Photos by Alice Cartelli
After a two-year closure, the French restaurant is back and better than ever, with a well-pedigreed chef and an elegant menu to match.
For nearly six decades, the name La Crémaillère was on the short list for Westchester’s foodies and in the Rolodexes of old-school connoisseurs of classic French fare throughout the Tristate area and beyond. Legal issues and COVID forced a two-year closure, but earlier this year, the business reopened its historic doors with a new chef, the same intimate, European decor, and a fresh approach to the hallmarks of quintessential French cooking and dining.
Leading the charge as executive chef is the young, passionate Thomas Burke, who didn’t attend culinary school but rather learned his trade trial-by-fire-style, starting with a pact he made with himself as a teen. “I committed to working for the best chefs in the country,” he says.
Youthful determination coupled with natural talent put him on the fast track to an executive sous chef position — at the tender age of 18 — at Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish. He then did time in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Le Bernardin and Napa’s The French Laundry, and most recently was executive chef at Willow in Rhinebeck, part of the Charlie Palmer Collective.
At La Crémaillère, Burke serves “cuisine you expect at a classic French restaurant but with seasonally driven ingredients and applied classical French techniques presented in a modern way.” This translates to first-course staples of steak tartare, leeks vinaigrette, foie gras, escargot, and sweetbreads in surprising culinary harmony with black-truffle risotto (truffles shaved tableside) and a water-cress salad with slivers of fruit timed to the season.
Standard mains of duck breast à l’orange and steak au poivre (via a Niman Ranch strip, dry-aged for 32 days and served in that special, often-elusive place between medium-rare and medium) complement contemporary American dishes prepared with French flair: luscious pork belly, pappardelle with a lamb ragu, and Burke’s personal fave, poached Maine lobster. A mood-lifting amuse bouche strikes a uniform opening note, much like the gin- and bourbon-centric craft-cocktail list that paves the way for a fruity French Pinot Noir.
“COVID brought a lot of young people and families from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and San Francisco to the area who didn’t know La Crémaillère,” says Burke, “so we’re trying to show them what the new Crémaillère is.”
While the inner sanctum of the charming 1750 farmhouse remains virtually unchanged — gleaming dark wood, shining flagstone flooring, a cozily low, wood-beamed ceiling, roaring fireplace, and walls adorned with sketches of peasants in provincial attire — the dress code is no more. “Jackets are no longer required,” says general manager Bruce Levinson. “We’ve got guys coming in in jeans now. But they’re $300 jeans.” Napkin on the lap, for sure, for a meal-ending Meyer lemon parfait with rosemary-infused blueberry coulis or the transcendent, timeless chocolate soufflé.
46 Bedford-Banksville Rd, Bedford