True confession: I’ve been a huge fan of La Poste since it launched in Clifton’s Gaslight District in 2010. Anyone who opens a restaurant within walking distance of my house that features multiple certified sommeliers on staff can expect my faithful patronage. In one inspired moment, our neighborhood haunt boasted perhaps the deepest cellar of any Cincinnati restaurant. And, yes, the food kept up with the high standards set by those sommeliers.
For any number of reasons, the wine-centric concept wasn’t sustainable for the long haul, and one by one the sommeliers moved on. About a year ago, La Poste’s founding owner sold the business to Angela Willett, who morphed the restaurant into a farm-to-table concept. Willett hired chef Justin Miller, recently of Oakley’s Red Feather, and modestly retooled the menu, remodeled the dining room with new upholstery, updated light fixtures and different wall hangings, and renamed the place Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar. Nobody had to twist my arm to give it a fresh look.
Willett presides with geniality along with careful attention to details designed to maximize the patrons’ experience. One of the restaurant’s strengths is a high level of service; Willett backs up her reliable staff by constantly checking each table to make sure everyone has full glasses, correct silverware and dishes cooked as requested.
The much-appreciated wine orientation of the old La Poste hasn’t been abandoned, thanks to the ongoing participation of Willett’s husband, Joe Clark, a wine expert who is in charge of the cellar. I’ve always loved the establishment’s willingness to pour half-glasses (at half price, not extra) of anything on the glasses list, and Harvest continues that pleasant tradition. In addition to the almost two-dozen choices, they’ve added a by-the-flight selection of both red and white wines, and you can order a glass or half-glass of any of those. That way you can try all kinds of fun wines without committing to a bottle, if that’s your bag. If not, you’ll be happy with the bottle choices that include quite a few wines leftover from the cellar Willett purchased from La Poste.
When our foursome arrived for a 7 p.m. reservation on a Saturday night, we were able to select a table by the large window looking out onto Telford Street, and we settled in for a leisurely evening. While we caught up with the latest doings of our friends, I started with a glass of Falanghina (an Italian white, $12) while everyone else went for a pint of a MadTree imperial stout ($10). We put in an order for first courses fairly quickly: Jim and Kathy split a roasted beet and kale salad ($12), I tried the “chef’s daily inspiration” flatbread ($10) and my husband had the roasted beet bruschetta ($9).
The salad, heaped with golden and red beets, slices of watermelon radish, thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and candied hazelnuts, arrived having been split into two large plates. It tasted terrific with its tangy citrus vinaigrette and all those complementary flavors. Equally generous was my flatbread: four large triangles of toast, spread with garlicky herbed ricotta cheese and topped with wild mushrooms, lightly sautéed spinach, grilled onions and white cheddar. The flatbread was way too much for me, and would have been plenty for my husband and me to split. We liked it better than the bruschetta anyway, since the bread on the latter dish came a little too well done (and hardened) for our taste.
We ordered more wine — and Jim had another MadTree — in advance of our second course. Before we made our wine choices, Willett brought a few bottles to the table to let us try a couple of her suggestions to match our entrées. Kathy selected a sangiovese/cabernet sauvignon blend from Tuscany ($10) while I went with a nebbiolo blend ($11), and hubby chose a glass of that Falanghina.
Our second courses ranged from a bowl of mussels to a burger, a veggie entrée and the featured seafood special. P.E.I. mussels ($12) were bathed in broth enriched by chorizo, roasted tomatoes and white wine and came with grilled Sixteen Bricks bread. The Harvest Burger ($16) was an eight-ounce patty heaped on a challah bun, topped with mushrooms, gruyere cheese, prosciutto and onion marmalade; it included a pile of crunchy fries that everyone shared. My saffron couscous ($16), with eggplant, spinach, carrots, cauliflower and red onions, was too heavily salted and otherwise on the bland side, so it was the one disappointment of the meal. The bounteous seafood special ($32), while pricey, was satisfying, with a trio of perfectly cooked scallops, shrimp and mussels on a bed of spicy chorizo rice.
We decided to try three desserts: the house specialty bread pudding, mixed berry crème brûlée and key lime cheesecake ($7-$8 each). Most thought the winner was the hearty, sweet bread pudding, although I was partial to the lighter, more truly pudding-like brûlée.All told, I was happily reminded of a French saying, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Harvest has become a worthy successor to my old fave, La Poste.
GO: 3410 Telford St., Clifton; CALL: 513-281-3663; INTERNET: harvest-bistro.com ; HOURS: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday; 5:30-10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.