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Preview: Antler & Fin's Menu Takes a Walk on the Wild Side 

click to enlarge Chef Ian Merryman and owner Patrick Harris transformed the old Belvidere on Broad space to Antler & Fin, which specializes in exotic and familiar eats.

Scott Elmquist

Chef Ian Merryman and owner Patrick Harris transformed the old Belvidere on Broad space to Antler & Fin, which specializes in exotic and familiar eats.

There are no tacos on this menu. Owner Patrick Harris wants you to know that about Antler & Fin, his new restaurant in the former Belvidere on Broad space.

He may own a fleet of taco trucks and two other places that serve them, but this spot is different. Instead you’ll find things such as wild boar, venison and elk, plus oysters, prawns and smoked mackerel that put the seafood in the fin of Antler & Fin.

“I was looking at a bunch of different spaces,” Harris says, “and each [one] sung to me about a different thing it could bring to the table.” He says that downtown and its food culture drove the new restaurant’s concept.

Chef Ian Merryman, a former Graffiato sous-chef, and Mike Crowley, who opened Belle & James, and Harris have come up with a menu that not only surprises diners with unusual ingredients but also integrates them into more familiar dishes. At lunch, you can order a venison cheese steak or perhaps a “boarchetta” sandwich — a riff on porchetta, the classic Italian pork roast.

“The idea of doing a restaurant that’s got a foundation in creative food, that’s got that complication and sophistication — it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Harris says.

He and Crowley have French culinary backgrounds, but Merryman, whose pop-up, the Jackdaw, offered inventive Chinese-American food, brings Asian flavors to the creative mix.

“We’ll have the same ingredients on the plate when we tell each other how we’re going to make [a dish],” he says, “and we’ll turn out two totally different things. But that’s what so cool about it.”

The space has been lightened since its Belvidere days, and with a living wall, sea green metal barstools, plenty of antlers and a mounted deer named Steve, its casual atmosphere belies the beautifully presented dishes that despite — or perhaps because of — their complication, pack a powerful flavor bomb. The prices aren’t overwhelming either: Entrees are in the mid-$20 range and lunch averages around $12. Farms such as Border Springs and White Stone Oyster Co. provide ingredients, as does Red Barn Berkshires, supplier to Edwards Virginia Smokehouse.

Since it opened at the end of May, Antler & Fin has expanded its hours and recently gained a parking lot around the corner on Henry Street. Harris added brunch as well.

“We’ve taken what is familiar to people and what is going to be different at the same time,” Harris says. “We want people to feel [good] about stepping out of their comfort zone.”

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