Guess Who’s Waiting for Dinner?
The appeal of the newest restaurant on the rebounding waterfront in Yonkers wears thin
in the interminable wait to get served.
The menu spoke to me. one look at the website, one extra furtive glance online at that menu in the midst of the workday, and I was primed. This, I was sure, was going to be a transformative experience—I would once again be in my beloved Allard in Paris.
But, alas, the menu promised more than the restaurant could deliver. Was it the overly glowing newspaper reviews and other publicity? The mid-century French chic design? Whatever caused the swell in the dining room may well lead to Bistro Chartreuse’s undoing. The kitchen simply does not seem capable of getting food to the table in less than an hour—or two.
On one of our visits, we overheard several patrons threaten to leave as the servers, weaving from table to table, apologized and tried to make amends. The manager came to our table and attempted to placate us, offering false hopes for a meal soon to come.
Our appetizers did little to hold our rumbling bellies in abeyance. First, by the time they appeared, our appetites had already taken over where reason had left off. Also, while some of the food here is very, very good, other dishes are merely adequate, and one or two not even that.
After waiting 40 minutes for our starters, we asked that the charcueterie platter—prepared meats and patés requiring no cooking—be brought before our pissaladiere, the classic pizza-like tart with onion, olive, and anchovy topping that originated in Nice, was ready. Ten minutes later, it arrived. It was nice enough—tasty country and silky, rich liver pâté, and dandy sliced salami. We devoured it, only to wait another 10 minutes for our pissaladiere. Alas, it turned out to be a mediocre crust topped with harsh undercooked onion and a measly few bits of anchovy.
Again we waited. We tried to flag down the waiter, but he stared out above our heads—which we speculated was to avoid our pleas for food. An hour after the last crumbs of the pissaladiere were gone, we threw ourselves in front of him, forcing him to respond. He explained: the food takes so long—too long, he acknowledged—because every single item is prepared à la minute. That means, he says, if we order a dish with julienned vegetables, the chef is julienning the vegetables right then and there.
We were stunned. That’s not how restaurants work. Much prep is done in advance, with no compromise to the end product. The cooking should be (and generally is) à la minute, but, for heaven’s sake, not the prep! Perhaps he was mistaken; perhaps not. But whatever the cause, something is clearly wrong when the kitchen takes nearly an hour to get appetizers out and another hour after that for the next course.
After wating an hour, we managed to hail the manager, who promised to return in less than five minutes with our food. Ten minutes later our meals arrived, accompanied by more apologies and an offer for dessert on the house.
Our dinners were far, far better than our appetizers. Meaty skirt steak, slathered with sweet caramelized onions and earthy, slightly crisped mushrooms, shared its oozing juices with hills of creamy potatoes, and a juicy rare burger with a perfect crusty shell was accompanied by crisp fries. Those same fries reappeared with the mussels Chardonnay. Fresh, clean-tasting broth with just a hint of rosemary gave the perfectly cooked, tender mussels exactly what they needed—no more or less.
Duck breast came to our table slightly more cooked than it needed to be and accompanied by enough sweet currants to run the risk of obscuring the meaty flavor. But a lovely medley of crisp steamed celeriac, celery, green beans, and cherry tomatoes provided a palate-cleansing balance, and we attacked the anise-laced sweet roasted pear tucked beneath the duck.
Desserts were disappointing. Dense bread pudding—called pistachio on the menu in honor, we thought, of the chopped nut topping—was heavily laden with butter and custard: too sweet, too dense, and too, too much. The île de nage was better, but the île flotante (big “islands” of soft meringue with strawberry and thick crème anglaise) are best suited to those who like their dessert very sweet.
For all the charm of the menu and design and for the great effort being made here, one can only hope the kitchen will learn how to get food to the table in a more timely manner. Our experiences, we hear, are fairly typical—which is a shame. Given that some of the dishes were well executed, one must wonder if the missteps were the result of a poorly managed kitchen rather than an untalented one.
35 Main St., Yonkers
Lunch, Tue. to Fri., 11:30 am-3:30 pm
Dinner, Tue. to Fri, and Sun., 5:30-10 pm, Sat. 5:30-11 pm
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good