Culinary Wizards in Pleasantville
Where the food is often, though not always, magical
It’s called frodo’s, and the motto here, posted all over, is “Taste the Magic.” But on recent visits the wizardry came and went as swiftly as new Harry Potter shelf stock.
Culinarily, theme restaurants are invariably suspect. They trade in commerce, not cuisine. Happily, Frodo’s is an exception. Instead of pulsating megascreens are murals of the Teton mountain range, and the only trinkets on display are gold rings pressed into utilitarian service as napkin holders. (I checked carefully for inscriptions, but there weren’t any.)
But the allusions ended there. At Frodo’s, the food is the show. And Gramercy Tavern/March alum Daniel Petrilli’s menu seemed promising, though my fad-detector was activated at the mention of espresso in two seafood dishes, and root beer in a third. At least they lacked the suffix “foam.”
There was no avant-garde pretension in the goat-cheese wonton perched atop a beet salad swabbed with a truffle-tinged beet vinaigrette, nor in the delectable grilled-shrimp spring roll offset by a wasabi-jolted slaw. Just piquant flavor, enough to overlook the acidic balsamic and garlic flavored rosette of butter served with our dinner rolls. A scallion-flecked version was a vast improvement on a lunch-hour visit, where a gorgonzola-spiked fennel and apple salad and a platter of crisp, mildly spiced wings kept us happy. A good thing, since the service often kept us waiting.
Wraps are a Frodo’s lunch-menu feature, and ours adequately teamed grilled portobellas, roasted peppers, and zucchini with goat cheese. Arugula and a vibrant vegetable slaw enlivened the Shire salad, though only a Hobbit could have detected the promised pomegranate in its vinaigrette.
Even with a dose of salt, there was no detecting flavor in a dinner special of shrimp and lobster bisque. A heap of steamed mussels fared much better, its broth mercifully tasting of anise and lemon, not the menu-stated espresso.
In fact, that whole espresso alert was a false alarm. The expected espresso beurre blanc in an entrÃ©e of perfectly pan-seared sea scallops lacked even a hint of the bean. But the accompanying black forbidden rice pulsed with nutty, toasty flavor (“forbidden” because in ancient China, only royals could partake). Chef Petrilli does well with starches, his lentil and scallion ravioli artfully partnered with a lush coulis of curry-laced red pepper. A rack of mild lamb sauced with inky, anise-scented demi-glace was another artful pairing, though an overcooked couscous patty was a pesky third wheel.
Now about that root beer. Its coupling with soy sauce in a sesame-crusted tuna special was kinky enough for me to stifle a seared-tuna yawn and fling off inhibition. Okay, so the fish was bland, the crust a bit burned, but that sauceâ€¦not bad. More coy seductress than burlesque queen, it gave a tempering sweetness to the accompanying bok choy’s astringency and the sesame’s toast.
Seduction is usually reserved for dessert, but that root beer would have to do. Thankfully the cappuccino was excellent, because the roasted banana with toasted walnuts wasn’t roasted or toasted, the fine apple crisp was sabotaged by a Reddi Whip clone, and the pound cake was so dry, its tofutti ice cream so gluey, that even the power of the ring couldn’t save it.
472 Besdford Rd., Pleasantville
Lunch, Tue. to Fri. 11:30 am-3 pm
Dinner, Tue. to Thurs. 5-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5-11 pm, Sun. 4-9 pm