Friday, October 14, 2011

Harry's Continental Kitchens, Longboat Key, FL

The only thing that kept Harry's from being our favorite dining experience over the course of our week on Anna Maria Island was Beach Bistro, which is in a league of its own (both culinarily and financially). For its more modest price point, however, Harry's delivered a lot of bang for the buck.

We had driven past the restaurant while exploring the area and were intrigued by it. After checking out the menu online and seeing the very inviting $35 per person prix fixe wine pairing menu, we figured "what the hell?". The creative, Continental offerings sounded right up our alley and the cost promised an economic reprieve from the Beach Bistro wallet bruising (which was worth every penny, but still...not something easy to justify twice in one week) of the previous evening. As it turned out, our spidey senses had not steered us wrong and Harry's exceeded expectations at every turn.

It doesn't look like "all that" from the outside, but the interior was zen-like and romantic with lush garden views and classic tunes by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole playing softly in the background. We arrived right at 5:00...a good 45 minutes before the rest of the early dining crowd, who were all about 20 years our senior...but we seem to be embracing the whole "early bird" culture somewhat more prematurely in life than most (at this rate, I'll be tooling around on a Rascal by the time I'm 55). Anyway, that's why the place is empty in the photo, but it was filling up nicely in short order.

Our server, Brian, did an excellent job of walking us through the menu and took great care of us over the course of the meal. Hot, crusty French bread with sweet butter and freshly roasted garlic were delivered while we sipped our aperitifs and perused the menu.

We knew we were there for the three-course wine pairing dinner, but couldn't resist adding a couple of starters. Pâté is always a no-brainer for me, so how could I resist the Pâté Maison with truffles, cognac and toast points? And, furthermore, why would I want to? I always give high praise to perfectly done liver pâté and there was every reason for exultation after tasting this one. It was beautifully presented, earthily liver-riche and ultra-creamy. Two thumbs up!

Dogboy was similarly swayed by the appearance of Baked Escargot with maitre d'hotel butter and sherry, shallots, garlic and a golden-brown blanket of melted gruyere (I think) cheese. Both appetizers added $27 to our final tab and were totally worth it, but we would've been completely satiated by the three-course dinner even if we hadn't ordered them.

My better half went with the Grilled Soy-Ginger Marinated Skirt Steak Satay with Creamy Ginger-Cashew Slaw and Plum Dipping Sauce (paired with a glass of Estancia Pinot Noir) as his first course. The meat was so tender and flavorful that it had almost certainly been marinating for days and the creative Asian spin on the slaw imparted a fresh and delightfully different taste combination...the perfect accompaniment for the satay.

After tasting it, I was already bitterly wishing I'd ordered UD's first course, but my Chain Store House Salad with candied bacon, hard-boiled egg, crispy onions, tomatoes, cucumber and homemade ranch dressing may have been the prettiest salad anyone's ever put in front of me so I didn't cry too hard. I still wanted the skirt steak satay and ginger-cashew slaw, but I was able to shelve my food envy to a certain extent. The salad came with a generous pour (in fact, we got very generous pours with both courses...probably around 6 ounces each, and I was expecting something more along the lines of 3) of the lovely, dry and gravely Vicolo Pinot Grigio.

My main course of Florida Lobster Ravioli pretty much rocked my world. The silken, al dente pasta purses were bathed in a creamy lobster-bisque-esque sauce and were pleasingingly plump with sweet crustacean bits. I loved this. And I also loved the oaky Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay that came with.

Dogboy was similarly impressed with his Chicken and Andouille Sausage Fettucine with fresh tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms, red onion, herbs, parmesan cheese and olive oil. The wine pairing for this dish was Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot.

Desserts were as lovely as everything else. This southern girl thought the pecan pie was deliciously classic and perfectly plated, just like everything else placed before us.

The Chocoholic in the family gleefully snorted his slab of Chocolate Mousse Cake. Also, just the right size.

I understand food costs and the intensive labor involved with attractive plating, and was really impressed with the quality imparted by these $35 offerings. Harry's has quite an extensive and inticing menu beyond its fantastic prix fixe deal and we can't wait to return and pull out the stops for an even richer culinary experience at this local 30-year-old gem.

Harrys Continental Kitchens on Urbanspoon

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