In a part of Westchester that has more stables than shops and more farmland than fashionistas sits One Twenty One. A little bit country-chic and a little bit modern, One Twenty One focuses on seasonal food primarily from local vendors.
As with any restaurant true to its locally sourced mantra, the menu varies based on seasonality, or even the particular day. Our server explained that Executive Chef Beck Bolender—a Culinary Institute of America alum who started his career at One Twenty One at the age of 14 and subsequently worked as sous chef at Jean-Georges in New York City before returning—checks out local markets daily, determining new specials based on what’s fresh and available. In fact, farm-fresh ingredients are key in all of Bolender’s dishes (Cabbage Hill Farm in Mount Kisco and Snow Hill Farm in North Salem are but two of a host of regional suppliers), whether it’s the heirloom carrots with a carrot-top pesto or the shrimp ceviche with avocado.
While not strictly a small-plates restaurant, One Twenty One does offer a selection of small plates and it’s fun to share a few dishes before moving onto main courses. Because of the ever-changing menu, it’s probably a good idea not to fall in love with just one dish. Instead, enjoy the variety.
In the summer, the homemade ricotta with strawberries on country bread was almost light and sweet enough to be a dessert. Mix and match cuisines as you go; shrimp ceviche plays well with tuna tartare and both seem at home next to the sweet chili shrimp with cheddar grits. Even the heavier, heartier small plates don’t weigh you down for the main course.
The entrées are as varied as the small plates. A summertime staple, the overstuffed lobster roll probably won’t stay on the menu year-round, but it’s the best one I’ve had outside of New England, and has me looking forward to next summer already.
The grilled pork chop was juicy and flavorful, with perfect char marks. With such attention to detail, we were surprised to find that each bite of the accompanying market greens was gritty.
On the other hand, fresh tagliatelle spotted with littleneck clams in the shell was a hit at the table, and other entrées like slow-baked salmon and roasted striped bass were also on point.
If there’s ever a time to order donuts and coffee, it’s when you’re at One Twenty One. A bite of a cinnamon-sugar donut hole plunged in thick, rich, chocolaty coffee dip is pure dessert bliss. If you’re in the mood for something cold, skip the too-sweet, almost syrupy, sorbet and get the homemade ice cream; the ginger flavor (one of about 15 rotating flavors) is refreshingly light.
Make a reservation before you go, though even with a reservation, we waited for 30 minutes because some diners got especially comfortable at their tables. While you wait, you can check out the cocktail menu. In our case, the manager made up for the long wait time with a round of cocktails on the house, which we greatly appreciated.
Try the Thai Boxer, a potent rum cocktail with cilantro, mint, Thai basil, coconut, and ginger, and you’ll wish you were on a beach in the Caribbean. More of a beer or wine drinker? No problem, there’s a significant wines-by-the-glass list and decent craft beer menu as well.
The décor at One Twenty One is contemporary meets farm, with a wood-and-farm animal motif, which suits the neighborhood. It’s comfortable enough for you to unwind, but elegant enough to appreciate the quality of food that comes out of the kitchen.
One Twenty One has something for everyone and doesn’t try to be one type of restaurant—usually a red flag, but they pull it off. It has a beautiful wood-fired pizza oven (try the bianca pie), but isn’t a pizzeria. The restaurant offers small plates, but it isn’t a tapas restaurant. It’s simply One Twenty One, serving up delicious and thoughtful, locally sourced food.
Aside from a few very fixable hiccups, like gritty kale salad and the long wait time, One Twenty One has me excited for a return trip in the colder months to see what Bolender does with parsnips, pumpkins, and citrus.
For most county residents, it’s a hike to North Salem (those dark, winding roads can be tricky at night), but One Twenty One makes the drive worth it.
One Twenty One
2 Dingle Ridge Rd, North Salem
(914) 669-0121; www.121restaurant.com