Like a 1920s speakeasy, only those in the know are likely to find this new Croton-on-Hudson restaurant (or those familiar with the space’s previous incarnation, Grouchy Gabe’s). Without a sign or website, it may be difficult to find Hopscotch, the latest—and completely different—venture for restauranteur Marko Rudovic, who also owns Medi in Manhattan.
Though named after a children’s game, Hopscotch, featuring Chef Kenyon Hart’s creative, serious-minded American cuisine that utilizes classic French techniques, is not for junior eaters with vanilla palates. (It’s unlikely your child will want to sample candied fennel or red bean tempeh.)
When you enter the restaurant (and confirm with the staff that you’re in the right place), you’ll notice that it looks half-finished: like someone started setting up a country-chic restaurant, but decided, “This is good enough,” after all of the basic decorating details were finished. White wall paneling that complements the prairie-blue paint? Check. Heavy wood tables and (surprisingly comfortable) matching chairs? Check. If designers had followed through with that theme—using paintings, mirrors, or anything on the wall—it would have helped the space achieve the warm feeling you’d want while cozying up to a plate of creamy foie gras and fresh bread.
Chef Kenyon Hart at work in the open kitchen.
Instead, you’re left in an awkward, almost-there restaurant wondering if the money ran out before they could finish setting up shop. At least you can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
It may not be apparent (I had to be informed by my waiter), but the minimalistic interior was designed with purpose. Instead of being distracted by artwork on the walls, your eyes are forced to focus on the intricate detailing throughout the restaurant. Does it work? Perhaps for some people.
The minimalistic approach makes its way onto the ever-changing menu as well, but in a much more positive way—four options for each course means that a foursome could make its way through the whole menu. Your meal can, and should be, split into the three offered courses. It may seem excessive, but the first and second courses are only meant to be a few bites each.
Start with warm Burrata, served with candied fennel and warm onion marmalade. Decadently rich and savory foie gras is perfectly paired with slightly sweet pears and candied walnuts.
Often attempted for its bold appearance, but rarely done right, octopus is the choice for second course. The balance of both texture and flavor noted throughout the menu is most obvious here: The tender octopus is remarkably paired with slightly tough and braised sweet cabbage, making for an incredible bite together. Other good options are kabocha squash ravioli in a light sherry-maple sauce and foam; barley risotto with crunchy, sweet pomegranates; or seared scallops with crunchy greens.
Hopscotch’s understated décor
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Hopscotch offers no menu items for the timid. There is no requisite chicken or pasta as a main course. It varies from visit to visit, but you may find, for example, dry-aged duck breast with baked apples sitting alongside red bean tempeh with turnips and collard greens. Most dishes, particularly the beautifully braised short ribs with celery root purée, hit the spot. The exception was an overcooked and under-seasoned steak.
Dessert is limited: often a slice of goat cheese cheesecake with lemon simple syrup, candied lemon zest, and toasted almonds. But it can also be a scoop of chocolate mousse, with richness offset by lemon zest and tart grapefruit segments.
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Don’t be sad if you sample the whole menu after just one visit. Go back a few weeks later, and you’ll most likely be surprised with a few new favorites.
The wine list is a work in progress in the best kind of way. Since opening in September, the restaurant has been trying out wines from different regions, the best of which will be combined into a larger wine list. Armed with a bit of knowledge on our preference, the experienced servers were easily able to select for us the perfect Sauvignon Blanc (2012 Château Coulonge).
Preparing good food takes time, so expect to linger throughout the meal. You’re never pushed to the next course, and the wait between courses can be just a bit too long. But the staff exemplifies the gold standard in service: They send over a plate of charcuterie and cheese if you start getting antsy; they raise the heat when they notice you’re cold; and if it’s the end of the night, they might even slip you that slice of goat cheese cheesecake you contemplated but decided not to order.
It may not have a sign, but Hopscotch in Croton-on-Hudson is sure to be found by anyone who enjoys the art of good food.
Food 3/4 | Service 3/4 | Atmosphere 2/4 | Cost $$$
8 Old Post Rd S