Hard stuff

A bone-in pork chop with whiskey apple caramel sauce was a show stealer.

A bone-in pork chop with whiskey apple caramel sauce was a show stealer.


Hard Water House is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Learn more at hardwaterhouse.com.

Hard Water House is a cigar and whiskey bar with an upscale lunch and dinner menu. If you sit on the lounge side, you’ll definitely need to be OK with smoking. I recommend starting with a whiskey tasting flight, and, of course, light ’em if you’ve got ’em. Despite the lounge smoke, I didn’t really notice the tobacco aromas during our meal. Having enjoyed the occasional stogie, I may be less sensitive—but even my non-smoking companions seemed perfectly comfortable as we dug into appetizers.

We began with plates of large green, red and black Italian olives sprinkled with a bit of parmesan and rosemary ($5.95), and crottin de chevre—pistachio crusted goat cheese cakes ($12.95) drizzled with balsamic fig sauce, served with sliced Fuji apples and pine nuts. The contrast between the two made for a pleasant start.

Next, we had two lobster dishes. Maine lobster “escargot style” ($16.95) featured small bites broiled in cognac and lemon herb butter, topped with a bit of puff pastry. The other dish featured chunks of battered tail meat ($22.95) served with brown butter, grilled Meyer lemon aioli and organic micro greens. The flavor and texture on the broiled bites was quite good. The fried pieces were a bit chewy, though they had decent flavor.

We added a couple of orders of tacos ($10.95)—housemade corn tortillas stuffed with cabernet-braised short rib of beef, crema, cilantro and queso fresco, with house salsa on the side. The salsa was decent, and there was nice smoke on the meat, but it was a bit lacking in seasoning. The last appetizer we ordered was cast iron crab cakes ($13.95) with hand picked crab, charred organic corn, chipotle aioli and fresh coriander. The dish tasted great, but the bitty bites could have been a bit bigger.

Entrees were served with salads of romaine, spring mix, cucumber, grape tomato, apple and blueberries. A nicely seared salmon filet ($25.95) was laid upon a bed of roasted marble potatoes, sea fennel, ciabatta croutons and asparagus, with a schmear of tomato bisque. This dish was excellent. A similar plate of veggies supported a 13-ounce New York strip steak ($24.95) with pan peppercorn sauce. The meat was cooked so perfectly medium rare, I’m betting it was done sous vide—vacuum-sealed and cooked in a water bath.

Heading back to the surf, we tried seared sea scallops ($28.95) set atop crispy risotto cakes, finished with vanilla saffron butter sauce and a side of veggies. The scallop and risotto combination was good, though the sauce didn’t quite fit with the other flavors. A pan roast of shrimp, bay scallop and crab meat ($24.95) was flavorful, served with a hunk of that tasty herb bread.

A big hunk of the same short rib ($27.95) used in the tacos was served with garlic mashed potato and veggies. Where the meat was a bit lacking in seasoning, a terrific cabernet sauce and excellent mash pulled it together. This dish was bested only by a Frenched, bone-in pork chop ($23.95) that was doused in whiskey-apple-caramel sauce and served with mashed potatoes, asparagus and apples. So help me, despite my lack of a sweet tooth, that sauce worked—and, combined with the spuds and apples, it was one elevated chop.

We couldn’t resist a taste of whiskey ice cream ($6.95, double serving), with apple caramel sauce, blueberries and thin slices of apple. Its delicate balance of flavors made a perfect cap to our evening.