Feature

What the experts recommend: Fine food in a supporting role

Bar Agricole in San Francisco; Eataly in New York; Harbor House in Milwaukee

Bar Agricole
San Francisco
Gathering places where “cocktails and food have equal footing” have become a San Francisco trend, said Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle. In Bar Agricole, a newcomer, the movement now has its Platonic ideal. At this “beautifully detailed and contemporary” space, two deftly designed bars work in tandem with a comfortable 70-seat dining room. The cocktail offerings change daily, and every drink—from the classic mai tai to a retro pisco punch with hibiscus bitters—gets a special cut of ice. But the food menu, featuring mostly small plates, is “just as intriguing and meticulously conceived as the drinks.” A bitter chicory called puntarella is nicely offset by a bagna càuda sauce that has “a hefty kick of anchovy.” The lardo is a personal favorite—“tissue-like strips of fat are draped around equally thin coins of radishes and black coco nero beans.” Not the type of food “you expect to see in a bar,” obviously. Maybe that’s why the owners prefer the term “modern urban tavern.” 355 11th St., (415) 355-9400

Eataly
New York
The opening of the first American outpost of this Italian chain has brought Europe’s “food hall” concept to New York, said Adam Platt in New York. Because big-name chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich are partners, the sensory overload of a first visit to the “giant, hastily decorated space” is worth braving: You’re likely to find “all sorts of unexpected pleasures” once you’ve become acclimated to Eataly’s “quirky” environment. The multiple restaurants that share the space are “organized around food groups”—meat, fish, pasta, vegetables—and are staffed by top cooks from Batali restaurants including Babbo and Esca. Le Verdure boasts “elegant little bricks of lasagne” and “crisp, tempura-like fritto misto,” while the “gummy” crudo at Il Pesce should be passed over for the flash-fried whole branzini. You can purchase meat, wine, cheese, and produce for cooking at home. But if you’re in the mood to splurge, you can’t top a meal at Manzo, a “meat palace” where the beef tasting menu is remarkable and the plump veal chop is finished in burning hay. 200 Fifth Ave., (212) 229-2560

Harbor House
Milwaukee
This buzz-worthy new seafood restaurant on Lake Michigan occupies a much-recycled space where the views are “probably the best in the city,” said Carol Deptolla in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The spectacular prow of the ship-like Milwaukee Art Museum sits just outside the picture windows, and the lights of the skyline sparkle above the lake. But until Harbor House opened here this summer, the food had failed to match the scenery. Though the menu doesn’t break new ground, it’s filled with so many rewards that the city’s “movers, shakers, and generally beautiful people” now frequently crowd the bar area and add electricity to the “sleek but relaxed dining room.” When dinner arrives, the striped bass is a particular standout, with “skin scored and seared until crisp.” It is “set over a savory broth, studded with clams, leeks, tender fingerling potatoes, and deep green arugula.” The raw bar showcases the “impeccable” freshness of the seafood, and appetizers include a “lovely” salad of shrimp and crab with orange segments. Add mostly “spot-on” service, and Harbor House represents an improvement over its predecessors “as vast as the lake it overlooks.” 550 N. Harbor Dr., (414) 395-4900

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