Red Hat (Irvington)

1 Bridge Street
Irivngton, New York

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Lunch $14-22, Dinner $22-38 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Casual chic Westchester-ites congregate in retro Paris glam
Cuisine- New American with French influence
Hits- Stunning Hudson River views, lovely presentation to dishes
Misses- If you avoid listening to the hype, you won’t be disappointed.
My sister, Allison, and I treated ourselves to an end-of-2009 spa day followed by lunch at the Red Hat.  There is little in our state more beautiful than the majestic Hudson and its quaint riverside towns.  On this icy day, we had a spectacular northbound and southbound view— the panorama alone made the trip worthwhile.

View of the Tappan Zee Bridge, looking north from Red Hat Bistro

Southbound view of the Hudson River

The Red Hat is tucked away over Irvington’s Metro North railroad tracks and behind industrial buildings, a pleasant hideaway with a prime real estate view of the river.  Capitalizing on that asset, the bistro’s high ceilings and enormous windows make it an irresistibly romantic sunset spot.

We sat in the bistro’s upstairs loft, looking below at the river and other patrons.

With its gray-green ceiling, exposed brick, random track lights, and bulbous silver lamps.  The red banquettes and carpet, dark wood chairs, and French-style paintings lent the loft an old-world, retro Paris glam feel.  It was almost as if my sister and I should have short, angular bob haircuts, strings of pearls, and cigarettes on long black holders.  If a jazz band were playing and a smoke halo ringed the loft, it could have been 1920.

Allison and I didn’t have to try too hard to place the crowd.  “It’s the Jacob Burns demographic,” we agreed, naming the bistro’s typical patron for the type of Westchester-ite that frequents Pleasantville’s fine arts theater: 40-and-50something couples, generally left-leaning in political stature, middle-upper class, moneyed but not snooty, often older and financially comfortable retired teachers with a taste for the artsy.  [Both teachers and members of Jacob Burns ourselves (and with parents that fit this same category), we mean no offense by this generalization.]  Our analysis was interrupted by the arrival of an introductory bruschetta made with rich, sweet piquillo peppers and shallots over nutty greens with a finely diced scallion garnish.  The flavors were sweet and clean.

We shared a local farm greens salad with baby lettuce, endive, breakfast radish, and a red-wine shallot vinaigrette.  The delicate, sweet breakfast radish was a pleasant surprise although we found the salad a bit overdressed and heavy on oil and mustard.

My sister was disappointed with her classic grilled hangar steak frites with red wine shallot jus, although in fairness she did order it medium despite the bistro’s medium-rare recommendation.  The steak arrived more like medium-well and was too tough to cut although flavorful.  In the few spots where the meat was still pink, one could see the potential for the dish.  The accompanying haricots verts and frites were crisp and quite good.

My grilled, French-cut chicken breast was beautifully seasoned with crisp, salty skin and was perfectly sliced for ooze-from-the-knife juiciness.  The dish had great flavors— acidic vinegar, a sweet apricot-almond chutney, and the salt of the chicken skin.  Topped with couscous and the sweet, oily slick of grilled, caramelized vegetables, the dish flirted with one of the deepest and richest flavor combinations I’ve had in Westchester to date.  It was more complex than I expected, but overall, the balance tended more toward sweet.

For dessert, we shared a coconut milk brioche bread pudding with cashew praline and mango sorbet.  The brioche was incredible: smooth and rich.  Sitting atop the creamy, nutty base, it was sprinkled with nuts, brown sugar, and caramelly crackles.  I’m not an enormous fan of mango, but the sorbet was tasty.  I might have chosen another flavor to accompany the coconut milk.  Generally speaking, it was nicely put together and well-thought-out.

At the end of our meal, the sun was low in the sky, and we were treated to the best possible end to a great day.  Ice trimmed the benches and ledges outside the bistro’s walkway.

We had a moment’s pause at the river’s edge to think about the year that had passed and the year to come.

The sun put on a spectacular show before dipping below the horizon.

As we warmed our hands in the car and joked about being younger members of the “Jacob Burns demographic,” I couldn’t help but feel that this day and this demographic embodied what I love most about living in Westchester County.  The sunset alone was reason enough to visit The Red Hat… and it’s that much sweeter if your trip is with someone special.

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