R5 Restaurant Review: Valbella

Ciao Bella!

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A traditional steakhouse with a twist in Scarsdale

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By Marge Perry and David Bonom


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There are two very good reasons to go to the third and newest Valbella Steakhouse, located in Scarsdale across from Lord & Taylor: the porterhouse and the rib-eye. Each, laden with brown butter, is savory and rich, with the very essence of meatiness in every bite. (Confession: as we sit at our desk writing about them, our mouths begin to water.)

Valbella doesn’t really feel like a traditional steakhouse, although the menu certainly reads like one. It is airier and brighter inside, and the service staff has none of the Luger-gruffness so many newcomers emulate in a misguided effort at steakhouse ambiance. But the limited menu sends the message loud and clear: you are in a steakhouse, and, in addition to a few cuts of meat (lamb and pork included), you may choose from roasted chicken or a couple of seafood dishes.


The starters are also fairly traditional. Oysters on the half shell are an ideal start to a steak dinner, and at Valbella’s we had a plate of three lovely sweet Blue Point oysters and three Kumamotos that were big enough to make us suspect they’d been doing roids with Jose Canseco.


Our tuna tartare starter was no shrinking violet. A gargantuan portion—we guessed incorrectly four to six ounces (it’s actually six to eight)—of coarsely chopped, sweet, and blissfully sinew-free tuna was scantily clad in a faint Dijon mustard sauce. It was enough to enhance the fish without obscuring it.


Unfortunately, crab cakes did not demonstrate the same sensitivity: crab flavor was all but missing. The cake was pasty and dense, thanks at least in part to the abundance of breadcrumbs added to the shredded crab. We did manage to make our way through small bits of the cake, which served as a convenient way to transport more of the tasty red pepper mayonnaise to our mouths.


A classic iceberg wedge steakhouse salad was exactly what it should be, though a tomato and mozzarella salad should be ordered only when tomatoes are at their best. Head for the diver scallops instead: the rich cream sauce will bring you back to the best of the food style of the ’70s and ’80s. But don’t order this dish if you’re in it for the truffles touted on the menu description—we could barely taste them.


Lamb chops, on the other hand, were wonderfully flavorful, despite being cooked beyond the requested medium rare. Some of us were charmed by the historic kitsch of the accompanying bright green mint jelly, while others at the table felt it was a condiment better left in the past.


There was nothing fun about the Berkshire pork chop, which was surprisingly bland and tough.


Our favorite non-meat entrée was buttery linguine served with two tender, flavorful lobster tails and two shrimp. This is the dish we’d recommend to non-meat-eaters at the table, though thanks to its extraordinarily generous portion, there was plenty to share with everyone at the table.


Like the rest of the meal, desserts ranged from fair to good. Crème brûlée missed the mark on two occasions—it had a nice crack, but the custard itself lacked the rich, creamy texture for which the dish is famous. A chocolate soufflé was undercooked, but a gargantuan Napoleon cake offered layers of puff pastry and whipped cream spiked with a touch of rum that made our toes curl.


Valbella  ★★

754 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale

(914) 725-0566; www.valbellasteakhouse.com


Hours: Mon to Thurs 12-10 pm, Fri and Sat 12-11 pm, Sun 2-10 pm. Appetizers: $8-$16; entrées: $21-$48; desserts: $10

    ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good  
   ★★—Good                       ★—Fair

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