A Way, Way Better Mac
A new New Rochelle destination
It happened in TriBeCa. It’s happening on the Lower East Side. Now, it might just happen in New Rochelle: the slow metamorphosis of a grimy pocket into a destination, thanks to a pioneer bearing a business plan, investors and a dream. Brian MacMenamin carried his dream from his Larchmont Avenue Oyster House and plopped it down between the glare of Home Depot and the roar of I-95, an unlikely wedge of promised land sprouting a hulking 1900s factory building that had once spawned Lucite and, before that, ammunitions.
Where those before him had envisioned plastics and explosives, MacMenamin envisioned shiitakes and confit, where there had been furnaces and conveyors, he saw Wolf stoves and Sub-Zeros. A year later, the brick and ironwork still stand, but inside, the transformation is astounding: the gleaming stainless-steel kitchens of ChefWorks cooking school and, upstairs, the cavernous hall of MacMenamin’s Grill.
we began our dinner with boundless optimism and chose like gleeful children from a sophisticated menu: appetizers of Creole crab and crawdad cakes, brandied lobster bisque, asparagus with Gor- gonzola, smoked sable paired with roasted corn cake.
One big spoonful of bisque, one big smile. Just the right hint of brandy, an invigorating jolt of cayenne to temper the richness of the lobster, and the sweetness of the cream melding it all into purÃ©ed velvet. Someone back in the kitchen sure knows their soup, and their crab and crawdad cakes too—these were crisply breaded with smooth, well-spiced interiors nestled against cool greens and a pink puddle of rÃ©moulade. The grilled asparagus was another triumph of flavor and texture, though the stalks were undercooked and the temperature under par.
I’m a Brooklyn girl and smoked fish is in my blood, so my fork kept finding its way over to the pearly shards of sable strewn over my husband’s mesclun salad. Another triumph, though unfortunately marred by its accompanying cold and rubbery corn cake.
next, set down before me, was a stone-oven pizza splotched with ivory goat cheese, taupe duck confit and mahogany shiitakes linked in glistening tomato-sauce swirls. The colors, the textures, the tastes! Tangy cheese, meaty mushrooms, rich duck—Kings Highway’s Bella Donna never made it like this!
Unfortunately, the grilled lamb chops we ordered were raw inside, the meat flavorless. Sent back twice, they still came back too rare. We could have filled up on the creamed spinach if it hadn’t had a sour tinge, or on the sautÃ©ed mushrooms if they hadn’t been soggy and bland. At least they got the potatoes right, a tender heap of oniony Lyonnaise disks.
If the pizza was great and the grill not, the fish was middling. A moist red snapper fillet perched over pasta zesty with capers, red bell pepper and artichokes. And in the stuffed sole, Jonah crabmeat mingled happily with brioche, though the mashed potato bed was overly buttery and the ratatouille sodden.
Desserts appeared to be a stunning redemption, towers of pastry, mousse and meringue in vivid architectural contortions. Pastry Chef Sebastian Artaud has obviously mastered design—it’s taste he needs to work on. The warm banana and apple tart wasn’t warm and had no banana. My cara-poire, an angular sculptural achievement worthy of Frank Gehry, was a study in confectionary excess: chocolate-almond-coffee tulipe shell, almond cake layered with ganache, pear mousse atop the cake, caramel mousse cloistered inside it, whipped cream, meringue, berry sauce—I rest my case. It still tasted quite good. The all-around spectacular concoction: the craquelin, a swoon of chocolate mousse, ganache and mixed nut praline cradled in a chocolate-almond tulipe and drizzled with apricot sauce.
Three months after opening, Mac- Menamin has got his buzz and his crowd. Now he’s got to work on his potential.
MACMENAMIN’S GRILL & CHEFWORKS
115 Cedar Street, New Rochelle
Lunch, daily 12-3 pm
Dinner, weekdays 5-10 pm, weekends â€˜til 11 pm, Sun. 4-10 pm
Brunch, Sun. 12-3 pm