John Harvard’s Brew House, at 33 Dunster Street, has been a mainstay in the square for years upon years. Long before we moved into the city, we would drive from the North Shore, get lost navigating Harvard Square to find a parking spot, and eventually would make our way to one of two underground places for a pint and some food: Grendel’s Den or John Harvard’s.
Each has their charm, and sometimes which one we chose depended more on where we could get an open seat at the bar.
Recently, JHBH underwent a fairly major (and much needed) renovation. While the place has always been much beloved by locals, tourists, Harvard students and parents and professors, over the years the restaurant and bar started to show a good bit of wear and tear….chairs were rickety, bar always seemed a bit sticky, carpets were worn and grungy.
All that has been rectified in their renovation, and the restaurant did a great job of maintaining the same cosy feel while really upgrading the decor, including beautiful new lighting, wood floors, and a new bar seating layout.
Along with the renovations, JHBH upgraded their menu as well. We’ve been a few times since the reopen, and everything we’ve tried has been very good. It’s still pub food, but done well and carefully, and at very reasonable prices.
The star of the revamp, though, has to be their new Wednesday night “Brewer’s pairing dinner”, a four-course dinner featuring a particular item, and paired with four unique beers selected by the brewer, some not available on the regular menu. The price is $29.99 (or $22.99 without the beer pairings).
Yes, you read that right, thirty dollars for a four course meal WITH beer. But, you’re saying to yourself, it must be really basic food and thimblefuls of beer, right? Well, we were wondering that too…
So we went this week, for the January menu (it apparently changes monthly). And we were absolutely blown away. At the creative food, the quality, the amount. And yes, they were full beers served with each course. Everything was spectacular. Here’s a rundown, with pictures.
Tower of lobster and avocado with cilantro and roasted jalapeños, dressed with a lacto-saison vinaigrette and served over crispy lemon cracker – Omega Hop IPA
This was a really nice starter, with a good amount of lobster mixed in. It was not overly spicy (we like spicy food, and it was just mild to us), but it was delicious. Rob loves this IPA; I’m not a huge fan of IPA in general, but it’s a good one.
New England lobster risotto, slow-cooked with Plate Factory Pilsner, green peas, and mascarpone cheese and served in a red-onion bowl – Tripel Bottom Line
We decided this second course was our favorite of the meal: there were three rings of roasted red onion, filled with the risotto, which did not skimp on lobster. Delicate flavors, but with the balsamic drizzle on the plate, it was absolutely spectacular. And, the Tripel Bottom Line was a nirvana-like pairing. This beer pairing was actually better than any wine pairing I’ve ever had.
Grilled Wagyu strip steak and butter-poached lobster over Midwinter’s Russian Imperial Stout–braised Belgian endive and roasted ﬁngerling potatoes – Oatmeal Stout
A really impressive main course – a good 4- or 5-oz steak, a whole lobster claw and half a tail, with about 5 or 6 fingerling potatoes, and braised endive. The waitress asked how we’d like the steak cooked, letting us know that the chef’s suggestion was “rare or medium rare”. A nice touch, and one that shows JHBH is stepping up their game. The Oatmeal Stout was a great choice, with the smoky flavors complementing the char on the endive and the grill marks on the steak.
Mixed berries marinated in balsamic vinegar and raw sugar and served with vanilla-bean ice cream – Mordre Bleu
A lovely, simple dessert to cap off this fairly impressive meal. By the time this arrived we were really full, but we ate it nonetheless because 1) it wasn’t some ghastly huge dessert, and 2) it was actually damn tasty, and especially because 3) it paired incredibly well with the beer served with it: a sour-mashed saison aged on Maine blueberries.
As I said, we were really impressed. This is really one of the best values around. We’ll definitely be going back for a meal in February, when the “star” ingredient is Bison.