Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Some great New York restaurants slip under the radar because they are just outside the city limits. They don't appear in the Zagat guide or in Time Out New York's listings. Most Manhattanites won't even schlep to Brooklyn to try something new, so mention the word "Yonkers" and watch their faces melt.
I recently adventured to X2O (Xaviar's on the Hudson), which is, in fact, in Yonkers and very much worth the trip. Chef Peter X. Kelly has created a beautiful oasis of calm situated directly over the Hudson River and featuring delightfully creative cuisine. On the way in, past the attractive bar, I noticed someone had ordered some unusual bar food: a Kobe beef hot dog. I don't know which requires more chutzpah: putting that on a menu or ordering it. Once we sat down, we were fawned over by the staff and brought an amuse bouche that truly amused. First I tasted a sweet and creamy little cup of cold soup made with peaches and yogurt. And a slender slice of maguro tuna aligned over a slice of watermelon was a revelation. Just pairing the two almost-identical colors was a visual coup, but the combination of taste and texture was the very definition of amusing.
Next we were served one of the most festive plates of sushi/sashimi I have ever seen. The fish was not only fresh and tender but molded into heart-shaped maki rolls stuffed with mango and other surprises. For appetizers, we chose the little quail legs served with a square of fried polenta topped micro-greens. Next came the shaved fennel and arugula salad with Shropshire cheese. But nothing could compare with the ravioli stuffed with short ribs and foie gras in truffle butter with grated amoretti and broccoli rabe. Short ribs, foie gras and truffles are pretty much my three favorite foods but if I order them all in the same meal, I usually have to lie on the floor and groan for an hour. So having all these tastes in the same appetizer is something of a miracle. The main courses were no less satisfying. The crispy duck schnitzel was perfectly cooked to juicy pinkness. A nice touch was the side of simple and starchy spatzle that complemented the rich and sweet flavors elsewhere on the plate. The most dramatic dish of the evening was the mignon of Berkshire black hog and grilled bacon. I doff my cap not only to the chef, but to the brave pig who gave so generously. My favorite entrée, if I must choose, was the grilled breast of squab with sweet eggplant and tamarind glaze. The crisp panisses criss-crossing the wilted spinach was a nice touch, but the key to my heart was the bed of white corn and cheddar grits. I'm a sucker for well-turned fancy cookin' mixed with a touch of comfort food. The dots of sweet and tangy sauce really finished the dish nicely. I'm usually a no-dot-and-no-foam kind of guy, but in this case I made an exception. It was around this time in the meal that I realized I was staring out the window at the flowing Hudson and, in the distance, the George Washington Bridge. Nice! For dessert, we ordered the lemon Napoleon with curd and mousse. It arrived looking something like a poodle with a bad haircut. The menu description boasted of soft meringue and crisp phyllo, and it had all these things, but it didn't do much to add to the over all experience. Or maybe it was because by the time dessert arrived I was simply too full to appreciate anything. I've been known to make that mistake on occasion. As we left, we had the best digestif of all: a view of the restaurant glowing in the dark as the river burbled below.

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