When Harry’s Pacific Grill held its cocktail reception in December, the excellent service and delicious samples made for high expectations. Now that the restaurant has been open for a couple of months, IE Weekly was invited back for a full review. Regrettably, the standards have slackened considerably.
Harry’s has visual appeal in spades. The small indoor waiting area spills outside to an open fireplace. Guests can also try the martinis, signature cocktails or wine while passing at the full bar. The bar is crowded but useful since, not accepting reservations, you can almost certainly plan on a wait.
The décor is pleasing, fusing retro patterns and colors with Eastern elements like lamps that mimic paper lanterns. Every table in the dining area is an intimate booth of varying size. Large parties are accommodated by the back row, where each booth can handle eight adults snugly, but not uncomfortably so. Larger parties will have to sit back-to-back or across at adjacent tables.
One unexpected downfall that wasn’t the case during its cocktail reception is that the noise level at Harry’s is incredibly loud, turning any casual conversation into a yelling match. Furthermore, with a high volume of turnover, the wait staff is single-mindedly intent on turning their tables rather than focusing on your comfortability. Needless to say, meals aren’t coursed, and one is apt to feel pressure to inhale the meal rather than tarrying over it.
To start, I tried the Crispy Calamari ($9.75), which arrived at the table with cilantro curry dipping sauce and breaded onions. The appetizer fell a little shy of the “deep fried perfection” the menu boasts it to be. The gummy calamari rings could have fried for a bit longer and the breading could have stood for more seasoning. As it is, the ramekin of sauce is a necessity for flavor.
Within minutes of having been served the appetizer, the first course arrived. The Country Caesar Salad ($7) was pretty standard except for powdered Parmesan substituting the common shaved variety. The California Fisherman’s Stew ($10), made with assorted seafood in a tomato and clam stock, was much more satisfying with its generous portion and robust flavor.
But overlapping is not the same as expedience. I was no more than ten spoonfuls into my soup when the main course was served. The Macadamia Nut Halibut ($19) was prepared breaded in panko and macadamia, resting on a bed of golden fried rice and complemented by baby bok choy and eggplant. A sweet vanilla bean sauce coated the center of the plate, giving the dish plenty of flavor—especially for people who don’t like the taste of seafood. The halibut is breaded so completely and the dish is so sweet that it’s easy to imagine eating pancakes if you close your eyes. The Asian Pacific Pescado ($17), fresh fish pan sautéed and stacked with pepper jack potatoes, did a better job at retaining its fish taste but it too was over-seasoned, making it difficult to enjoy.
Barely a quarter into my entrée and clearly still eating, the server returned to the table to offer dessert, reaching into her bistro apron to foist the menu on us. We asked her to come back later, which was the only time we were able to go for more than ten minutes without someone trying to clear our plates or prod us along. When we did order dessert, it was the Apple Cobbler ($6) and Chocolate Mousse ($6.75). Dessert was presented with handmade whipped cream, which is a nice touch that was adequately decadent and presented beautifully. Portions are hearty and can easily satisfy two to three people.
Yet overall, due to the over-aggressiveness of the wait staff (which in all likelihood is the result a mandate from management to turn and burn tables), the service was disappointing. It would be another thing entirely if the servers were at least conscientious of the situation, but the night I went take-home boxes weren’t even offered for the nearly whole plates of food still sitting in front of us.
Harry’s Pacific Grill, on the night I went at least, was a real heartbreaker. It has all of the sheen of a quality establishment, but ends up being the very thing most people are trying to get away from—hectic. If you’re in a rush and don’t mind rushed yet wonderfully presented, slightly mediocre food, then Harry’s Pacific Grill is not all that bad. But if you’re looking for a unique dining experience where you can take the time to enjoy it, you’d be better served going elsewhere.
Harry’s Pacific Grill, 8009 Day Creek Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 463-1400, Mon.–Thurs. 4PM–10PM; Fri. 4PM–11PM; Sat. 10AM–2PM lunch, 4PM–10PM dinner; Sun. brunch 11AM–3PM, 4PM–10PM dinner, Average Price for Two: $65, AE, D, MC, V