A Classic Adventure
If you don’t know Bronxville, the directions to Sagamore Grille are confusing: “Go around the roundabout, under the train tracks, around another roundabout that circles over the other roundabout, and then…” It took us a few whirls on the roundabout, but we finally circled back to the historic white stucco building in downtown Bronxville that now houses Sagamore Grille.
It’s worth the trip. The relatively new restaurant features the work of executive chef Michael DeMilta, whose resume includes work in the kitchens of La CrÃ©maillÃ¨re, Hudson River Club and Park Avenue Cafe. The menu he has created features some interesting interpretations of
American classics, such as sirloin steak with portobello-red pepper hash, baked macaroni and cheese ($24) and a “Sagamore burger” with roasted portobello mushroom, homemade ketchup, bread and butter, pickles and fries ($12). But he also gets more adventuresome with such offerings as grilled yellowfin tuna with a ragout of pan-charred asparagus and shiitake mushrooms and organic quinoa ($22).
Late afternoon sun floods in large arched windows, which open to the street, giving you a sense of outdoor dining—even when you’re inside. The restaurant interior is a blend of modernism and arts and crafts: modernism from the split level construction, brightly colored banquettes and abstract copper installation on the far wall; arts and crafts from the ochre walls, rust trim, and chandeliers in the style of Dirk Van Erp, whose elegant lamps of copper and mica from the early 20th century have been so widely copied. Despite the casual menu items, it is a “white tablecloth” restaurant with elegantly set tables. It all comes together in a very comfortable atmosphere, although a large mural depicting the history of Bronxville veers a little too close to kitsch.
The wine list has a nice selection, with about 30 choices each of red and white and a good range of wines by the glass. We felt like having sparkling wine and were impressed by the bottle price of Piper-Sonoma ($32 or $34) compared with the per-glass price ($9). We couldn’t resist those economies of scale and went for the bottle of high-quality California sparkling wine, nicely served in flutes that showed the wine to its best advantage.
For a very successful starter, three scallops rested on tiny blinis flecked with chives, served with a beurre blanc sauce flavored by salmon roe ($11). What made this so good was the quality and freshness of the scallops, which were perfectly sautÃ©ed a golden brown, keeping their tenderness. Another less traditional starter caught our eye—a “parfait” of roasted beets and goat cheese ($8), a cold dish constructed in layers. Although pretty, it was unnaturally sweet for a starter. A better choice might be a Caesar salad with garlic brioche, croutons, aged Parmesan and imported anchovies ($10).
For a main course, rack of lamb ($21) was neatly fanned over a satisfying serving of spoonbread, a Southern specialty that resembles polenta. While the menu said the lamb would be barbecued, it meant the smoking process, not the highly spiced sauce that is usually slathered on it. That was a good decision: the lamb alone was so good that it would have been a shame to bury its flavor.
I then floated into uncertain waters. There is a nascent movement among ecologically concerned restaurateurs to serve wild Alaskan salmon instead of the usual farmed Atlantic salmon, which pollute the coastal waters in which they are raised. So I was drawn to the Bay of Fundy salmon ($19)—a thick steak served with the crispy skin side up, draped over roasted summer vegetables. It was an excellent piece of salmon, without the flabbiness of so much farmed salmon, and nicely enhanced by Calamata olive aioli and a drizzle of basil-scented olive oil. But I should have studied geography a little harder back in high school. The Bay of Fundy is to our north, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and its wild salmon is among the most highly endangered. I’m just hoping the waitress was wrong when she told us this fish was wild, and I didn’t really reduce their numbers from 500 to 499. Those who wish to stand on firmer ecological ground might try the free-range chicken with delicious buttermilk-whipped potato purÃ©e and sautÃ©ed spinach ($17). Sides of French fries ($5) and those buttermilk whipped potatoes ($5) also look like appealing ways to fill out a meal.
It’s hard to best chocolate cake when it’s good, and Sagamore Grille serves one that is first-rate—straight from the oven with fine-quality chocolate melting at its center and a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($9). By comparison, the crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e ($6) seemed all right but not quite worth the calories. Another choice to consider is a trio of sorbet with fresh fruit ($7).
Apparently the last restaurant in this location (Gramatan Place Bistro) didn’t stay long. The staff here could be a little more polished, but I think Sagamore Grill has created the combination of good food and atmosphere that will keep people coming back—once they’ve found it the first time.
7-27 Pondfield Rd., Bronxville
Tue. to Thurs. 5:30-10:30 pm,
Fri. and Sat. 5:30-11:30 pm,
Sun. 5:30-9 pm