Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting Schooled at John Harvard’s Pre-Opening Menu Preview!

By:  Kenneth Wong

So last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House pre-opening night special! For those of you who aren’t familiar with John Harvard’s, it is a local restaurant chain with its roots right here in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. This flagship restaurant just recently completed its two month long renovation and I was pumped to see what its new menu would bring!

This pre-opening night for friends and family was quite packed and I could definitely feel the excitement in the air! While my dinner partner and I were waiting to be seated, we had a complementary beer at the bar. One aspect that John Harvard’s is known for is their craft brews, which are actually brewed on location. In addition to serving a higher quality beer, brewing their own beer definitely adds a charming and local feel to every one of their restaurants.

Before diving into our 3-course meals, my dinner partner and I actually started off with a shared plate of Point Judith fried calamari. I’m a huge fan of seafood (and somewhat of a seafood snob) so I tend to be quite critical when it comes to these creatures from the sea. Overall though, I would say that the fried calamari, while not spectacular, did not disappoint and was a very good way to start off the night. The jalapeno peppers added a nice kick to the fresh calamari and the dish whetted our appetites for the remaining courses to come. 

Caesar Salad
So we both began with salads; my dinner partner having a typical Caesar salad paired with a Belgian Tripel while I had a lettuce salad with a sweet red-wine vinaigrette paired with a sour mashed saison. The salads themselves were quite standard, nothing to bring home and tell your mom about. One disappointment though was pairing between my slightly sweeter salad and the sour saison. The two didn’t go very well together as the sugars in the dressing made my saison just too sour to drink!! But it wasn’t a bid loss for me as I knew that I still had 2 more courses and 2 more beers to go; plenty of food and alcohol left! 
Chicken Pot Pie
Moving on to our main course, I enjoyed the chicken pot pie with an American style pale ale and my dinner partner had the salmon paired with a west coast pale ale. I enjoyed the chicken pot pie quite a bit. Both the chicken and vegetables were tender and the sauce was very creamy without being overwhelming. The key to a great chicken pot pie is the crust of course, and the restaurant did not disappoint! Fully baked onto the bowl (unless some places where they just throw in a biscuit), the crust was on the flakier side, but not too thin. The pale ale also paired well with the pot pie. My dinner partner enjoyed her salmon quite a bit with the spicy-sweet glaze giving the fish a nice kick. The salmon was done well and not overcooked. 
We finished our meals with an apple crisp paired with another sour mashed Belgian and a flourless chocolate torte that came with a Baltic porter. Both deserts were scrumptious –a pair of traditional desserts that always finds a way to satiate you! I particularly enjoyed the apple crisp, which was topped with a substantial scoop of vanilla ice cream. I didn’t shy away from having more than a few bites of the chocolaty torte either! Both beers also went well with the desserts. 
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Overall, John Harvard’s provided us with a wonderful meal with a really great craft beer selection. The meals are quite comforting, with the menu not straying too far from your tried and true recipes. Of the many beers that I’ve tried, I found my favorite to be the Pilgrim’s Porter, which was both rich and subtle in flavor and had a tinge of chocolate in it. I will definitely find my way back here again, as it is a cool spot to hang out with friends.

John Harvard's Brewery and Ale House
33 Dunster Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 868-3585

John Harvard's Brew House on Urbanspoon

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