Dining Out: Harvest’s homey style touches on too casual

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Why: Harvest opened for business Dec. 12 in the restaurant space at the Camas Hotel. The family-oriented restaurant serves dinner and will soon be offering brunch and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

When I asked Chef Tim McCusker about the menu, he explained that as a professional chef, he typically prepares high-end food for others and then enjoys going home to make regular food for his family. According to McCusker, the simpler fare is what’s on the menu at Harvest — innovative comfort food with a new twist.

Atmosphere: The space has been stripped down from its former fine-dining persona of to a basic décor that incorporates paintings on the walls, an assortment of baskets on the shelf above the front windows and entry, and tables and chairs set with the necessities. It feels somewhat bare, a feeling accentuated by the lack of sound-absorbing textiles that would “cozy up” the ambience.

What I Tried: To start our meal, we tried the Mozzarella Balls. I had the Blackberry Pork Tenderloin for my entrée and my dining companion decided on the Fish & Chips. We finished our meal with the Flourless Chocolate Cake, served with a raspberry sauce.

The Mozzarella Balls consisted of mozzarella bocconcini, breaded and deep-fried, served atop a pomodoro sauce and garnished with fresh greens. The mozzarella had a mild flavor, as did the sauce, and functioned mostly as texture and substance to the breading, which provided most of the flavor — a mix of oregano, thyme, and basil. The dish was a pleasant departure from typical mozzarella sticks. As an appetizer, I found it appropriately light.

The pork tenderloin was very tender and smothered in a blackberry sauce. The menu describes the tenderloin as “chipotle-rubbed” and the waitress described it as “somewhat spicy” — neither of which characterized the meat, though it was very appetizing. It was served with a sweet potato and smoked Gouda gratin and sautéed green beans. The gratin presented a soufflé quality, with soft sweet potatoes layered amid the other ingredients. Its only downside was the charring on the top surface from too much time under high heat. The green beans were on the brink of being completely blistered and were much too salty for my liking. My dining companion noted that the chips, denoted on the menu as “harvest fries” (shoestring potatoes), that accompanied his fish were extremely salty, as well. The fish was a lightly battered cod fillet, pleasantly void of dark meat and excess oil. A delicious tartar sauce and a lemon jelly were served alongside, providing both a traditional and innovative flavor addition to attend the fish. A modest small salad provided fresh greens.

The flourless chocolate cake was dense with a flavor that reminded me of chocolate pudding.

Menu Highlights Beyond What I Tried: Though I settled on the pork tenderloin, my second entrée choice was the Harvest Pot Pie, described as a deconstructed chicken pot pie. The Lemon Shrimp, with zucchini and yellow squash noodles and cherry tomatoes in lemon garlic butter, sounded delicious.

The Harvest Trio includes roasted tomato and basil soup, four-cheese macaroni, and Texas toast grilled cheese. The Salmon Flat Bread Wraps from the small plates menu was an intriguing option, as well. McCusker said menu selections will change every three to four weeks, but favorites will remain.

Other Observations: The waitress on the evening of our visit was pleasant enough, though the clompy sound of her boots on the wood floor gave away her every move throughout the restaurant. She also spilled water on the floor when filling our glasses. Instead of following a mop-up procedure, she took a dinner napkin from a table, threw it to the floor, used her foot to mop, and then kicked it aside where it sat for about 10 minutes — quite tacky.

I also saw the chef enter the bathroom with his waist-towel at his waist and leave with it over his shoulder. I don’t know where it went from there, but in my opinion, it should not have accompanied him to the bathroom -- very disconcerting.

The music was a bit loud for conversation when we arrived, though it could hardly be heard over the noise level once the restaurant was full.

Overall, Harvest was a distinctly mixed experience.

Cost: Small plates are $6 to $11. Big plates are $14 to $18.

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Telephone: 360-210-4037

Where: 401 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas.

Online:Harvest on Facebook

Health Score: Harvest has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled for a routine inspection sometime in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.