Then there is the Hill Burger, which is in a category all its own. The burger just explodes with intense flavors, but each bite mellows quickly and never overpowers the aged-in-house, freshly ground meat. "What are they doing back there?" my friend asks our server, marveling after her first bite of burger. His answer could be rehearsed but seems very heartfelt: "They just take time with everything," he says. "But they try not to intervene too much with the ingredients." Yes, there is help from some luxurious truffle aioli. Yes, cheddar cheese, bacon, and some oyster mushrooms cap off this spectacular sandwich. But it's clear that the X-factor here is the meat itself, which is easily the best grass-fed burger I have had in years.
Desserts showed range. A light and relatively healthy yogurt panna cotta came with a crisp but too grainy pear-and-riesling sorbet. A dark and thickly ganache-coated chocolate cake was not lifted enough to be a pound cake, not dense enough to be bete noir, and too sticky to act like a brownie. The can't-miss dessert is the toasted coconut tres leches cake, a recipe our server tells us has been tested and perfected many times over the years. It shows. Silky and not-too-sweet coconut milk is used as one of the tres leches, giving the light-as-air cake and softly whipped cream a bit of substance instead of just more sucrose.
The braised pork belly with cheese grits is one of Harriet's outstanding small plates
Given that Harriet Brasserie is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, only shutting down for a prep period between 3 and 5 p.m., it has a lot of opportunities to create loyal customers. That means it's entirely possible that in a month or two Harriet Brasserie's lines could rival Tilia's. Secretly, selfishly, I hope that's not the case. I want this homey place to be like the band you discover, love, and then have to try to keep your big mouth shut about so their shows don't get overrun and their ticket prices don't go up. I want them to stay 7th St. Entry even though they're worthy of the First Avenue audience. Of course, in this case, the hope is that I can always get a no-wait savory scone in the morning, split that impossibly sumptuous burger with a friend on the patio for lunch, and be able to make a reservation for a dinner of small plates and carafes of wine when friends come to visit from out of town. So much for keeping it under wraps, right?