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Harth, Tysons Corner Hilton - Wood-Burning Oven on Jones Bridge Road


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On 4/6/2011 at 9:47 PM, kirite said:

Going to Harth (with an umlaut) tomorrow night. Looking more at the salads, small plates, and sides than the rather boring looking main plates. I want to like this place.

Kudos to the folks behind harth. Finally someone rethought hotel restaurants and gave tysons/McLean a cool casual place with a well thought out menu for the neighborhood

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Kudos to the folks behind harth. Finally someone rethought hotel restaurants and gave tysons/McLean a cool casual place with a well thought out menu for the neighborhood

Great! I'm looking forward to frequenting a cool spot in restaurant deprived Tysons/McLean. This area has lots of lucre and very little taste.

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There are three things I like here. The flatbreads are crispy and interesting. The vegetable sides are unusual and tasty--things like brussel sprouts and honeyed squash. And if you dine between 5 and 10 you can snag 1000 Open Table points.

Does anyone know how they can pull off a wood-burning oven in a public hotel space? Do people actually go in and add logs in the middle of dinner service?

Also, is the chef, Tom Elder, cooking on a full-time basis at what has been referred to as "Tysons Corner's hottest new resturant?"

He recently said this unscripted little nugget in an internet interview:

"WashingtonExec: What excites you most about the new renovations to the Hilton McLean?

Tom Elder: We have referred to our renovation as not just a renovation but a reinvention. Our reinvention isn't just about design it's about design and the customer experience. We have a living room-inspired lobby with an iconic 18-hour bar and a 23 hour Technology Lounge, 458 redesigned guest rooms, over 27,000 square feet of reinvented meeting space and ballrooms, a brand new fitness center, and of course, härth "“ a 120-seat restaurant featuring fresh American comfort foods."

It's almost unfathomable that I've never heard of this gentleman before ten minutes ago.

---

Edit: And here he is again! *Restaurant of the YEAR?!* How much are they *paying* you, Linda?! I mean, you're doing your job very well, but this world needs me and nobody even realizes it.

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We're having dinner there next week. I'll ask the staff where Tom Elder cooked before Harth. I'll ask if he is a hologram. I''ll ask if I could meet him. On a previous visit our server told us that his mother owns a farm in Loudon County and that much of the produce is grown there. Who knows?

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Underwhelmed but with real caveats. Four of us had dinner here tonight.

HEADLINE

Inasmuch as Harth aspires to compete with any sophisticated, "farm-to-table" restaurant in the region, it has significant gaps to close. The most distinctive (and thus memorable) part of the experience was the venue (and two condiments*) but there were some highlights with the food.

VENUE

By far, the most impressive thing about Harth. We were told this was a $50 million renovation by one of our servers and it was easy to believe. The restaurant and hotel lobby outside are gorgeous yet comfortable, technologically impressive and clearly costly. Our 'senior server' (see service below for explanation) explained that the buildout was a sort of pilot for Hilton. "If this does well, they'll do the rest of the restaurants like this," we were told. I could write quite a bit about the space but won't do that since it has been written up already. Suffice to say, our chairs were like most of the venue: eye-catching, interesting, sophisticated, indicative of talented and professional design, and expensive. But, with their large size and supple leather coverings, they were also very comfortable if not overly functional (i.e, the white color probably wasn't ideal when the red wine was spilled).

We were given a leather-clad iPad with which to browse the wines and, after checking it for descriptions, reviews and winemaker info, we could choose our option from it. Very cool indeed!

Alongside the public areas like the dining room, lobby and bar areas, one could see into the prep and kitchen areas enough to realize the investment and tech continued to all parts of the restaurant. Beautiful, large, floor-to-ceiling glass wine refrigerators line one side of the entry walkway with several clearly ultra-high BTU, gas, open, pizza-style ovens which are used for flatbreads on the other side of that same walkway. Lots to gawk at everywhere.

The lobby bar would be a great place to watch a big football, basketball or baseball game. A great spot for a corporate event or meeting. And, it could be a super spot for a wonderful, truly memorable meal. But, sadly, it isn't that as of yet.

SERVICE

Our waiter made a large number of what I'd term 'rookie mistakes.' Water glasses weren't filled. Needed cutlery (like a sharp steak knife for a large pork chop) wasn't anticipated and had to be requested. Basic menu knowledge (like regional provenance of the menu's only oyster dish) was lacking. We were asked if we were "finished" with our wine despite a quarter bottle still remaining. Wine was spilled on the initial tasting pour. And dessert menus were dropped while some were still finishing dinner plates. All of this had me thinking, in a reference only football fans will appreciate, that Chris Berman is really onto something.

But, I don't blame the waiter at all for any of the above for two reasons.

First, he was a very earnest and genuinely nice guy. Clearly he was doing his best to make our experience a good one. He checked back a few times and sincerely encouraged us to make whatever requests and pose whatever questions. Second, he actually was a rookie. We learned about a third of the way through our meal that he was a trainee.

So, the problem here wasn't at all the waiter. The problem was with the management and training that led to our having the experience we did. And, none of this would be the expectation were this not a more fully priced, elegant, fine-dining kind of place. The way we figured out that our waiter was a trainee was a woman (whom I'll call the 'senior server') appeared and told us this just after our apps were cleared. She also was very nice and, of course, much more knowledgeable about the menu and restaurant. But, she didn't stick very close to her trainee (which may or may not have been her fault depending on whatever other responsibilities she had) and, as a result, we didn't have great service and, more concerningly, it was hard to see how her trainee would really learn and improve under her watch.

Again, both our servers were super nice. One was new and one more tenured, knowledgeable and generous in sharing that knowledge. We liked them both; very and sincerely friendly. But the service was sub-standard and the blame for that has to be with restaurant management and how new servers are hired, trained and developed. Sensible process and approaches seem to be lacking there given what I'd guess Harth aspires to be.

FOOD

Here's where I'll start with the caveats I mentioned above in my first line. Chief among them is that Harth is a pretty good restaurant relative to other hotel restaurants not including Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and other, similar premium hotels. Relative to other Hiltons, Marriotts, Sheratons, Westins, etc, Harth is better. Another caveat, admittedly much weaker, is that the restaurant is a large, complicated operation so maybe the seven months they've been open so far isn't yet enough to really work out all the kinks. Finally, caveat #3 is that Harth is a pretty good option for an area in VA with sadly few very good options for higher-end dining. If a visiting businessperson staying here didn't know to go to Reston for Passionfish or closer in to a place like Willow, they could surely eat here and get a decent meal. And, since it's in a hotel, they serve breakfast which, I'm guessing, is probably pretty good.

All the caveats aside, I found Harth disappointing because I think it aspires to be a great restaurant without those caveats and, on that basis, it fell short. More specifically, dishes generally weren't memorable, lacked seasoning and, in some cases, lacked coherence. Most specifically, we had:

- Basket of bread with butter and bacon jam (included at no charge). I wouldn't normally mention bread but do here because, while the bread itself was very ordinary, the "bacon jam" was one of the better things we had all night. Made with bacon, onion and honey, this was addictive. And, informed that they produce their own honey with rooftop honeycombs made it all the better.

- Bottle of "2UP" 2009 Aussie Shiraz ($36): One of the restaurant's lower-priced bottles with most between $50 and $90. Our table enjoyed it and it paired reasonably well given the wide variety of dishes ordered. The iPad was helpful, as well as cool, in informing our wine decision.

- "Margherita Wood Fired Flatbread with san marzano tomato, fresh mozzarella, torn basil" ($10). This set the tone for much of our meal. It was fine. We finished it. But nothing special. The tomato sauce wasn't bad but not especially flavorful. I'm pretty sure the parmesan grated on request over it was a mild, non-Reggiano variety. The mozzarella was fresh but could have been a bit more plentiful. The fresh basil was fragrant and quite good. The dough thin, crisp and fine. Our waiter had told us this was a major specialty, which is why we ordered it. Okay--not sure about that but we didn't regret getting it per se. We were hungry and this was the first thing to hit the table so we finished it in short order. I am sure I couldn't recommend this as a 'must have' though. Also, I wasn't sure about the "wood fired" description as the ovens seemed to be gas but maybe I'm wrong about that. There are four other flatbreads on the menu, all of which are probably more interesting to order. This one, if it was an original painting in a museum, was the kind of thing that wouldn't attract much attention good or bad by visitors.

- "Frisee salad with roasted chicken livers, applewood smoked bacon, rustic croutons, poached farm egg, herb viniagrette" ($11). This was the best example of a dish lacking coherence. Each of the elements was okay or even good but they reminded me of a deconstructed salad where the elements just weren't arranged on the plate separately. The chicken livers were a bit overdone but still tasty. The egg similarly was a bit overdone but still fine if undersalted. The choice of stringy frisee as the green and the real lack of any perceptible vinaigrette made this an underwhelming starter that just didn't come together in taste despite visual evidence to the contrary.

- "Beef, pork & veal meatballs with roasted tomato sauce, pecorino romano" ($9). A dish that lacked seasoning in both the slightly overcooked and thus too firm meatballs and the sauce, which seemed to be the same as the sauce used on the flatbread though labeled differently on the menu. Did appreciate the pecorino since it added the first bit of sharpness of the two dishes experienced at this point. The meatballs were maybe 50% larger than golf balls and, with four served, a very generous portion for the money.

- "Maine lobster lasagna with house made saffron pasta, escarole, morels, fennel cream, lobster broth" ($32). This was a dish of highs and lows. Highs included the delicate pasta and morels. Lows included the heavy, thick cream sauce. As with many dishes, it was a big portion. Despite most of us trying it, our friend who ordered it couldn't finish it. The sauce had something to do with that. Also, the dish should probably have more lobster in it.

- "Smoked pork loin chop with braised kale, roasted butternut squash, apple cider reduction" ($26). I ordered this and though it the best of the four mains at our table. It was large and, for the most part, nicely smokey and moist most of the way through. I also liked the squash. The chopped cubes were perfectly roasted and sweetened (I'm guessing with honey), celebrating the inherent taste of the squash. The kale was a downer in the same way that most restaurant attempts with this uber-healthy vegetable are. Underseasoned. Undercooked. The cider reduction did work well and was used to glaze the pork. Overall, a very good dish I enjoyed.

- "BBQ Shrimp and Grits with bacon jam glazed, talbot cheddar grits" ($14). One of our friends ordered this "small plate" as her main. I didn't try it but she finished it and seemed to enjoy it. Four shrimp were served atop the grits in a dish of the type typically used for a spanish style flan.

- "Harth Burger with talbot reserve sharp cheddar or gruyere, wood fired onions, applewood smoked bacon" ($14). Again, an underseasoned dish. The burger was a generous size but lacking in any distinctive flavor. Ray's, Palena and even Newton's Table blow this one out of the water. It wasn't clear whether the beef was grass-fed or not but I'd like to see them rethink either the beef, the seasoning or both even if it means reducing the size to maintain the price point. As served to us, it was very ordinary.

- "Chocolate Cupcake" ($10). One of the more expensive dishes when compared to others, this was reminiscent of a more sophisticated, reinvented "devil dog." Rich devils food cake with a light fresh cream filling and fudge drizzled all around and as frosting. OK but very big. Two of us only finished a third of it and were thankful it was the only dessert we ordered.

The senior server told us about the rooftop bee hives and that the "farm-to-table" restaurant also grows a wide variety of herbs and some vegetables during the nicer weather in a garden out back. That sounded pretty cool.

Reviewing what I've written above, I realize it leans negative. But I need to again emphasize that I thought and think about Harth relative to other fine dining restaurants, where it lags, and not as much relative to the positively mediocre fare of other hiltons and business hotels, relative to which Harth excels. Probably the right standard is somewhere between business hotel norms and better fine-dining standards. That said, if the food we had is representative of what one could normally expect, it's probably an okay option if looking for something in that area. But not a good enough option to travel more than 5 or 10 miles.

VALUE

Portions were large and pricing pretty moderate. Our total bill of about $175 for four including a bottle of wine and tax but pre-tip was very reasonable relative to comparable spots. This all comes down to whatever Harth's goals are for food and service quality. Are they aiming higher than the current level? Shooting to be one of the best in the greater metroplex? Or is 'better than what Hilton restaurants normally are' good enough? That's the key question which I guess will be answered over time.

* Both the "bacon jam" and honey were excellent.

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I know Virginia roads are much like impacted intestines and you just can't find your way out, but I don't think anyone has ever gotten so lost in NOVA that they ended up in Chevy Chase. That Tyson's Corner Hilton is on Jones BRANCH Rd, not Jones BRIDGE Rd. People usually figure it out when they encounter a large river and a big bridge.

Oddly enough, the hotel itself thinks it is in McLean. The actual name is Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. I always thought that McLean was inside the Beltway but as it turns out, McLean includes Tysons. Live and learn.

In any case, did anyone know that the name of the road that runs behind Tysons II is Jones Branch Road?

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Tyson's Corner is like Cleveland Park...an area designation, but not an actual address (with the exception of shops located in Tyson's Corner Center). Route 7 divides Vienna from McLean outside the beltway, I think most would agree that both sides of Route 7 are "Tyson's".

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Went for dinner again tonight and except for a moderately large party in the back room it was, as usual, almost empty. Does Hilton subsidize Harth whereas Michel rented space from The Four Seasons? :wacko:

Michel was at the Ritz-Carlton. As for Harth, I can only imagine it is Hilton's restaurant, not a independent owner such as Jeff Buben at Bistro Bis and the Hotel George. <snip>

Harth likely is a Hilton-run restaurant, as Hilton's worldwide headquarters is located next door. Its proximity may also explain the $50 million refurbishment - to serve as a template for other Hiltons to adopt.

Yes, yes, and yes.

<snip>

VENUE

By far, the most impressive thing about Harth. We were told this was a $50 million renovation by one of our servers and it was easy to believe. The restaurant and hotel lobby outside are gorgeous yet comfortable, technologically impressive and clearly costly. Our 'senior server' (see service below for explanation) explained that the buildout was a sort of pilot for Hilton. "If this does well, they'll do the rest of the restaurants like this," we were told.

<snip>

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Tried to have dinner here tonight but were told that "for business reasons" Sunday dinner is no longer served. Will this be the next hotel restaurant in Tyson's to go belly up?

I don't remember if this is the only restaurant in the hotel, but things like this are not good signs. Domaso in Rosslyn "phased down" like this also, before eventually closing (with the Hotel Palomar being sold).

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I don't remember if this is the only restaurant in the hotel, but things like this are not good signs. Domaso in Rosslyn "phased down" like this also, before eventually closing (with the Hotel Palomar being sold).

There is a bar and a lounge which offers a "slimmed down" version of the dinner menu. Harth is the only restaurant in the hotel.

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Update: Working on a story and just got confirmation that chef Luc Dendievel (hired in 2014) recently left -- he was a big proponent of their 'foodie in training' kids' dining program, which looks like it will be changing or going away entirely. Too bad -- it was a nice menu and dedication to young diners. 

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On 11/22/2021 at 10:26 AM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Here's a topic in need of a refresh. Harth is now "The Social" and it's a food hall inside Hilton's headquarters in Tyson's Corner. I'll be meeting a friend there for lunch in a few weeks and I'll check it out for the Rockwellian crowd.

Ignore my previous post. Harth is in the Hilton Hotel, the next building over from the Hilton HQ, where The Social is located.

As far as The Social is concerned, it's a middlin' food court kind of thing, and my Club Sub came with very good house-made potato chips. Otherwise, nothing special to report.

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