Here’s a foodie dilemma. Where would you rather eat: at a hip restaurant with an on-trend menu (that maybe can’t deliver on its promise), or at a modest eatery whose middle-market standards are executed with stunning finesse?
In Thyme Restaurant’s cozy, wood-and-mirror dining room, you’ll find no offal, deep-fried eggs, or marrowbones. Instead, Thyme’s short menu reads like the lineup from a national, mid-market chain. Salads (Caesar, chopped, and field greens) are offered with the option of additional protein. Thyme’s menu suggests that you “add shrimp, $5; add steak, $5; add chicken, $4”—words to make a foodie shudder. Yet frumpy old shrimp cocktail—at Thyme, the sauce is perfectly poised between sugary ketchup and horseradish snap—is elevated with a tiny concassé of tomatoes, while its fat shrimp are tender and taut. In a dull green salad, winter grape tomatoes are warmed in herbed oil until they whisper of summer. And tuna tartare, as hackneyed as molten chocolate cake (which, P.S., shows up at dessert), comes in a sexy pileup of die-sized cubes seasoned by a sticky swipe of soy mirin. In fact, almost every standard we sampled was executed with finesse; while we might question the goals of this menu, its success is undeniable.
A starter of braised short ribs was like Sunday dinner in a bowl, with a single, lip-smacking slab of beef over dairy-rich polenta and onion gravy. Three bouncy, pan-seared sea scallops (with bacon compote and sweet onions) arrived prettily ringed in brown, yet inside, the pearly flesh still quivered. Thin pizzas with pale, cracker-crisp crusts have Frenchified twisted edges and thoughtful toppings. Our favorite—onion, bacon, and sour cream—had the irresistible appeal of chips and dip.
There were a few off notes in our meals. A dry white slab—touted as Sansotta Brothers’ fresh mozzarella—added nothing to our salad, while a pizza advertised to contain pesto, Manchego, and wild mushrooms was studded with plain button mushrooms. Service can be unpolished, though our waiters were always eager and warm. A dip into Thyme’s short, well-priced wine list and thoughtful cocktails (like the gherkin-tini) might smooth any bumps.
Suave mains like skirt steak with French fries demonstrate why this dish is a classic, but, at Thyme, the dish is elevated by a garlicky, brightly herbal chimichurri. Fat slabs of pork chops were juicy and delicious, but its mash of sweet potato and parsnips made this warming winter dish heavenly. Salty, peppery duck breast was our personal favorite; we scraped at our plate to get the last lick of soulful jus and mashed potatoes.
Dessert is Thyme’s weakest course and was marred by a raw-dough apple crisp. On another visit, our quenelle of ice cream sported a large ice chunk. However, our real complaint is that its dessert menu reads like a roundup of the Usual Suspects: crème brûlée, molten lava cake, apple crisp, cheesecake, and brownies. Most were fine (and some were exceptional)—we especially liked the crème brûlée and salted crumble of brownie underneath our soft vanilla ice cream. Thyme’s thoughtful list of Scotch whiskies marks dessert’s ideal end.
As reviewers, our task is to evaluate whether a restaurant achieves its goals, not to decide whether we think it’s trendy, or adds anything new to a genre. At Thyme, though its menu may be less than thrilling, almost everything we ate was delicious and perfectly executed. And finally, we left Thyme knowing why these dishes are classics.
Thyme Restaurant â˜…â˜…â˜… 1/2
3605 Crompond Rd, Yorktown Heights
Hours: lunch, Tues to Sun 11:30 am-3 pm; dinner, Tues to Sun 5-10 pm; brunch, Sun 11:30 am-2 pm
Appetizers: $7-$14; entrées: $12-$28; desserts: $7
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good
Captions: (Top): A cozy, wood-and-mirror dining room greets patrons at Thyme Restaurant in Yorktown Heights. (Above): A unique take on tuna tartare.