Check Out the Opening Menu at Parsnip
If you’ve walked through Winthrop Park in Harvard Square this week, you may have noticed some activity happening at a space that has been vacant since UpStairs on the Square shuttered in early 2014. Parsnip Restaurant & Lounge, a stylish, multi-tiered new venue, has hosted a handful of friends-and-family and private events this week, and it will open to the public on Tuesday, November 3.
Parsnip’s kitchen is helmed by British expat Peter Quinion, and former Boston Chops chef de cuisine Ryan Marcoux is in that role. Beverage director Steven Lemley was prominent on the New Orleans scene before moving to the Boston area to help open Parsnip, Eater Boston reported in an in-depth interview with the team last month.
The restaurant is rooted by an overarching philosophy of respect, the trio told Boston. That touches on respect for tradition, respect of artisan crafts, respect for their suppliers, and respect for Parsnip staff and guests.
“We’re trying to do a cuisine that doesn’t stray too far from the ingredients themselves,” Marcoux said.
The menu is built with a simple formula. “It’s three ingredients, four ingredients [per dish], and not overworked,” the executive chef said. Gravlax, an ancient Nordic dish featuring citrus and dill-cured salmon, is a prime example. “It’s just a great piece of fish that has fingerlings and Dijon mustard with it … It’s simple. We try to bring the flavors out, but keep it clean on the plate. There’s a lot of traditional foundations of Europe, and even here [on the menu], and it’s done right. Everything is done as it should be, and it’s treated respectfully,” Quinion said.
The a la carte menu below reflects what Parsnip will offer on opening night, while the boxed-off, five-course tasting menu is a sample of the “playful” fare that will change daily once the kitchen staff introduces that dining experience later in November, Quinion said.
“If we’ve got an ingredient in, sunchokes or something, we’d like everyone to put their thoughts forward and create,” he said.
The chefs intend to make Parsnip’s kitchen “a platform of learning and education,” Marcoux said. “All the way down to the lowest level of commis, everybody has an idea and everybody’s going to have a different perspective on something, and we value that from everyone who works here.”
On the bar, Lemley is building a 60-70-bottle wine list with many options biodynamically and organically certified.
“We respect the tradition of whatever artisan profession our suppliers have, across the board. Even in the spirits selection: Making sure the people in the agave fields are being paid accordingly, and it’s being delivered to us in a way that’s at least contemplative of the effects on the environment,” Lemley said. “The challenge for us is to find quality producers that fit those parameters. We certainly can’t change our consumer society, but we can certainly realign what we’re willing to accept.”
The bar manager added he plans to offer a couple “luxury pours” out of the dozen or so wines-by-the-glass. “Wines that normally you wouldn’t see by the glass, but we can source them sometimes that we can offer them that way. It’s an added value to our guests, rather than having to invest in an entire bottle to experience some of these wines.”
For cocktails, everything will be built on classics; Lemley brings a solid foundation from his previous experience as one of New Orleans’ top bartenders. “We’ve incorporated some newer techniques, certainly. One of my additions is we have these four-and-a-half-foot tea towers that we use for infusions, as well as for the production of cocktails.”
The devices have three compartments: The liquid goes up top—either a straight spirit for infusions, or with a mixer for large-format cocktails—and it slowly flows into the second compartment, which contains botanicals, coffee, or other flavorings. The finished product is contained on the bottom. Lemley said he has only seen such an innovation in use by Chicago mixologist Adam Seger, a beverage industry leader.
The main, 70-seat dining room has high ceilings, large windows, balconies, and a natural color palette. There is a white marble fireplace, as well as a white marble bar. Upstairs, cocktail tables surround a 40-seat lounge that has two fireplaces of its own, and a warmly-toned, variegated marble bartop from North Africa. There is a mid-century modern aesthetic throughout, including the tableware.
Parsnip will open for dinner at 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and extend to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The lounge will be operate Tuesday-Saturday from 3 p.m.-midnight.
91 Winthrop St., Cambridge; 617-714-3206 or parsniprestaurant.com.