Last month, my friend Christina and her boyfriend were in town for the day and, needing a dinner spot near Harvard Square, we headed to Russell House Tavern. Shockingly, this was my first time at RHT. It had been on my to-go-to list ever since it opened and I’d browsed the menu no fewer than a dozen times over the past two years. We went on one of those summery-spring nights, and would have loved to have eaten on one of the patio tables, but the wait was too long. Luckily, the hostess was able to snag us a table inside on the first floor where the front windows were thrown open, as opposed to the lower level.
Archer Farm Steak Tartare with toasted caper brioche and Cavendish Farm quail egg yolk.
The Local Leaf Salad with walnuts (we substituted pine nuts), dried figs, and mustard-cider vinaigrette. A perfectly enjoyable standard salad with a hearty amount of greens. If we hadn’t been sharing, I would have opted for the more exciting kale and pine nut salad with lemon and pecorino.
This dish was the kind of creation I was expecting at Russell House. Farro, with fiddleheads, peas, cider-soaked cherries and sassafras. It was a small plate special that also came with salmon belly, but they happily left the salmon out at my request. I absolutely love farro, and the tender fiddleheads and sweet cherries were a nice contrast to the nutty, chewy grain. It was an excellent spring dish, and if this were to be offered regularly for at least the rest of the season, I’d happily return for it.
Ever since I first spotted it on the menu, I’ve wanted The Andria pizza with burrata, black mission fig, and sweet garlic. The dried fig and melted cheese is a delightful chewy, sweet and salty combination. The crust is practically paper thin, crisp around the edge and nicely chewy in the center. Though it certainly doesn’t detract from it, I don’t think burrata is necessary on a pizza, as it loses what makes the cheese special when it’s melted onto a crust. I much prefer to have burrata in fresh form.
Russell House is lauded for its charcuterie selection, burger, and other meat items. However, the pizza, salad and small plate offerings deserve equally high praise and I loved the few I tried on my first visit. Pay close attention to the specials, as they do an excellent job of showcasing what is in season at the moment. Chef Michael Scelfo knows his way around a vegetable just as well as he knows his way around an animal.
Russell House Tavern
14 JFK Street