Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Harmon Grows Up

When my brother Steve and I got back to Tacoma from the Mariners Opening, we decided to go try the new Harmon Hub that also opened Monday night in the former St Helen’s Cafe. Immediately you see that they have solved the former space’s problem by breaking the space up so that it doesn’t feel so cavernously empty. They have also added additional tables and chairs to fill the space. We humans like to be with other humans. We do not like to isolate and eat alone. It is the cocktail party phenomenon where everyone congregates and packs themselves in the tiny kitchen to talk, instead of the larger living room.

The space has been transformed into a warm comfortable room by Contractor Dave Hermann’s talented team—the same Contractor who built Pacific Grill.

As you enter the front door you see a nice large Pizza Oven dominating the view.

To the right --a long bar with a mural of a naked woman, her flowing red hair trailing her as she holds onto the handle of a bicycle. On closer inspection she reminds me of the wine label on our house Cabernet--the Central Coast "Cycles Gladiator", by Cycles Winery, their label credited to the famous French printer G. Massias' art poster of by same name.

The colors of the room are warm burnished browns, yellows and reds.

The tables are wood and set with linen napkins. The flatware has heft and is nicer that it needs to be--both welcome touches.

Our server appeared and described the 5 beers on tap. Steven ordered the Blond-- I went with the IPA. The IPA was hoppy but not overly so.

I look up and notice the track lighting and good art on the walls. I like this place. (My one thought is that I might have liked to have seen the concrete floor stained a darker color as it bounces a lot of too-bright light. (A minor quibble).

The Menu looks much more ambitious that the Harmon UWT location, which is welcome. There is more than a whiff of sophistication to the menu. Several apps come with crostini; olives and foccacia show up... red onion relish; a Caprese salad, aioli, cippolini, trendy smoked spanish paprika; flat iron steak, and so on…and-- I was glad to see that they too charge for substitutions!

But to stay grounded they also offer fish & chips, burgers, cedar planked salmon, pastas, and a chicken picatta.

Entrees range from $12-$18; Pastas from $11-$15; Pizzas from $8-$17.

Even though we had eaten at the Mariners game we wanted to try something, so we decided to share a pizza. I told Steve to choose, and gave him a list of 4 to consider.

[A MAJOR IRK OF MINE] I notice on the Menu that mozzarella (mozerella, mozzerella etc) was spelled at least 3 different ways (well at least one of them was correct). Don’t typesetters have spellcheck?

Steve chose the "signature pizza angeli”-pesto, goat cheese, caramelized onion, roasted chicken, fresh basil [Lg $16]

The pizza arrived in just minutes looking delicious, covered with large fresh basil leaves. Actually too large to easily eat. The leaves should be roughly torn, so they are bite-sized.

Steve dove in, but I noticed he went for the salt shaker. I tasted my first bite. Nice flavorful crust, thin and crisp around the edge, with a little char. I wish they had left the pie in the oven maybe three minutes longer as the center of the crust would have developed a little more char and flavor which would have had a little more crust like the edges but this crust is GOOD.

But like my brother I reached for the salt.

A pizza is inherently a bland bread item. Cheese is bland, bread is bland. You choose salty condiments to put on top as “punctuation marks of flavor” against this bland background. [think salty olives, salty pepperoni, salami, anchovies, and so on].

The pesto was garlicky and good but needed a bit of salt to bring the rest of the ingredients into focus and make them pop. The goat cheese was not on its own, salty enough to accomplish this. The pesto was also a little dry. It needed a little more olive oil. And the chicken should have also been seasoned. A minor complaint –especially on night one.

But all in all--This is good pizza!

When the server came by to see how things were-- I asked if we could have some infused chili oil? She said she would check. They had none.

How about some red chili flakes, then? No, they didn’t have any red chili flakes either.


A pizza place without crushed chili? Never heard of such a thing!

When I serve pizza in restaurants I always make an infused garlic chili oil by gently heating olive oil, then adding minced garlic, herbs and chili flakes, steeping them as they cool, then serving on the side when requested. It is addictively delicious drizzled over almost any pizza.

HINT: almost every pizza benefits from a judicious drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil right when it comes out of the oven, and just before cutting & serving. This provides a fresh olive flavor, and some additional “juicyness” (that I found missing when I said the pesto seemed a little dry). The chili oil also could have remedied this, as well as provided a little heat if so desired.

In the haste to get open, a few oversights, menu typos or misspellings-- or forgetting to order chili flakes can certainly be forgiven.

The Harmon Hub-- with their more ambitious menu geared to their new St Helens/Stadium District digs looks to be a sure winner.

They were packed opening night with nary a hitch in service. And the pizza came out FAST!

Our Server was polite, the Manager stopped by to check on us, as well as charming Partner, Carole Holder, who knows my brother Steven, and whom I had not met before.

2 beers each and a large pizza plus a 20% tip came to about $45.

Can’t wait to go back! Kudos!

203 Tacoma Ave S
Tacoma WA 98438
(253) 683-4606


Steph DeRosa said...

I truly enjoyed reading this write up :)

Steph D said...

I truly enjoyed reading this write up :)

Erik said...

Great site gentlemen. Your review of The Hub sets the standard.

Bunnee said...

Great to read your perspective on the Hub. It's definitely on my list to try.

A little ironic that you commented on the misspelling of mozzarella and at the same time, misspelled chicken piccata!


ChefGordonNaccarato said...

Busted by Bunnee OUCH!

I HATE misspellings! And love that you caught mine! Thanks! AT least mine was on my goofy Blog and NOT on a Menu! A reminder to practice what I preach. I think this Blog has spellcheck...

ChefGordonNaccarato said...

Thanks for reading my Blog Eric I appreciate the feedback!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great place to try. I can't wait for a beautiful spring day a cold pint and some great food. Afterwards a great stroll through the Wright Park Conservatory. Sounds like a perfect afternoon.