NOTE BISTRO & WINE BAR
The southwest corner of midtown Harrisburg's Harris and Second streets has been home to a number restaurants over several years.
I mention it because of all past eatery incarnations the current is by far the best.
The decor inside the early-1900s Victorian home is sleek and modern: hardwood floors, tin ceiling and drop lighting. But the smallish dining room and bar have a warm and cozy feel.
Open since last summer, Note offers a limited menu, usually a sign the kitchen is preparing everything fresh. And the menu focuses on wines and small plates to share.
The good news is you can decide what you want to spend and eat well at any price ($100 per couple for a full ride of "mains" and more; half that for smaller "shares" and a glass of wine). Either way, my bet is you won't be disappointed.
I found the food at Note so good that I've visited multiple times.
Chef Emi Starr, formerly of another Second Street eatery still going strong, Café Fresco, specializes in local sources for foods and ingredients for a menu that changes seasonally.
The wine bar billing is justified. There are terrific wines from Italy, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain. And by-the-glass pours from $8 to $10 are generous. Notable (get it?) reds include a Henry Fessy Beaujolais from France, $10 a glass, $42 a bottle; and a lovely Dolcetto d'Alba from Italy, $38 a bottle.
Those who prefer whites might be attracted to a Spanish Albarino, $9 a glass, $38 a bottle; or (a longtime favorite of the Phantom) Trimbach Pinot Blanc from Alsace, $47 a bottle. If you're not into wine, you'll be glad to know the smallish bar is a full bar, the bartender is clearly a pro and his drinks and pours are excellent and generous.
But to the grub. Again, the menu is seasonal, but when I was there the small-plate offerings included: flash-fried shitake and filet-tip eggroll; handmade sweet butter squash ravioli with maple sauce; mussels in white wine or fra diavolo sauce; peppercorn-dusted scallops with grilled cabbage; and a half-dozen oysters on the half-shell. These are priced from $7 for the ravioli to $15 for the oysters.
But wait, there's more. There are soups; a cheese plate (small, $7; medium, $11; or large, $16); a charcuterie board (small, $13; large, $16) and wonderful salads.
I rarely rave about salads. I find them mostly things you should eat rather than things you want to eat. But salads at Note? You'll want to eat them. Choices during my visits were a Caesar made with hearts of romaine, shaved Reggiano, a house-made dressing and anchovies (upon request) for just $7. And there is an excellent field greens salad with poached pear, smoked bleu cheese, candied pecans, and dressed with apple cider vinaigrette -- $9, and easily worth it.
"Main" dishes included free-range chicken with fennel, Spanish chorizo served with risotto ($19), and penne pasta with vodka in a Pomodoro sauce with mushrooms and peas ($17).
Two dishes that absolutely killed at my table were leg of lamb in a cognac demi-glace with house-made pappardelle, chard, onion and mushrooms ($25). (This is a lick-your-plate entrée.) And the second was a grilled-as- you-like-it filet mignon (a thick 8 ounces) with shaved prosciutto; roasted garlic potato puree and a port wine demi-glace ($28). Now obviously, this is not an original dish. But I've never eaten a better version.
Two fresh-baked desserts were offered and both -- pumpkin spice cake and peanut butter pie -- were very good.
Service, though a little shaky in the early days of operation, has smoothed out. There now seems to be more attention to details than when Note opened.
Options here let patrons grab a glass of wine, a small plate or two and continue with their evening; or settle in and enjoy the menu's range of choices.
There's even a sort of early happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) that includes a couple of selected wines at $6 a glass and snacks in the $3 to $5 range. It's a good way to end a bad day or start a full evening with a warm-up round of wine and munchies.
Whatever your dining habits, whatever your preference for chow, Note can accommodate. I'm tempted to say it's worth noting, but I guess that's sort of obvious.
NOTE BISTRO & WINE BAR
1530 N. Second St., Harrisburg
Hours: Dinner, Tuesday through Saturday; reservations recommended; major credit cards; street parking.
THE PHANTOM DINER HAS BEEN A LONGTIME RESTAURANT REVIEWER FOR CENTRAL PA MAGAZINE.
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