First Taste: RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen
If you haven’t been to the Tarrytown waterfront lately, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. What used to be a run-down area near the train station now holds a park—part of RiverWalk, a trail to connect the River Towns—and a stately housing development, Hudson Harbor (built, expensively, on old industrial grounds). And now the restaurant at Hudson Harbor, years in the works, has finally opened: the seriously locavore RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen from the owners of Crabtree Kittle House, a Clinton hangout famed for its legendary wine cellar.
So you already know you’re going here partly for the wine. The smallish but growing domestic and international selection, curated with care by co-owner Glenn Vogt, emphasizes biodynamic production. Whether it’s composting with chamomile buried in cow intestines or farming by the phase of the moon that makes these wines so good, they help set this restaurant/market/wine store apart from other farm-to-table options. They’ve even got their hands on some rarities, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Leflaive. At their adjacent wine store, an intimate, rustic spot (bottles shelved on antique apple crates from Pennsylvania! floor and ceiling made from old wine oaking sticks from Napa!), you can buy many of the same bottles served there. Mr. Vogt himself, who once upon a time put together the wine list for Windows on the World, might be hanging about.
Enter RiverMarket and you first hit the front-room store, which stocks regional items such as Nettle Meadow cheese, Magic Spoon preserves, Concord grapes, craft beer, and beeswax candles. They’ll also do up picnic baskets for explorers (or, less romantically, takeout meals for commuters). A bakery counter offers fresh breads and excellent muffins and scones, and a wood-burning brick oven (custom made in Tuscany!) will be firing up the restaurant’s Neapolitan-style pizza, which will also be available to go. When it’s ready—a construction delay will make it a bit of a wait if you order right now. (Which might be a good time to mention that the place is just up and running and we’re here just to bust in the door, not to judge or to wail about lack of pizza.)
The dining room, a modern eco-creation of stone, brick, and wood (200-year-old reclaimed maple floor! ceiling made from mushroom growing crates!), jibes with the outside buildings, one of which was inspired by Blue Hill at Stone Barns; the menu, where provenance is mentioned liberally; and LEED-certified Hudson Harbor itself. The walnut bar boasts a unique all-copper beer tower (inspired by Hudson River steamboats!), with 12 microbrews and two wines currently on tap; Emilio Ugarte from Crabtree Kittle House, Most Inventive Bartender of 2012 in this magazine’s BOW, is dreaming up the cocktail list as we speak. A private dining room (with 200-year-old Belgian doors on sliders!) is equipped with an 80-inch screen for the PowerPoint presentation you know you’ll want to watch while dining there. It’s all good. But if the weather’s nice, sit on the wraparound patio, where you can see the bridge, the park, and a sliver of the river.
|RiverMarket’s Churros||The Beautiful RiverMarket Patio|
Chef John Holzwarth trained under Lidia Bastianich at Felidia, so of course try the pastas (all house-made), such as the wonderfully delicate “ravioli Lidia’s way” with a blend of apple and pecorino, or lobster linguine neri with roasted cherry tomatoes, padron peppers, and preserved lemon. (Mr. Vogt has a great story about an epic meal at Felidia, after which Lidia, apron clad, plunked a bottle of amaro down on his table.) The Mediterranean-influenced American menu highlights foods from the Hudson Valley and beyond: Montauk lobster salad, Maplebrook burrata with New York State shell bean salad, roasted Hemlock Hill Farm chicken, pan-seared Sunburst trout, and a Kniskern Farm 100 percent grass-fed beef burger (your burger, uncommonly, coming from one steer). Niçoise salad with seared rare line-caught Montauk tuna was a delight; salads are beautifully composed and creative. Brunch, served all weekend, brought a lovely oyster mushroom frittata served in a sort of precious mini skillet. This is not the place to bring vegan friends, nor is it especially child oriented. But desserts are strong (and with Lighthouse Ice Cream Kompany next door, they have to be). Churros were the best I’ve ever tasted, their warmth melting a chocolate pot de crème set off by pistachios and heavenly orange-infused ricotta. But the toffee cake is the talk: a warm, spongy, sauce-soaked deal with a cooling side of Hudson Valley crème fraîche.
Does this restaurant help raise the green profile of a complex built, not without some controversy, on a detoxed industrial site? If so, we’ll take it. After your meal, step into the park across the street, onto a trail bordered by native plants, and walk down to this now accessible part of the river for an amazing silhouette view of the Manhattan skyline, the lights of the Tappan Zee Bridge twinkling above.