Corrections or additions?
This review by Richard Pawlak was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
September 30, 1998. All rights reserved.
Dining Out: Harriette’s
Little did Steve and Harriette Willis realize, when
they snatched chef Alex Cormier from the tumultuous restaurant scene
in Philadelphia, that they would be getting a talented chef, with
a very personal style, for their new Witherspoon Street bistro,
which opened quietly earlier this month. Formerly the home of
this new venture for investment banker Willis and his wife raises
the bar for Princeton dining in several ways.
While retaining much of the cosmopolitan feel of the former tenant,
Harriette’s pares down the decor to focus attention squarely on the
food. A good move. Cormier’s food is sophisticated home cooking, free
of pretentious complexity and bursting with uncomplicated flavors.
His considerable experience at some of Philly’s finest dining rooms
(the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons Hotel, Ciboulette, Cibo, and
his own place, Alex on South), has given him an obvious appreciation
for the high quality ingredients and restrained technique he displays
here. And his obvious respect for the Willis’ food acumen has given
him the confidence and comfort level to make a serious statement with
Dinner began with a little gift from the kitchen, mini-crabcakes
with cilantro, scallions and chives atop a tangle of crispy noodles
ringed with honeyed soy sauce, crunchy bites with tang, sweet and
salt, strange and delicious. Our hostess, who turned out to be
wife, Donna, recommended we sample a bottle of Highland Scottish
water with dinner; it was unusually soft and supple.
The well-chosen wine list featured a wide range of domestic and
vintages and wines by the glass. This will be a short-lived luxury
at Harriette’s; the current liquor license will be moving to the
second restaurant venture, Zanzibar, within the month, and Harriette’s
will go the BYOB route.
You may want to start with Cormier’s buttery Cream of Potato-Leek
soup, or sublimely light Chicken and Pancetta dumplings, their
practically translucent, and topped with shavings of salty Parmesan.
Braised Salmon ($20), nestled on mashed yucca and drizzled with fresh
peas and slivers of baby onion, begs for that bottle of Riesling from
your home cabinet; roast Loin of Pork ($24), wrapped with woody,
bacon and bundled with a showy display of morels, shiitake and enoki
mushrooms, asparagus and baby carrots, and glossed with a smoky wine
reduction, has to have a glass of bouncy Pinot Noir beside it. Both
entrees were easily two of the best dishes I’ve tasted this year.
Desserts ($6.50), all house-made, include a luxurious Chocolate
fresh fruit tarts (Strawberry and Pear, both with lemon custard, the
night I visited), Brown Butter Crepes with Butter Rum Pecan ice cream,
a Hot Almond Financier and exotic sorbets of changing variety. Cormier
is also offering a cheese course here, something returning to
in many fine restaurants, and a telling statement about his ambitions
for the place. With its small scale (50 seats) and neighborhood bistro
feel, the young chef can afford to change the menu frequently, keep
the prices reasonable, and push the envelope creatively.
The lunch menu also dazzles and intrigues: A Lobster BLT on grilled
brioche ($15), ground Ostrich steak with a port wine sauce ($15);
Tuna a la Basque, marinated in red wine and grilled ($14); and an
Italian Roast Pork sandwich with long, hot peppers ($9) are among
the offerings — hardly the stuff of a typical Princeton lunch.
— Richard Pawlak
Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner Monday to Thursday,
5:30 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.