Little Drunken Chef

36 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8800

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Well, the fact that the chef is a self-proclaimed drunk explains a lot. And considering this place got four stars on Yelp, I’d say the chef isn’t the only one who’s plastered, because you’d have to be shit-faced to think this place was even worth three, much less two. And yet both times we have tried to go here there has been a 45 and 20-minute wait respectively. The second time we powered through it with a few drinks at the bar, which also had a wait to be seated. We haven’t had this hard a time getting a table in Westchester since Bedford 234, but at least that meal proved worth it.

So back to the bar, where we were eventually able to squeeze in and get the only highlights of the night, the drinks. Figures when you take into account where you are. The two drinks we had were the sake cucumber concoction and the Drunken Manhattan, which is far less inventive than the sake (my reco), tasting like your run of the mill Manhattan, but served in a martini glass as opposed to a lowball. Oooooh!

Then miracle of miracles happened, our table was ready in under 20 minutes. And lucky us, we scored a drunken, jovial waiter who went on to swoon about roughly 75% of the menu, which is always a worrisome sign, made only more worrisome by the fact that not one single recommendation was even just okay, much less good. I think he was just ecstatic to have a job and someone to talk to.

Starting with the Tossed Goat Salad, the kale is overdressed, the Drunken Goat (that’s the actual name of the cheese, which is available at any Whole Foods, but aptly chosen for its name) is shaved so thin you can’t even taste it and the chunks of peach aren’t even ripe! On the plus side, at least they didn’t screw up the candied pecans. But the rest of the salad should definitely be “tossed.”

Next came the jamon and manchego croquettes four ways. And sadly 75% of them sucked about five different ways by my count. The only one rising to an “eh” was the chutney, but I suppose that’s to be expected since Indian is the closest in to the chef’s comfort zone.

As the night progressed, the losers kept coming and I’m not just referring to the clientele lined up outside still waiting for a table. I’m also talking about the pulled pork buns, served with a hint of chimichurri. Not with actual chimichurri, mind you. Just a hint. That hint being in the description on the menu, yet nowhere to be found in the dish itself.

And for an entrée, I highly recommend the paella for none. I tried the Paella for one and it might very well be the worst form of Spanish torture since the Inquisition. Overcooked rice, overcooked chicken, overcooked scallops, overcooked mussels and a sprig of chorizo- granted I’m not entirely sure it was honestly chorizo, but it was definitely a sausage of some kind.

Now I know I get dramatic sometimes and take things to extremes, but to have had to wait 20 minutes for this performance should be punishable by death. I’d rather wait in line at the DMV! Seriously. And the worst part is that I had to actually pay for the mistreatment of my mouth! But what’s crazy about all of this is that I have actually been a long time fan of the “Little” franchise, going back to its humble beginnings as just a Kebab Station. Then a Spice Market. That said, I’ve noticed that the further they step away from their bailiwick, the more the seams start to show, because Crepe Street is a bit of a pass, especially compared to places like Good Food in Briarcliff. But never has anything been as bad as this place, which if allowed, I would like to rename “Little Big Mistake.”

1 tooth

5 Napkin Burger

211 Market St. Yonkers, NY 10710 • (212) 496-20315napkin.com

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If you’re doing the Ridge Hill thing and you find yourself (and/or family) craving a burger joint, you now have two options to choose from. Elevation and 5 Napkin. And while that is technically true, as far as I’m concerned you still have zero options, and you’re better off driving to White Plains for 5 Guys or Westchester Burger Co. (the Napa Burger blows this place away).

That said, 5 Napkin is better than Elevation, but unfortunately that’s not saying much. And speaking of not saying much, I don’t have many compliments in store for 5 Napkin, so if you’re a fan, start warming up your rebuttal.

The décor, as others have stated, is casual, yet cool (probably the best thing about this place) and the service, as pointed out by many, is slow. Granted not quite as bad as the rap made it out to be, but certainly not about to break any land-speed records either.

On the burger front, they most definitely live up to their name, proving to be a complete and total mess. Unfortunately that’s also true on a culinary level. The Original Burger is over sauced to the point of greasy and off-putting, and the patty itself was served rare as opposed to medium rare, as ordered.

The veggie burger was better, made with an unusually predominate beet ratio, turning the patty a novel shade of red. On the downside, the bun they use is way too dense for the softer patty and it winds up squeezing out through the sides every time you bite into it, like pink Playdoh in a garlic press.

The French fries that come with the burgers are basic and nothing to speak of, so if you were hoping for twist in plot, sadly this story is only one note. I do, however, recommend substituting the fries with the cheddar tots. They are slightly better. But, if you want truly great tots, head over to Melts in Armonk. And while you’re at it, try their Wisconsin Patty Melt too. You will be very pleasantly surprised. It’s one of the better under-the-radar “burgers” in Westchester.

And while some people might think I’m just getting my jollies throwing places like this under the bus, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I just don’t like when things are misrepresented on Yelp, so I feel the need to be the balancing wheel. Even if it stings. And sting this did, because I was sincerely looking forward to this place opening up, but sadly, I have to give 5 Napkin just two knives.

2 teeth

Mint Premium Foods

19 Main St. Tarrytown, NY 10591 • (914) 703-6511

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I’ve always loved this place ever since it was on the other side of the street and just a specialty shop, so when I heard they picked up sticks and crossed the street to open a restaurant I was all “yoinks!”

And when I saw what they had done with the place, “ooo la la!” Not in a fancy shmancy way though. More like an authentic quaint shop you might expect to find in Provence.

Now I know some people complain about the price/portion size ratio but I have to say, the Truffle Eggs Benny was anything but small. Pricey, perhaps. But let’s be fair, it’s covered in lox and caviar. If you want to stay under 10 bucks go grab an Egg McMuffin. So where was I? Oh yes, the salmon and the caviar over potatoes and English muffin with the headliners, of course, poached eggs and Hollandaise. It sounded like the stuff foodgasms are made of, and I typically loves me the caviar and eggs thing, but for some reason this didn’t meet expectations. Somehow the truffles brought out too much of the fishiness and saltiness of the caviar. The English muffins, which looked like Thomas’, were overpowered- should’ve used a more substantial, homemade muffin or bread. The potatoes needed more seasoning, because they disappeared into the sauce. And the H-sauce could’ve stood for some more kick to cut through. But this is all getting very nitpicky. It’s still good, it just doesn’t hold up to the raves. There is similar version at Joseph Leonard using crème fraiche as opposed to H-sauce and it blows this away. Or as they say in France… coups il loin. I have zero idea if that’s an accurate translation or not. But if not, blame Google.

So, when all is said and done, I still feel compelled to give Mint 3 knives, regardless of the over-hyped Benny, because truly love the market side of things. So many great cheeses and cured meats, and olives and artisanal jarred goodies that it’s enough to carry them over line of three-dom.

3 teeth

 

Justin Thyme

171 Grand St. Croton-On-Hudson, NY 10520(914) 271-0022dinejustinthyme.com

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I can’t decide if the name is charming or cheesy, but either way, it definitely starts with “ch.” I am less conflicted about the outdoor seating, however, which is perfect in the summer, set under a huge tree, away from the sidewalk, shaded and overlooking a small town street. Plus, at night, they have strung lights in the trees making it an idyllic oasis around the clock.

Service also helps to keep you charmed, although they aren’t very helpful with the recos. Everything’s great and popular and wonderful. Which is probably the Prozac talking, but to be fair, the food can be quite good, depending on what you order. Case in point, my modest sampling of two dishes produced both an “mmm” and a “meh.” So amidst this 50/50 hit ratio I would recommend the lobster roll, served faithful New England style with mayo and celery atop a brioche bun as opposed to a long roll and plank fries as opposed to shoestring. It was very solid. Holding its own against the likes of Ocean House. My only nit would be the side of coleslaw. A touch too far on the creamy side for my tastes. I prefer the mustardy side, it’s right before the dark side and just after the wild side.

Speaking of sides, on the miss side, the apple crumble a la mode undid all of the good will the lobster roll had secured. It was soggy and the only thing crumbling about it was my impression of Justin. And the mode didn’t help much either as the ice cream tasted like Breyer’s.

So I’m torn between 2 and 3 knives, but it’s a pretty extensive menu, so I’ll have to give it another whirl and see if they can improve their batting average. In the meantime, if you leave nearby, I say do it. What’ve you got to lose? It’s not like Umami Café is flawless either. If you don’t live nearby, then I wouldn’t make a special trip. But if you’re on a day trip to Croton Beach, this is the perfect place to come for a late lunch/early dinner.

3 teeth

 

Umami Café

325 S Riverside Ave. Croton-On-Hudson, NY 10520 • (914) 271-5555umamicafe.com

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If there’s one cuisine the burbs can’t seem to nail, it’s Asian. Now I hate using that term, because what exactly is Asian anyways? India is in Asia, so doesn’t that count? No. Apparently not. That’s Indian. What about Thai? Nope. Chinese? Sort of. Sushi? Not technically, although Japanese is definitely in the mix. Middle Eastern? While officially on the continent of Asia I think most people liken it to Mediterranean before Asian.

So now that I have no fucking clue what I even mean now, what is good Asian? Pearl & Ash and Momofuku Ko in New York. That’s great Asian. Taking all of the disparate cultural influences and fusing them into the cuisine to create dishes that pay homage to the classics, without necessarily being the classics.

This territory is squarely where Umami stakes its claim (not to be confused with Umami Burger in the City), and in doing so, manages to top the list of attempts I’ve tried thus far. Although, tucked away on an unfortunate corner overlooking an auto repair shop this half in/half out pseudo strip mall eater most certainly doesn’t get by on its looks. That’s where the Peking duck quesadilla comes in. Decorated with hoisin, crème fraiche and kudos. Best of the three dishes I had, and all three were good. The other two are in descending order of likeage- the Ahi tuna won ton tacos, followed by the truffled mac and cheese (pictured) with gruyere, fontina and panko crust. This last one was way more interesting than it sounds, let’s not kid our selves, it’s mac and cheese.

The only miss was actually right out of the get with their sangria. It had a little too much bite, almost as if it were going bad, but not quite. In ned of a little more sweetness and missing that refreshing characteristic that makes sangria so magical on a hot summer day. Granted it was probably a stupid order on my part, because who gets sangria with Asian food? Apparently I do. But I was hoping for a little sake Asian twist. Alas it was not to be. But duly noted upon my return. I will order my beverage with eyes wide open, duck quesadillas (of course), and maybe some noodles or one of those wagyu burgers. Boom!

3 teeth

Squires

 218 N State Rd. Briarcliff, NY 10510 • (914) 762-3376squiresofbriarcliff.com

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I’ve heard a lot of people swear by this burger, but after the debacle at The Blazer Pub I was very skittish, regardless of the 3-time Best of Westchester crownings. Sorry BOW, but you’re about as reliable as Yelp.

Upon entering, the crowd didn’t make me feel much better, loaded with geriatrics to the point where I could’ve sworn I was on the set of the film Cocoon 3. But as depressing as the fogey-fest was, I was more unnerved by the fact that this place belongs somewhere in the middle of the dessert along Route 66 where drifters sign up for contract killings. So feeling like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, I ordered up a pint of Stella and the Cheese Supreme Burger.

The Stella on tap was on point and the service was very friendly- in fact, even the burger is definitely good on a purist level, but best in Westchester? It’s not even in my top three. The Inn at Pound Ridge, Melts and the Napa Burger at Westchester Burger Co. all trounce the Cheese Supreme, which was a supreme disappointment initially. So much so that I had my server fetch some jalapenos stat, to resuscitate some life back into the mozzarella, cheddar and Swiss trio of tastelessness. Luckily it worked. And perhaps I’m to blame for listening to the recommendations of my waiter and Yelper’s alike, but then again, it’s more fun to blame them. And while I’m at it, the friggin’ bun was about 30% too small for the patty. I hate that. It makes me what to hire a contract killer and take out the reviews that touted this place. Hmmm… Perhaps I am in the right place after all?

2 teeth

Good Food

1205 Pleasantville Rd. Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 • (914) 432-7981

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With a name like this they are just begging for some asshole like me to come swooping in and shit all over their life’s endeavors, but as tempting as that might’ve been, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Not by the décor, however, it’s virtually nonexistent. But then again, the place isn’t called Good Décor. The staff, on the other hand, is very small-town warm and friendly, charming my pants off as they coerced me into ordering dessert when I was already full. Loveable bastards!

But before we leap all the way to the end, let’s go back to the beginning. Torn between a delicious sounding lineup of sandwiches and savory crepes I ultimately erred on the side of novelty and went with the caramelized onions, olives, basil, capers and goat cheese crepe, served with a side of couscous salad and damn was it good… food. No false advertising here. It was WAY better than the Little Crepe Street in Kisco and good enough that I will most certainly be returning in order to cover the rest of those chalkboards (check back for potential knife uppage).

So what did I do for dessert? A scoop of their Coconut Almond Joy ice cream. It was also good, obviously. But next time I will be sure to go with one of their Nutella crepes, which have my Ferocious name written all over them.

3 teeth

Rocky’s

235 Saw Mill River Rd. Millwood, NY 10546 • (914) 941-2165rockysdeli.net

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Word on the street is that Rocky’s just hauled in a nod from the folks at Best of Westchester (that street being Rt.133), so it goes without saying that I needed to scoot my opinionated bones on over there to order up some sammies.

The place looks like any one of a thousand just like it in the city, long counter on one side, stuffed to the gills with rolls, wedges & ciabattas, backed by a task force of sandwich soldiers armed with cooktop skillets the size of sofas and bins upon bins of prepped ingredients. And on the other side you’ll find a wall of fridges loaded with every imaginable beverage one could ever hope to wash down a hoagie with.

Unfortunately, this faithful homage to city sandwich shops is so faithful that the sandwiches are nothing special. I guess people are just wistfully lining up out of sentimentality for the days when they used to live in the city. So therein lies the good news, you no longer have to drive an hour into the city to get your fix. But a reality check is definitely in order, because the sandwiches are far from the “best” in Westchester.

To get all specific on your ass, almost every sandwich requires that you add something to it, because they are too bland as is. For example The Untouchable desperately needed to touch some tomatoes or coleslaw or roasted red peppers- anything to give it moisture! Plus, the chicken cutlet is so thin it tastes like nothing more than its breading. Then there’s the actual bread. And together they overpower the grilled prosciutto, mozz and balsamic.

The Whaler, while better than The Untouchable, was also just okay, mainly due, once again, to a meek portion of fish so thin you could floss with it (not exactly what I would call “whale-like”), breaded and fried, along with hash browns and tripling down on the theme, a fried egg. There’s also American cheese, but what it needed most was ketchup or hot sauce to make it interesting enough to finish both halves.

The Chip Chip was easily the best of the three, with chipotle chicken, chipotle mayo, smoked gouda, bacon and avocado all on ciabatta. It had some nice kick, but if spicy sandwiches are your thang, then you owe it to yourself to head on over to Armonk and get The Heat at Melts. It beats the Chip Chip out of Rocky’s.

2 teeth

Juniper

575 Warburton Ave. Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706 • (914) 478-2542 •  juniperhastings.com

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I have to say that I’m a little surprised that Juniper has held on as long as it has. Sure, its cute little dining room and friendly staff make for a pleasant first 15 minutes, but after that, the wheels start coming off compared to the likes of The Cookery, Twisted Oak or Wolfert’s Roost, all of which handily beat Juniper when it comes to food in the River Towns. It’s a shame too, because after hearing fellow foodies rave about it, I got my hopes up, not realizing they were raving on a curve. Ya know how it is, it’s “suburbs-good.” Well, I beg to differ.

I had the brisket burger, which sounded too good to be true, and unfortunately it was too eh to be good. Wifey had the special mushroom soup which was the best thing of the night and the hanger steak, which sagged below the low-set bar of my brisket burger. But even worse than a mediocre meal is having to wait 45 minutes for it to arrive with no bread or anything to tide us over. This, topped with the fact that they don’t even serve alcohol made me even more cantankerous than I already am, having to run across the street to a wine store and buy a bottle. Fortunately I had plenty of time. 😉

For dessert, we cut our losses and didn’t even order it, not that we were dieting, but because I didn’t want to have to run back across the street for port. Plus, it probably wouldn’t have been worth another 45 minutes anyways.

2 teeth

Twisted Oak

61 Main St. Tarrytown, NY 10591 • (914) 332-1992 •  thetwistedoakny.com

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What in the hell is happening to Tarrytown?! You go away for a year and boom! About 80% of the restaurants are new. Which, as a Ferocious Foodie, naturally excites me with a plethora of new options now lying before me. So for starters, let’s tackle the Twisted Oak, the artist formerly known as Isabella’s (RIP).

Having heard good things from a fellow foodie, we decided to roll the dice, skeptical as we were, especially as we set foot in the dining room, which looks like it underwent very minimal renovations before reopening. It’s certainly nicer, but we’re talking maybe 10-15%, something about it still screaming old-school burbs eatery. Perhaps it’s in part due to the basket of CVS dental floss in the bathroom? I mean what place does that in this day and age? And it’s so unfortunate too, because you can tell they are truly reaching for a culinary experience, just look at the menu. Either the chef has no gift for décor or he and the owner are on vastly different pages.

On the upside, the page the chef is on is a very, very good one. For starters I highly recommend the charcuterie, served with grilled bread, cured ham, delicious little pickled beets and a buratta-like mozzarella spread with garlic and butter. You smear that on the bread and top it with a little prosciutto and yowser! It’s almost a toss up between that and just waiting for the normal bread to come, which is the same, sans grilling, but served with a wonderful baked spread of its own, comprised of parmesan, ricotta and garlic.

Another huge hit was the short rib with steel cut oat risotto and ramps. I don’t want to wax on about it too long, because the menu is always changing, but it was fall-off-the-bone-bodacious. Rich with flavor and killer with a Cabernet. Speaking of killer, as in, should you wish to put yourself on the fast train to killing yourself, the duck fat potatoes are all kinds of phat! To give you an idea of just how phenomenal they are, my son doesn’t even like potatoes unless they are in the form of French fries. Well, he wolfed down a good half of them. I ate the other half. Wifely had a cube or two, I think. Hard to say, I was too busy cramming duck fat potatoes in my face.

But Twisted Oak wavered a pit on the pastas if you ask me. The duck ravioli with fennel and citrus, while good, was also a bit too subtle for my tastes. I kept expecting the fennel and the acid to shine through more than they did. And the biggest loser of the bunch was the ricotta gnudi. Skip it. Just a bunch of big balls of blah.

But the Oak didn’t let me walk away upset, oh no. She ended strong with an awesome, and unlikely dessert reco, the white chocolate soup. Not something I would’ve ever gone for, but like The Monkey’s sing, now I’m a believer. We’re talking rich, creamy chocolate ice cream surrounded by hazelnuts, all doused in a healthy downpour of white chocolate. This dish is everything right with the world stuck in a bowl and served with a spoon.

Thank you for the pleasant surprise Twisted Oak. Your food far surpasses your decor, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have it that way than the other way around.

4 teeth