Xaviars at Piermont

July 31, 2006

Some good friends who live in Westchester emailed that they had obtained a reservation at Xaviars at Piermont, which they said was really good.  Oh, sure, I thought, good for a little Hudson Valley town, even if it is only forty minutes from NYC.  But we had not seen them for a while and the evening would be enjoyable even if the restaurant were mediocre.  And, on Saturday, July 29, 2006, it would be my second birthday party.  So we went, not knowing at that point that Xaviars has a Zagat’s food rating of 29, higher than Per Se, Gramercy Tavern or any other NYC restaurant.  On Saturdays only they have two sittings, 6:00 and 9:00, so, with my generally negative attitude, I figured we would have to stand around while the early group dawdled xaviars_lg.jpgetc.  But when we arrived at 8:45, the restaurant was empty and the tables all nicely set.  We were immediately seated and offered a glass of champagne on the house.  Good start!  Then a lovely amuse gueule of crabmeat, mango and cilantro came.  We ordered the tasting menu for everyone at $90@ and a bottle of Melville Viognier.  Our friends had brought two bottles of really good red wine which were later decanted and served nicely with no corkage fee.  And so the meal started:

A sweetcorn panna cotta with Tahitian vanilla and shrimp.  The flavor of the fresh sweet corn really came through and the dish went well with the last of my champagne.

A little lobster salad with cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, truffles and beurre blanc.  It was too complicated for such a small dish, but enjoyable nonetheless.

A square white plate with an orchid in the middle, chopsticks and sashimi in each corner:  fluke with mango, hamachi with rice vinegar, sockeye salmon with shredded Japanese carrots and wasabi, a square of red tuna between squares of red and of yellow spiced watermelon.  This was very pretty and a real exploration of flavors, but we skipped drinking wine with this course due to the mild hot acidity; fortunately it did not linger on the palate.

A slice of red snapper topping lemon mashed potatoes and topped with lemon zest, with seaweed greens in broth.  The lemon was not overdone; the fish was fresh and tasty.  Very nice.

A round slice of terrine of Hudson Valley foie gras with sauternes jelly, rhubarb compote, Hawaiian sea salt and raisin walnut bread.  Like the similar dish at The Gramercy Tavern two days before, the foie gras was unctuous, but too bland.  The jelly went nicely with it, but the rhubarb was too strong and superfluous as there wasn’t enough foie gras to need two condiments.

A quail saltimbocca.  A whole NY State quail had been boned; finely chopped sage was inserted under the skin and it was braised in a white wine sauce.  If there was prosciutto, as in a real saltimbocca with veal, we couldn’t see it, but the right amount of saltiness was there.  It was served with a spinach purée and a quail egg.  I frequently order saltimbocca in Italian restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed this substantial dish. 

A cube of bacon with chard.  This was the only dish which I did not think was well done.  The outside of the bacon needs to be cooked to a high caramelized glaze.  This was meaty with a good flavor, but seemed to be just heated in the oven. 

Two slices of lamb with mint, a mousseline of potatoes, a hen of the woods mushroom with thyme, a zucchini flower stuffed with goat cheese, an asparagus stalk with hollandaise and a flower of tomato skin.  The potatoes were very finely puréed and oozing butter; the mushroom was terrific.  The whole dish was satisfying.

A glass of deconstructed chamomile tea on top of panna cotta on top of wild honey.   Ahah; I was waiting for the Fernan Adrià influence and maybe it showed up in this intermezzo, although there was no foam or gel.  But I enjoyed it and got over my disappointment that there was no cheese course.  One of our friends told the waiter that she did not eat sweets and they did bring her a plate with small pieces of six cheeses and some beautifully sculpted fruit. 

A dessert plate with:  a lavender crème caramel, a chocolate dome around a light caramel center decorated with a small gold leaf, a glass of chocolate iced tea, a cherry clafoutis.  My plate had “Happy Birthday” written on it in chocolate and had a strawberry with a lit candle in it.  The dessert was a fine ending to a great meal.

This astonishing restaurant has 32 places, although there were only 27 diners when we were there.  Everyone was well dressed and almost half the men were wearing ties.  The noise level was surprisingly low as people were speaking quietly and there was no need to compete.  There was a table of six, we were four and all the others were two.  We had the impression that everyone was celebrating a special occasion; there were quite a few who got the candles with dessert.  We were the only ones who ordered the tasting menu, although at $90 it is not that much above the $70 regular menu.  That offers several choices in each of four courses: a starter, a fish course, a meat course and a dessert and so is substantial enough for most people and is less of an uncharted adventure.   We had been the first to arrive and were the last to leave, just after midnight.  The service had been at just the right pace with the whole staff peterbio.jpgparticipating.  We discovered on the way out that one of the waiters is from Nice and we compared notes on niçois restaurants.  We also met the chief cook of the night, a young lady from Korea.  The chef and owner, Peter X. Kelly, had been called to cover an emergency at one of his other restaurants.  (The rumor that he is related to the fine chef, Melissa Kelly, is not true.)   They do not take credit cards and we paid the very reasonable bill in cash. 



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