The most important thing you need to know about The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges is that, despite what many Westchesterites think, this cozy restaurant is not aiming to be the elegant Jean-Georges restaurant, once and forever darling of New York City’s fine-dining scene. Instead of that dining room’s hushed, luminous whiteness, The Inn at Pound Ridge is buzzy and paneled with rustic pickled wood. Rather than commanding a view of Central Park, The Inn is housed in an echt country clapboard structure that sat for nearly two centuries among the picturesque white steeples of a Northern Westchester town.
There are many tactics working here to diffuse the formality that clings to Chef Vongerichten’s name. Waiters at The Inn at Pound Ridge telegraph ease with jeans, sneakers, and plaid shirts. On The Inn’s menu—which democratically lists pastas, personal pizzas, and even (gasp) a burger—prices hit the mid-range, with entrées ranging from $12 (for a pizza Margherita) to $38 for two outliers, grilled lamb chops and beef tenderloin. As for the dishes, their New American slant will feel familiar to anyone who has ever dined at Manhattan’s ABC Kitchen. In fact, The Inn at Pound Ridge just barely dodged being named “ABC Country.”
Better still, though fat-walleted diners can spend a fortune drinking through The Inn’s roomy, well-rounded wine list, there’s no need: Bargain hunters will find plenty of bottles in the cheap-and-cheerful, under $50 range. Don’t miss The Inn’s smart cocktail list and its crowning jewel: the pitch-perfect McKenzie Manhattan, which is made with rye distilled in New York’s Finger Lakes region.
There is a restaurateur’s maxim that maintains that one should always under-promise and over-deliver, and that is certainly true of Architect Thomas Juul-Hansen’s redesign of the space. What had been (as Emily Shaw’s Inn) a style-less Kountry Klutter has been transformed into a thrilling mash-up between cozy rusticity and urbane modernism. Don’t miss the dining room’s gorgeous armchairs, whose splatted backs hearken to 18th-century Americana while their forward-raked legs allude to the golden age of Scandinavian design. This tension between styles is emblematic of The Inn’s entire interior, which rethinks a cozy, wood-and-stone cabin with the sleeker tenets of modernism. Not surprisingly, Juul-Hansen is also responsible for the soaring design at Jean-Georges.
The Inn’s menu starts with a heading: “Country Table.” These are shareable bites to enjoy before actually settling into dinner. Of these, the local salumi and cheese platter is best, offering spicy coins of New York-made salumi and luxurious ribbons of prosciutto. Along with local cheeses (which change), there are pretty pickled radishes, whole-grain mustard, and honey; fortified thus, ordering dinner might take a while. Less successful in this group was a dish of house-made ricotta with palate-killing rhubarb compote—its sugar wasn’t sufficiently tamed by salt or tang.
There are un-missable starters, like the seasonal creamy, mouth-filling raw hamachi with rich, crunchy, spiced pecans; or buttery circles of foie gras terrine with dried sour cherries, crunchy pistachios, and white port gelée. As for the restaurant maxim to under-promise and over-deliver, these dishes certainly obey. That said, The Inn struggles with service. On one night, my cutlery wasn’t reset after the ricotta/rhubarb dish, forcing me to dig with a still-cheesy fork into my tuna tartare with creamy avocado, radish, and soy-ginger sauce. Twice, appetizers arrived while we were still enjoying our Country Table dishes, necessitating some inelegant juggling.
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An array of house-baked desserts
Jean-Georges vets Blake Farrar (The Mark Restaurant) and wife Melody (ABC Kitchen/Cocina) are executive chef and pastry chef
There can be other slips, too. On one night, both mains—roasted hake (with broccoli and grated ginger dressing with chervil and mint) and prosciutto-wrapped Berkshire pork chop (with mushrooms, sage, and white-wine sauce)—were inexplicably salty. But these were blips in otherwise fine meals. A crisp and fine-crumbed white pizza arrived adorned with rosy veils of prosciutto di Parma and managed to be both refined and hearty at once. Four seared diver scallops, perhaps not the best deal on the menu (at $32), were served a few ticks past jiggly—nevertheless, they were well seasoned and prettily plated with a Meyer lemon and cauliflower sauce, fried onions, garlic, and capers. Roasted Maine lobster—a tricky dish, given the tendency of lobster tails to vulcanize—was nicely set off with a spicy chili/oregano sauce. Don’t miss the mid-week comforts of a beer and burger (with bacon, Gruyére, Russian dressing, and crisp/funky yuzu pickles), perhaps enjoyed upstairs in The Inn’s fire-lit bar.
To end, look for a trio of amusingly familiar glazed doughnuts—like Dunkin’ Donuts reimagined by an Alsatian genius. Or, better still, sip a whiskey by the fire (you will need to ask for the list, as only the dessert wine list comes unbidden). Pair it with a charming jar of luscious butterscotch pudding, with vanilla crumbs and rhubarb jam. Perfection.