The Jacob Burns Film Center, designed “to present and promote film as art,” and supported in part by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, opened in Pleasantville last month. Before or after catching a flick, make your summer evening even more special by walking around the corner to The Iron Horse Grill where food is presented as art. Owner and executive chef Philip McGrath, who recently introduced a new summer menu, plans to offer a pre-theater menu as well.
McGrath, revered in the culinary world for the superb job he did opening Equus at The Castle at Tarrytown, worked in a variety of celebrated restaurants, including Prunelle, Tavern on the Green and La CÃ´te Basque in Manhattan and the three star Michelin-awarded Restaurant Troisgros located in the Loire Valley of France.
Diners can expect to have to make some concessions when trying to secure a reservation at The Iron Horse Grill. Even during the week, the restaurant, housed in the former Pleasantville train station, is booked—solid. McGrath and his wife, Catherine Correale-McGrath, converted the station two and a half years ago into a functional restaurant preserving much of its original architecture and details, including the terrazo flooring and exposed beams. The result is wonderfully intimate. High ceilings stretch to the heavens. A tiny toy train sits atop the wall in the bar, reminding diners of the site’s original genesis.
The wine list is organized according to the “body” of the wine; thus, la carte des vins rouges begins with light-bodied Grenache and ends with lush, meaty Zinfandel, making some lovely stops along the way. The list of whites is similarly constructed and both offer a dynamic selection of American and French houses and styles. A bottle of Qupe Syrah 1999 ($38) from Santa Barbara was well received, a medium-bodied yet peppery red loaded with flavors of tart berries, cherry and mint.
A refreshing appetizer, timbale of Peeky Toe crab with avocado, roast corn and tarragon ($12) arrived just in time for the warm months. Also known as the Jonah crab, the Peeky Toe crab, indigenous to the cold waters of Maine, was served as a timbale mold embellished by divine eggs of caviar in addition to sweet pieces of avocado and luscious summer corn. Roast “Hen of the Woods” Maitake mushrooms ($12), supple at the base and slightly crumbly at the edges, were served in a ramekin with a sourdough crostini of goat’s cheese as a garnish. The mushrooms, a bit bland, would function better in a supporting role; the tiny crostini, on the other hand, was delicious. McGrath’s appetizers are innovative on the whole, running the gamut from artichoke and salmon rosette with beets and blood oranges ($11) to asparagus and Fontina ravioli ($10) served with brawny shiitake mushrooms.
A masterful entrÃ©e at The Iron Horse Grill is the truly harmonious mosaic of lobster and golden potatoes ($28), a multi-layered pyramid of joy. SautÃ©ed potatoes line the base that is then topped with sumptuous pieces of lobster, then a layer of asparagus. The entire process is repeated again, and the six-layer marvel is subsequently coated with a light champagne vinaigrette and garnished with Dicon sprouts and tarragon oil. Thyme-rubbed rack of lamb ($28) had a moist, pink center and was enhanced by fresh spinach, polenta and a rustic tapenade of olives and apricots worthy of Provence. Both dishes were too aesthetically gorgeous to disturb and too enticing to resist. (One McGrath hallmark is beautiful presentation.) Other entrÃ©es on his menu include breast of duck with green peppercorns, rhubarb relish and wild rice ($23) and zatar-dusted swordfish ($24) with a butter-tender Moroccan tagine of eggplant, feta and couscous. (Zatar is a Middle Eastern spice composed of sumac, thyme leaves, white sesame seeds and salt.)
On the dessert front, slightly chewy three-berry Napoleon “Romanoff” ($6.50) is a pleasing hybrid of flaky pastry with raspberries, strawberries, cranberries held together by a dusting of cinnamon and crÃ¨me anglaise. Simple Devil’s Food Cake ($6.50) with confectionery sugar was even better, due no doubt to homemade chocolate “chunk” and pistachio ice cream.
Servers at The Iron Horse Grill were knowledgeable and friendly and certainly willing to go the extra mile. A woman at the table next to us insisted on ordering filet mignon well done (a travesty in any book!), even though the waitress politely informed her of the unpleasant consequences. When the steak arrived well done, the woman had the audacity to complain. The waitress, without missing a beat, removed the dish, asked the woman what she would like instead, and even served the table complimentary salads.
Whether or not you choose to attend one of the programs at the Jacob Burns Film Center, it would be a crime to miss the Oscar-worthy performances at The Iron Horse Grill. Expect this restaurant to be “held over” indefinitely.
THE IRON HORSE GRILL
20 Wheeler Ave., Pleasantville
Dinner, Tue. to Sat. 5 pm on
Three-course prix fixe menu: $44
Five-course tasting menu: $65