New locale for An American Bistro
There’s reason the wait can be long at this Tuckahoe bistro
Whenever a restaurant won’t accept reservations, you have a hit—and likely a wait—on your hands. An American Bistro, settling in a new location in Tuckahoe (across from the Crestwood train station), won’t take reservations after 6:30 p.m. for fewer than five—even on a Monday.
Arriving at 7:15 p.m., we parked ourselves in the bar and waited 45 minutes, though a couple of regulars eating at the bar told us this wasn’t typical for a Monday. (It was holiday season, and a group had taken over one room). “The food is so good, people don’t mind waiting,” the regulars consoled.
Strong color dominates the decor: the three dining rooms are painted red, royal blue, or orange. With no artwork, just nicely shaped sconces, it’s a powerful statement. It works well in the main dining room, a rich, rosy red but sliding French doors lead to the blue dining room, where people have an unhealthy pallor. When we were seated in there, I kept thinking the crowd in the red room were the lucky ones. The orange room is all right, but it has the feel of restaurant “Siberia,” where couples with babies and first-timers go.
Wine choices are good, with by-the-glass wines covering the basics: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir ($6-$9 per glass).
The food is as distinctive as the decor: Chef Robert Horton likes strong flavors. Spring rolls of house-smoked salmon, leeks and shitake mushrooms were crispy and delicious served with a horseradish crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and red pepper oil. The ravioli of the day was also excellent: chopped portobello and three cheeses were stuffed in home-made pasta squares nearly the size of cocktail napkins, four or five of them, in a rich white wine marscapone sauce with prosciutto and toasted pine nuts. I couldn’t believe this was an appetizer—you could easily have it as a main course (I suspect the generous portions might be another secret of success). Another interesting possibility was duck confit, caramelized onion and Monterey Jack cheese quesadillas with grilled vegetable guacamole. The mushroom bisque had a pleasantly mild flavor—plenty of mushrooms and not too much cream.
One powerfully flavored entrÃ©e is the “French cut” chicken breast (breast with wingbone intact), roasted until its skin is golden, then served with fennel chicken sausage, potatoes and a healthy scattering of garlic cloves over black beans in tomato and red wine sauce. Hot cherry peppers (round and green, despite their name) are optional, and make the hearty dish quite spicy. The grilled New York sirloin was a nicely cooked but slightly chewy piece of beef, slathered with a delicious parsley Gorgonzola butter. The pile of fresh-cut shoestring potatoes was golden, crisp and high. The lamb shank was overcooked, however, and the goat cheese gnocchi in an aromatic red wine sauce made with cinnamon and dried fruits was daring, but unsuccessful.
After all our food, the fruit plate sounded good. It was splendid: a poached pear with a drizzle of orange and raspberry melted sorbet surrounded by seasonal fruits. With the little scoop of vanilla ice cream, I felt not deprived, but the luckiest person at the table. I found the “cream” in the banana cream tart bland, but the warm caramel sauce and macadamia nut crunch were good, if intensely sweet. The flourless chocolate cake looked great but fell short—intensely fattening without the intense flavor that is usually the reward.
It takes time for a new restaurant to find its legs. We went a couple of times within a month of opening, and the organization hadn’t yet adjusted to the demands of a bigger restaurant. I trust An American Bistro’s service glitches are going to iron out soon enough. But the wait, I suspect, will not. On Friday and Saturday nights, be prepared.
AN AMERICAN BISTRO
296 Columbus Avenue, Tuckahoe
Lunch, Mon. to Fri. 11:30 am-3 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Sat. 5:30-10 pm, Sun. 5-9 pm
EntrÃ©es: $9-$15 (lunch), $8.50-$26 (dinner)
Reservations accepted for 6:30 pm or earlier, or for parties of five or more.
Do not park in the gas station.