Harold’s is a cut above

Clay Fong | Boulder Weekly

Attached to Longmont’s Plaza Hotel, Harold’s Restaurant & Lounge ups the ante on this town’s fine dining with retro-styled cocktails and original farm-to-table preparations. Compared to the space’s previous tenants, the bar here assumes the guise of an old school speakeasy, while the dining room has adopted the trappings of a white tablecloth establishment.

The menu’s easy to follow, clearly noting vegetarian and gluten-free options, and it also features several options for children. Structurally, the bill of fare is broken down into first, second and third courses. The first-course selection consists of soups like classic French onion with veal stock and salads such as beet and goat cheese. Second courses focus on proteins, including house-made chicken and duck liver mousse and a trio of deviled eggs spotlighting one spiked with lobster. Third-course entrees range from the $12 Colorful Ranch grass-fed cheeseburger, which may now be my favorite burger, to a $21 pan-roasted grouper with mussels.

Friend Mara and I began dinner with a $9 first course of chilled asparagus garnished with serrano ham strips, popcorn dusted with blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. The dressing avoided the trap of being too acidic and didn’t overwhelm the subtle earthy tones of the green stalks. A soft-cooked egg atop the veggies was an endearing finishing touch, adding the Northern European flourish of creating a de facto sauce of yolk and white.

Our second course was a plate of four perfectly seared sea scallops for $13. A balance of briny, sweet and creamy, these delicate shellfish had an ideal texture and a welcome whisper of smoke flavor. The side of fennel and pickled carrot splashed with apple cider vinegar was a nearly superfluous addition, although it did serve as an effective foil to the scallops’ considerable richness.

My entree was a $21 prime hanger steak, which arrived as ordered, textbook rare. This high-quality meat carried a deep beefy savor and delightful tenderness. Colorful fingerling potatoes were a winning alternative to typical baked spuds, and the plate was topped off by a simple-but-satisfying mesclun salad drizzled with unfussy balsamic dressing.

Mara’s a longtime fan of duck, and she quickly gravitated to the $21 Long Island Peking Duck, which bore little resemblance to the Chinese restaurant specialty. In this instance, slices of rare duck rested atop a bed of pearl-sized al dente couscous. Bing cherry and pomegranate flavors testified to the effectiveness of pairing fruit with this bird. Mara took her time enjoying this dish, saying she wanted to “savor every bite.”

For the finish, a $8 pumpkin creme brulee was a tad more sweet than it needed to be. While the caramelized sugar crust wasn’t too thick, the overall sweetness made the squash flavor difficult to detect. Which was too bad, because once I tasted a hint of the pumpkin, it added a subtle earthiness that built depth and rounded out the flavor profile.

Harold’s holds its own with just about any fine dining experience in the county, and it distinguishes itself with friendly service that’s still in tune with the slightly formal ambience. It’s a welcoming spot, well-suited to a date, special occasion meal, or those times when you want to treat yourself to a repast that’s a cut above.

Harold’s Restaurant and Lounge is located at 1940 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont. Call 303-774-7399.

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