Photos by Derek Kouyoumjian
Things are not always what they seem. Take Back Bay Harry’s' short menu of items like pizza, sandwiches, steak and salads, for example. Ho hum, right? However, those standards come courtesy of co-partner and chef Jason Santos, whose playful sense of embellishment turns puts exciting and inventive twists on traditional dishes.
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For his Polynesian tuna tartare, Santos tosses chopped tuna with diced cantaloupe and lemongrass, then scatters it with dehydrated corn kernels. It's served with prawn crackers that crackle and pop in the tangy juice.
Santos’s Caesar salad comes sans anchovies (which, technically, it should have). But the Romaine is gently dressed, sprinkled with pickled onion slivers and served with a crispy fried egg that’s perfectly gooey in the center. The absence of anchovies is soon forgotten.
A swordfish steak — succulent and perfectly cooked — sits atop creamy carrot puree, maple syrup coated roasted Brussels sprouts (that could do with a bit less syrup), pearl onions and candied cherries that pack big vanilla taste. (The menu says "sour cherries," but that flavor doesn't come across. We'd suggest, as with the Brussels sprouts, a more measured hand with the syrup — or nixing it altogether.) As for the buttermilk fried chicken served with BBQ syrup, a gentler touch here works to add a subtle sweetness. It's served with equally tempered honey donuts and finished with a wonderful gravy and pureed potatoes. Simple but, done right, it’s the business.
Speaking of sweetness, don’t make desert a mere afterthought. They serve Christina’s homemade ice cream (it must be said that the Inman Square creamery is the best) — spicy ginger enriched with molasses, ah, wow. That, plus a dark, milk and white three-layer chocolate mousse served with espresso caramel, are examples of the eatery not fixing what isn't broken, but instead adding a vibrant lick of paint.
If you go
142 Berkeley St., Boston.