The Harbor House Restaurant is the Michelin starred restaurant in the Harbor House Inn in Elk, CA (Mendocino County). Super talented Chef Matt Kammerer and his excellent staff continue to turn out innovative and delicious tasting menus and thus Frankie chose to re-visit. The Inn is still lovely and they are now able to seat guests inside as well as outside, all over-looking the beautiful coast line. We were lucky to eat there 2 consecutive nights and Chef Kammerer was kind enough to make changes for the second night’s dining. They have a small kitchen so some dishes were repeated but there were a number of different dishes. I’ll present the two night’s meals but may omit photos for repeats, depending on which night I got the better photo. Frankie and I highly recommend visiting and if you can even stay at the Inn. The staff will make you feel very welcome and do allow several hours for the meal.
We ordered our own wines for the meals but they do offer pairings for the tasting.
July 22, 2021
The meal always starts with a wet hand towel to get ready for any hand held foods.
First is a glass of tomato tonic with a drop of olive oil in the glass. It is made with tomato water and burst with tomato flavor. It had amazing flavor and aftertaste.
Rockfish lightly cured on kelp was plated with grilled celtuce, radish and dressed with Douglas Fir vinegar. The mild fish blended well with the other ingredients. Some kombu strands topped the fish and set it off nicely. A good one.
Corn custard was topped with fried corn silk and contained yuzu and abalone mushroom. The cool smooth custard with a tart layer on top contrasted well with the crisp corn silks. The abalone mushroom added another good texture and flavor. A delicious course.
Summer vegetables and herbs from their farm/ranch were plated with fermented rice and then dressed with walnut dressing. The vegetables included summer squash, zucchini, radish – both grilled and poached and coastal succulents. The tender yet crisp vegetables were on top of the fermented rice. A real taste of their new garden with a sauce that accents each piece.
Maitake mushroom was fried and infused and served aside a cup mushroom broth and lace lichen with cow parsnip seed butter. The tempura coating on the mushroom included some espelette pepper and was wonderfully crisp and delicate. It was not at all greasy but still very flavorful and the texture was divine. The aroma of the accompanying broth was lovely and it was designed to be sipped between bites of mushroom for an excellent, delicious course.
Hinona turnip was plated with sabayon seasoned with fermented winter squash. The turnip was poached and then grilled and then adorned with shiso, nasturtium and pickled cucumber blossom. The rich sabayon was perfect with the turnip as were the edible leaves and blossoms. The turnip was cut into bite sized pieces and re-assembled on the plate.
Sourdough bread and cultured butter were both seasoned with sea lettuce. The bread was totally crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside. The sea lettuce was a mild seasoning and worked well with the cultured butter. The butter was topped with a few sprinkles of salt. Very good.
Slow grilled King salmon was seasoned with Turkish bay leaves and grilled over an oven fire then served atop Velvet Pioppini mushrooms and lettuce in a seaweed vinaigrette. The silky smooth fish had an amazing texture and flavor in your mouth. Mixed with the vegetables it simply soared.
Red abalone roasted in kelp was served aside calhikari rice and a sauce of abalone offal and nori. The abalone was brought to the table still in the kelp and it was recommended to dip it in the sauce and eat with the rice and then pour the remaining sauce on the rice. The abalone was so tender if you closed your eyes you’d think it was a large mushroom. It was an excellent blend of flavors and textures. After the course my tongue was singing.
Squab from Devil’s Gulch, smoked over pine cones was served alongside red dragon carrots and topped with Turkish Bay leaves. The squab was aged for 14 days before finishing on the grill. It was nicely rare and perfectly tender. The red carrots, dotted with sesame seeds, were delicious. A bit of jus was added to the meat on the plate. A wonderful dish.
Aprium, a hybrid of apricot and plum, was topped with hyssop. The hyssop had an anise flavor and was lovely with the amazing fruit. So simple and yet so delicious.
Citrus marigold ice cream was on almond oil and alongside a tray of strawberries. Marigold macerated the strawberries and they were divine. The totally smooth ice cream with a tad of salt was great alone or with the flavorful strawberries. Another simple offering that was absolutely lovely.
Last was a teapot filled with an infusion of Douglas fir and ginger alongside a bit of grilled honey with a bouquet of sweet herbs and a dish of layers of blackberry and white chocolate. You were to dip the herbs in honey and them put then into your tea. It was an effective sweetening tool. One solid blackberry topped the smoothed blackberry layer that was on top of the white chocolate custard. It was quite tasty and fun to play with but I’d take another round of the strawberries and marigold ice cream. A fine ending either way for the first meal.
The meal started with the tomato tonic. It was followed with red abalone using the set up from the rockfish the night before. The abalone was tenderized and then grilled. This preparation of the abalone gave it more chew and it was served chilled. The dish was wonderfully seasoned and fresh tasting.
Corn custard was the same as last night. Then we had shishito peppers in a tempura batter alongside a broth of grilled shishitos. The broth was smokey, light and good. The peppers were divine – the ultimate popper. The fried coating was perfection housing a lovely pepper flavor. Great one.
Summer squash, Maitake, cucumber and zucchini blossoms had a sauce of fermented sour dough miso, scallions and mushrooms. The sauce here was to die for that blended wonderfully with the tender vegetables. A grilled smokiness was in the background. This was an excellent course.
The turnip was poached and then grilled and served warm with a duck egg sabayon. The egg had been fermented with hubbard squash. This is a newer item on the menu and I bet it stays. It was excellent with a fine depth of flavor, lots of textures and a really wonderful, tangy rich result. This came around the time of the sourdough bread and cultured sea lettuce butter.
Slow grilled rockfish was presented on daikon on a broth of daikon and topped with chive. The fish was grilled low and slow to result in tender moist pieces of fish. The broth was darker so added a nice color contrast and the daikon added textural contrast. A wonderful pairing.
Grilled and smoked Trumpet mushrooms, smoked over eucalyptus were presented with calhikari rice. The mushrooms were in a bit of kelp oil vinaigrette which was great when added to the rice, too. The absolutely delicious mushrooms were amazing and I couldn’t bear to share their taste with the rice which was fine in itself. Lovely, lovely.
Pork loin smoked over pine was topped with sorrel leaves from the farm and served aside red dragon carrots dusted with sesame seeds. The pork loin had been aged 14 days and the carrots caramelized to a sweet, chewy finish. The carrots were packed with flavor and the pork nicely pink, juicy and tender. Great flavor in both main items on the plate, unusual for the protein portion of a tasting menu (this is generally when I go blaaa but this pork had great flavor). Amazing how good protein is when cooked perfectly.
For desserts we had the aprium with hyssop (anise) leaves, which again is a perfect mix of flavors. Then was some grilled Wakame ice cream with matcha. It was mild in flavor but smooth and creamy in texture. It was good.
This night with the layers of blackberry and white chocolate we had an infusion of raspberry leaves to be sweetened with the herbs and grilled honey. Fruity and fun – a wonderful way to end a truly fine meal.