STORY WRITTEN BY LEN LEAR
For Digital First Media
When we visited the four-month-old Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar at 555 E. Lancaster Ave., in late October, formerly the site of Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen for nine years until it closed in June of 2015, every table was occupied by 8 p.m., as was every seat at the rectangular bar. The open kitchen was a mesmerizing dance of fiery pots and pans, with an army of servers rushing through the tables like race car drivers jockeying for position.
The vibe is cool to sedate. Since taking over the property, Harvest has doubled the size of the bar area and expanded the front area to make room for chef’s tables. They also renovated the entire kitchen, dining room, private dining room and two outside patios.
Very much like Seasons 52 in King of Prussia, Harvest emphasizes a seasonally changing menu, as many locally grown choices as possible, several vegetarian options and most dishes under 500 calories. They are obviously catering to the health-conscious diner, which seems to be working. I have not seen so many fit-looking diners in a restaurant for quite some time.
An appetizer that all four diners at the table wanted to sample, for example, was a ridiculously healthful marriage of caramelized onions, sage, crispy kale, toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpernickel crostini with a dip perfumed with the distilled essence of warm butternut squash and asiago cheese ($10). This was an absolute benediction.
The roasted spaghetti squash “pasta” has steeped the heady essence of roasted mushrooms into sensory-bending truffle oil, with an extra crunch of toasted pistachios ($14). Pumpkin ravioli toed the line between sweet and savory with butternut squash puree, sage brown butter, cranberries, sauteed baby spinach, toasted pumpkin seeds and gingerbread dust. These elements created a perfect storm of texture, although the raviolis were a bit too doughy ($18).
An entree of wood-grilled swordfish was visually appealing with its jewel-like translucence, accompanied by a textural tour de force of creamy braised leeks, carrots, green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes. The pomegranate reduction added some subtlety to the slightly bland seafood ($25).
There is a large selection of middle-of-the-road wines by the glass, all available in four-ounce pours, seven-ounce pours or by the bottle. The prices are a bit steep, as they are at almost all area wines. The seven-ounce pours, for example, are almost all $12 to $14.
A host of desserts is brought to the table in small glasses, exactly as they are at Seasons 52, and it is almost unfair to tempt diners this way, but that is the point. Even if you are full, it is hard to resist. We gave in to the siren song of the pumpkin pie cheese cake and the pecan pie epiphany ($4 each). I can’t say we felt guilty.
We had soigné service from a charming young man (he said he had been working there only three days) with one exception: He brought the hot coffee and said he would be right back with sugar but never did come back with the sugar. Thus, the coffee tasted tinny. (I know some people like their coffee black, but I am not one of them.) This is not a place to linger, by the way. The food comes out at a speedy pace, as if somebody in charge has a train to catch.
Harvest owner Dave Magrogan is a human burning bush, afire with passion for business. He would probably bristle like a toothbrush if you said that Harvest was a step down from Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen since Harvest is going after a more mainstream audience. But Harvest has a formula that is obviously working. We need more places like this — beautiful surroundings with edgy character and food of real epicurean ambition but with modest prices.
Magrogan, 43, a native of Brookhaven, Delaware County, is a true American Dream story. A chiropractor who once treated more than 800 patients a week, he shifted gears in 2003 when he opened his first restaurant, Kildare’s, a gatstropub, in West Chester. Now the founder and CEO of the Dave Magrogan Group, he owns more than 15 restaurants and has plans to open many more Harvest restaurants all over the country.
For more information, call 484-584-4975 or visit harvestseasonalgrill.com/radnor