baby greens
This was another bright vinegary flavorful dish. The fluffy baby greens were a great contrast to the briny slightly spicy moist cured mussels served out of the shell.
Both of these dishes were a good way to clean our palates and get us ready for what would end up being a tremendous meal.
Next we had a small cup of soup. The soup was a Pure de Raiz de Apio - a shot of celery root and choricero pepper puree. After the sharp brightness of the first two cold dishes the little cup of hot soup was a nice simple set of flavors that I enjoyed quite a bit. It didn't stand out tremendously though, it was just a nice segue into the rest of the meal.
We began the hot tapas portion of the meal with Colas de Bruselas - brussels sprouts sauteed with serrano ham. I have to say that these were just about the best brussels sprouts I've ever had. Perfectly cooked, and the diced serrano ham and (I think) shallots were terrific. That was the one vegetable dish of the night.
We then moved on to some more seafood; Ventreska a la Vainilla - pan seared tuna belly finished with vanilla infused olive oil. Holy cow is this dish awesome. I think we had it last time we were here, and I believe it is another signature dish for Harvest Vine, with good reason. The tuna belly is served in a thin seared slice that is drizzled with basil oil (I think) and this really amazingly aromatic vanilla-infused olive oil. The combination of the scent of the vanilla and the simple soft texture of the mild tuna belly is amazing.
At this point we were ready for some meat courses. The next course was Conejo Confitado - confit rabbit with bacon and leeks. This was two scallop-sized breaded patties of rabbit confit and caramelized onions served over leeks sauteed 'til very soft with bacon. This dish was terrific. The flavors were simple and strong, but refined. The rabbit was moist and tender, the leeks a great accompaniment.
Now for some pork belly! Panza de Cerdo - braised pork belly with leeks. Once again, a delightful combination of tender meat served over a bed of perfectly braised leeks. I actually don't remember the leek part very well. The pork belly itself was great though, coated in pimenton and braised 'til it was just about falling apart.
At this point we were ready to order our final dinner courses. We decided to end with a bang, so we chose Crepas de Oca Confitada - goose confit crepes with purple cabbage and squash-foie sauce, and Foie de Pato con Arrope - pan seared foie gras with pumpkin caramelized in grape must. The crepes were really tasty little bundles of goose meat and purple cabbage coated in a creamy flavorful sauce that tasted mostly of squash. This was a pretty inspired dish that we very much enjoyed. The foie gras dish was amazingly good. I think this is the best foie I've had, better than Mistral for sure, and a larger portion than we've had anywhere else. The pumpkin was not really evident, though I think maybe it had just cooked down a lot. It ended up being pretty much just a thick dark caramelized sauce that went very well with the foie. This was a great way to end the main part of the meal and really prepared us for dessert.
From what I understand and have experienced, desserts have never been a strong point at Harvest Vine, but they've never been a disappointment either. Today was no exception. We shared a slice of Tarta de Chocolate y Coco - chocolate and coconut tart with chantilly and toasted coconut. This was actually a pretty light dessert, not terribly strongly chocolate, with a perfectly light and flaky crust. We ate it with a glass of Don PX Gran Reserva 1971 Montilla, otherwise known as Amontillado sherry. Delicious stuff.
So that was the food.
Now the rest of the meal. The space itself is pretty small. There are 3 tables upstairs and about 12 seats around the bar, which face the chefs. We sat at the bar and watched the crew prepare every dish for us and chatted with the chefs a bit. We were quite surprised to see the chef from Licorous behind the counter! He apparently quit Licorous last week and just started at Harvest Vine. This is a great move for him, but maybe not so great for Licorous. We love that place, but I think a lot of the reason we love it is because of his food. I really hope it doesn't decline with his departure. I suspect though that they'll get another talent in there. It may be that Licorous could benefit from a culinary change of pace anyway.
Okay, back to Harvest Vine. I really like the interior of the place, and I very much appreciate being able to sit at the bar and watch the chefs at work. It was a little bit weird that for the first hour or two that we were there, the only other parties were a bunch of middle-aged couples who moved in and out. I guess maybe it's just that kind of place. I dunno. We were the youngest people in the room until a man brought his college-aged son in though, for sure. What does that say about us?
After some consideration I have very few complaints about Harvest Vine. The one thing that I did notice about the food is that almost every meat dish was a little bit oversalted. It wasn't enough to truly detract, but once I noticed the salt it was hard to miss. I started watching the chef, and sure enough, he always used a pinch more than I would have.
So in summary, despite the salt, I love this place. I think it is one of the best restaurants in Seattle, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to just about anyone looking for delicious food.
On a side note, though Mistral and Harvest Vine are pretty different from a culinary perspective, it should be noted that we paid less for this whole 9 course meal plus dessert and amuse and a not-inexpensive bottle of wine than we paid for just half of our meal at Mistral. Is Mistral worth it? Sort of. I don't believe the wine pairings are worth it. Is Harvest Vine worth it? Definitely.