There’s no specific recipe for following in the footsteps of a beloved restaurant, but there are plenty of recent examples of new eateries shining in cherished local spaces. Slated to open in Harvard Square in early November, Parsnip hopes to join those ranks when it replaces quirky treasure UpStairs on the Square.
Gone is most evidence of UpStairs’ hot pink and zebra stripes, replaced by a warm space with clean lines. The downstairs 80-seat dining room has a V-shaped marble bar on one side and a marble fireplace on the other. Upstairs, the 50-seat lounge has a darker feel, with an intricate wood-paneled ceiling, fireplaces on both sides of the room and a similar V-shaped bar.
“It’s kind of a juxtaposition between the two floors, with a play on light and dark,” says general manager Ian Rose. “The overall feeling of what we’re trying to accomplish here is not something new, but rather something classic and timeless.”
Diners can expect that feel to be mirrored by cuisine from executive chef Peter Quinion, an Englishman who’s new to the area. The menu will reflect his European training and change daily, even if the difference is minimal, such as swapping in a vegetable in a protein-centric dish.
“There’s not a lot of ingredients to a plate. If you’ve got a superior ingredient, it would be a shame to add that one or two extra items to the plate that overshadow the inherent flavor of something,” Rose says. “So if you’re going to get ginger and lemongrass in a plate, it’s going to be just that. It’s not sort of a patchwork of other flavors.”
The dining room menu will be split into traditional appetizer/entree sections with an option for a five-course tasting. The food in the upstairs lounge will be more casual, but there will be some carryover from downstairs: While the dining room menu might offer a filet steak with turnips, beets and bone-marrow fritters, those bone-marrow fritters will be served as a snack upstairs alongside a garlicky pesto sauce. Cocktails from bar manager Steven Lemley, an award-winning bartender from New Orleans, will accompany the lounge’s small plates, and a dozen beers as well as 60 to 70 largely Old World wines will be available.
While Rose has observed the constant rush outside on JFK Street and been part of a rush inside to get Parsnip opened, he’s looking forward to helping people push pause when they enter the restaurant.
“I’m trying to slow things down a bit. Even the time I would allocate to a reservation might be a little bit more than I’ve done for bistros in the past,” says Rose, formerly of Ten Tables. “I’ve always thought of the restaurant industry as being a bit of an oasis to a world that’s grown less personal and is moving faster.”
Parsnip 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge (617-714-3206) parsniprestaurant.com