The Year’s 10 Best Restaurants
(and Westchester’s own Celebrity Chefs)
Photography by Cathy Pinsky
If you’ve been reading these pages for the last year, you know that Westchester Magazine has been on hand to review all of our area’s most newsworthy restaurants. Sadly, this being the real world, that means we’ve been covering the good, the bad, and the ugly.
But which among all those restaurants are the best? To save you hours of paging through back issues (and possibly a bad meal or two), we’ve assembled Westchester Magazine’s list of the Ten Best Reviewed Restaurants of ’07. Our list includes some great old standards as well as some spanking new hot spots—and all are vetted, feted, and guaranteed to be the best.
So go ahead, dig out your cellphones and get these numbers into your speed-dial. You can be sure that we’ve already done the same.
1 Bridge St, Irvington; (914) 591-2233; restaurantoneny.com
True beauty is rarely flawless; likewise even the best restaurants.
At One, the waits for food can be long—but you’ll forgive all when your meal finally arrives. Clean flavors and stylish presentation are the keys to Chef Dan Magill’s food, qualities exemplified by his humble-sounding “scrambled organic brown eggs in their shell.” Here, perfectly silken eggs come topped with rich chunks of lobster meat, vodka whipped cream, and luxurious dollops of Osetra caviar. Other appetizer highlights include tender sweetbreads with tiny black-truffle gnocchi and yellowtail tartare with soy-ginger emulsion. Mains are equally diverse, and range from a succulent roasted lobster with ingeniously made, hand-cut potato “risotto” to One’s perfectly cooked, Cedar River Farms strip steak with buttery Yukon Gold potato cake and sweet melted leeks.
Expect a singularly excellent dining
experience at Irvington’s One, from the seared scallops with Meyer lemon and garlic nage (above) to the oozing “medium rare” chocolate cake with a red-wine pepper sauce (below).
Make sure to leave room for One’s light and crisp apple-ginger beignets served with warm apple cider, or its lemon curd tart with toasted meringue—though chocolate fiends will swoon for One’s gooey, “medium rare” chocolate cake spiked with red wine-pepper sauce.
2 Weaver St, Scarsdale
(914) 722-4508; backals.com
Backals is a sophisticated retooling of Heathcote Tavern, a long-time Scarsdale institution.
Last year, Scarsdale’s Heathcote Tavern was retooled by a pair of major players in the New York City restaurant scene. Tony Fortuna, who owns the acclaimed Lenox Room and who also helped open both Gray Kunz’s Lespinasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Lafayette, teamed
up with Arthur Backal (whose eponymous event management company oversaw the opening of the Mandarin Hotel and operates the catering division of Cipriani’s) for their first suburban venture. Understandably, expectations were high for Backals—and it fortunately manages to justify its hype.
Its success starts with the restaurant’s sophisticated renovation, which matches chic, modern design elements with the building’s august past. (The structure was reputedly a 19th-century stagecoach stop.) Look for steel-ball curtains and mosaic-tiled floors, though traditionalists will be pleased that the space’s third story still holds the beautifully muralled “Monkey Room.” The décor’s eclecticism is carried through to the menu, on which starters like a foie gras chicken liver parfait appears alongside crispy shrimp spring rolls, pizza margherita, and
Might we suggest the buffalo rib-eye steak followed by the applesauce doughnuts?
Whatever you do, don’t miss earthy rigatoni with duck Bolognese sauce, whose meaty base was enlivened by subtle cinnamon notes, or an outstanding veal T-bone steak, whose charred, well-seasoned exterior yielded to an almost impossibly pink and juicy interior. As good as the mains are, we’ll never skip Backals’s signature dessert of puffy sugar doughnuts, a heap of greaseless, ethereally airy fried treats served with a duo of dipping sauces—dark and milk chocolate ganache. Also worth splurging on—thickly sliced, warm, and tender apples served in a slightly bitter, dark caramel tart.
(203) 622-8450; restaurantjeanlouis.com
Do indulge in Restaurant Jean-Louis’s dessert degustation for two.
No restaurant in our region out-pedigrees Restaurant Jean-Louis. Its chef, Jean-Louis Gerin, won the 2006 James Beard Award for the Best Chef in the Northeast—which came as no real surprise for the restaurant’s loyal fans. They’ve been coming to this quietly elegant Greenwich spot for 23 years.
At Restaurant Jean-Louis, look for stellar takes on classic game dishes, like Gerin’s plump and tender Vermont quail with decadent foie gras coulis and woodsy chanterelles, or Scottish wood pigeon in a classic salmis (a rich wine-based ragoût). Here, the slightly gamey bird was perfectly-paired with a deep and carnal sauce, highlighted by cooked-‘til-about-to-burst cranberries. Venison, another forest treat, arrived tender, blood-rare, and enrobed in a wine-and-cognac sauce mounted with (you guessed it) foie gras. Yet for all of his terrestrial triumphs, Gerin is equally adept in other styles and with other ingredients. We also loved his seared cod over crisp, bright asparagus in a clean-tasting poultry jus (this dish is no longer on the menu—drat!).
Couples (or friends) should always opt for Gerin’s dessert degustation for two. On our last visit, the assortment contained a rich chocolate pot de crème; shatteringly crisp hazelnut crunch; a micron-thin apple tart; a warm, fudgy brownie topped with chocolate ice cream; and, finally, three scoops of intense sorbets—passion fruit, cassis, and sweet, homey banana.
1392 E Putnam Ave, Old Greenwich, CT (203) 698-9033; palominorestaurants.com
Rafael Palomino’s restaurant empire keeps expanding, and the region is richer for it.
Restaurateur, chef, caterer, and cookbook author Rafael Palomino is proving that he’s no one-trick pony. Having once spearheaded Nuevo Latino cuisine at his restaurants Sonora and Pacifico, he’s decided to honor the American side of his identity as well. Palomino is his newest venture, where you can expect an irreverent, ingredient-driven romp through regional American cooking.
Look for the Colombian chef’s easy evocation of Southern decadence in his succulent and spicy malt-brined Berkshire pork with “firecracker” applesauce, garlicky chard, and pickles. We also love his home-on-the-range take on the American West. In it, a mesquite-grilled Montana buffalo rib-eye arrives comfortingly paired with a homey potato, onion, and cheese gratin. You can be sure that dusty old Tom Mix never ate like this. Meanwhile, those still pining for Chef Palomino’s Latino flair can opt for the tuna steak with mild chimichurri sauce, in which perfectly cooked tuna is the star and quinoa with arugula, roasted peppers, and asparagus its perfect support.
Might we suggest the buffalo rib-eye steak (above) followed by the applesauce doghnuts (below).
Taking a cue from the success of his incredible churros at Sonora, Chef Palomino is offering his take on American doughnuts. Here, the airy, apple-scented treats come cinnamon sugar-dusted and served with Calvados crème anglais. Also worth waiting for: Palomino’s pomegranate bread pudding with bourbon pecan ice cream.
Eastchester Fish Gourmet
(914) 725-3450; eastchesterfish.com
Eastchester Fish Gourmet elevates this common English pub staple to new culinary heights: fresh, seasoned cod in its crispy skin of deep fried batter paired with wonderfully thick chips.
Like all long-time restaurant-world successes, there’s a reason that Eastchester Fish Gourmet is still around. It’s
simply good at what it does. Eastchester Fish Gourmet has been thriving since 1987—an eon in the brutal restaurant business, in which, on average, only 20 percent of all start-up restaurants remain open after five years.
Yet fans of Eastchester Fish will always return for perfectly prepared standards like fish and chips, in which the cod’s light and greaseless crust yields to a creamy, flakey, perfectly cooked interior, and fried potato wedges make the perfect dipper for tangy tartar sauce. We love Eastchester Fish’s homemade tagliatelli with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams; it’s like the Italian seaside in a bowl. And, not surprising for a restaurant that also operates a fish market four doors down, there are plenty of seasonal specials to look out for. If you catch it, don’t skip the immaculately fresh barramundi with capers, tomato, and extra-virgin olive oil. This clean-tasting, simple treatment lets Eastchester Fish’s super-fresh seafood take center stage.
Shockingly (for a fish restaurant), the desserts at Eastchester Fish Gourmet are worth staying for. We’ll always linger for its chocolate lava cake, which perfectly balances sweet and bitter chocolates, and its equally addictive warm chocolate soufflé.
X20 Xaviars on the Hudson
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 965-1111; xaviars.com
The food at X20 is as glorious as the Hudson River views, visible throughout the restaurant.
Chef Peter Kelly’s newest venture is his most ambitious yet (see page 85 for a mini profile). Situated in the once-derelict Yonkers Recreational Pier, the now-gleaming, multi-million-dollar X20 juts out over the Hudson like a brand-spanking-new ocean liner. Here, surrounded by breathtaking views of Manhattan, the Palisades and (in the distance) the Tappan Zee Bridge, one of our area’s favorite, most accomplished chefs has a setting well-matched to his own spectacular talents.
Right, its winning duck schnitzel entrée.
Fans of Kelly’s know to look for his innovative takes on the classics—like soulful, long-cooked short ribs folded into plump ravioli and laced with foie gras; or magret pounded and breaded into a Hudson Valley take on Wiener schnitzel. Seafood is a particular specialty at X20, both on the main menu and on the attached Dylan Lounge’s sushi menu. Some of our favorites include Kelly’s bonito sashimi with a palate-clearing side of daikon pickle and seaweed, and spaghetti alla chitarra, studded with large, succulent chunks of crabmeat and melted scallions. Brunch at X20 is the newest must-go option.
With a prix fixe of only $38, this three-course weekend indulgence also includes savory passed treats culled from X20’s regular menu, plus complimentary Champagne.
Nor will sweets hounds be disappointed at X20. We found ourselves savoring a Bushmill’s-scented butterscotch pudding and a sprightly, tart-and-sweet lemon napoleon whose torched meringue rosettes left us hopelessly scraping our plates.
Steak House & Wine Bar
4 W Cross St, Croton Falls
(914) 276-0437; crotoncreek.com
Croton Creek makes the most of its peculiar setting. It’s located in an 1875 building that formerly housed a beat-up old bar—and, reputedly, a strip club—yet its owners have retained much of the space’s original charm and many of its architectural details. Look for rustic bared brick, carved corbels, and bas-relief medallions scavenged from the building’s once-ornate mahogony bar. It’s a thoughtful re-casting of charming old space: stylish, yet relaxed enough
for blue jeans.
No run-of-the-mill steakhouse, Croton Creek is serving many more interesting options on its diverse, well-balanced menu. Some of our favorites include a heady lobster chowder, whose café au lait richness is almost gumbo-like in its density, thickened as it is with a nutty, well-browned roux. We’re also big fans of the lovely tomato-and-gorgonzola salad, in which the watery acid of the ripe tomatoes makes a perfect foil for the salty, strong, palate-coating cheese. Steakhouse standards like deep-fried calamari are good as well: crisp and slightly gritty with flour (and containing the barest hint of heat), the supporting coating lets the tender, mildly flavored rings speak for themselves.
It takes two hands (at least!) to handle this whopper of a Kobe beef burger, topped with frizzled onions and paired with crisp fries and a salad.
Standout mains include a bison rib-eye, which arrives perfectly cooked, tender, and redolent of deep, carnal flavor; while Croton Creek’s huge, very drippy
As huge as Croton Creek’s servings are, it’s wise to save room for dessert. Its firm, vanilla-scented bread pudding is warm and delightful, like a slice of gooey, aromatic cake; and we also love Croton Creek’s crème brûlée, which arrives extravagantly studded with vanilla seeds and capped by a thick, pleasantly bittersweet shell.
1127 W Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck
(914) 835-8350; zitounerestaurant.com
A little taste of
Chef/Owner Alain Bennouna has taken his successful Meatpacking District formula north to Mamaroneck and created a sophisticated hot spot that offers clubby Moroccan décor, weekend belly dancing, and incredible, hauntingly spiced food.
While everything at Zitoune is delicious, we especially loved its starters of soulful b’steeya, whose papery phyllo layers yield to succulent, cinnamony, roasted-duck interiors. We’re also fans of the tartly lemony fresh sardines, which arrive crisp and spitting on their own tiny skillets. Mains are equally compelling, and include a tagine whose fork-tender lamb arrives in its own heavenly jus with slivered artichoke bottoms, briny preserved lemons, and crisp string beans. Meanwhile, lemony Cornish hens are served well cooked and briny, enlivened by the powerful tartness of green olives and salty preserved lemon confit.
A favorite dish at colorful Zitoune is the lamb tagine.
Lunch at Zitoune is where Morocco’s French tradition is most felt, with hearty baguette sandwiches and robust salads like Niçoise and fromage de chèvre. Our favorite baguette stuffers include Zitoune’s deliciously oily, lemony roasted eggplant, and smoky, harissa-hot grilled merguez sausages. As added incentive, Zitoune also offers an $11 lunch prix fixe: your choice of soup or salad, sandwich, and coffee or tea.
Monteverde at Oldstone Manor
28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd
, Cortlandt Manor (914) 739-5000; monteverderestaurant.com
Old World elegance, now with a menu worthy of the endless Hudson River views.
Chef Neil Ferguson has certainly landed on his feet (see page 83 for a mini profile). Once a refugee from hothead Chef Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous restaurant at Manhattan’s London Hotel, he managed to survive his summary firing by taking over Monteverde’s kitchen in Cortlandt Manor in May and opening Manhattan’s Allen and Delancey in October. (Both Allen and Delancey and Monteverde are owned by Richard Friedberg). Happily for Ferguson, both of his restaurants have opened to raves, which is in stark contrast to Gordon Ramsay’s sole Manhattan venture. How’s that for the ultimate revenge?
With Ferguson in charge, Monteverde now has a menu worthy of its stunning Hudson Valley views. Monteverde’s setting is thoroughly reflected on its menu, and diners can expect peak local ingredients showcased by refined, thoughtful preparations. Some of our favorites from the new menu include thin slices of Hudson Valley foie gras served