Restaurant X

Restaurant X
117 N Route 303
Congers, NY

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Restaurant Week dinner menu including appetizer, entree, and dessert- $28  (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Casual elegant
Cuisine- New American
Hits- Captain Lawrence beer braised short ribs, apple-cranberry cobbler with cinnamon ice cream, use of local ingredients, some truly attractive presentation
Misses- Rapid-fire service feels rushed, food temperatures sometimes off, “play-it-safe” menu

My initial foray into the world of Peter Kelly, at Yonkers’ x2o, left me a little empty.  There had been so much hype coming off the initial reviews and the Bobby Flay victory.  (I love Flay and his willingness to put himself out there for throw-downs, but, really, who hasn’t beaten him at this point? J)  x2o’s food gave off this cold, factory-like vibe, as if different components of each dish were plated at different stations.  It felt efficient and precise but also disparate and not quite cohesive.  And don’t get me started on the Kobe beef hot dog…

Nearly three years later, after numerous assurances that, “his Rockland locations are so much better,” I opted to try Restaurant X with my sister for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.  Chef Kelly was using all-Hudson-Valley ingredients, and how could that be bad? 🙂

Okay Chef, bring it.

When we first walked in, it took us a few minutes to garner the attention of the two hosts, but we were then warmly welcomed and showed to our table.

Restaurant X has been accused of looking a little “rundown.”  The front foyer had on its Sunday finest with deep red walls and dark, ornate woods. The dining space was warm and sunny with panoramic windows overlooking a duck pond that is probably much prettier in the summer.  My sister immediately characterized the clientele.  “It seems like the kind of place that older [note: my sister is 24] married people frequent regularly and order the same thing as each other,” she ventured.  (As our meal proceeded, her speculation was quasi-confirmed.  Four of the four tables around us were middle-aged couples; three of the four ordered the same entrée as their respective spouses.)

With no time to waste, we were immediately treated to thin dinner rolls and, being St. Patrick’s Day, delicious, crusty ends of soda bread.

For an appetizer, I opted to try the warm butternut squash flan.  It was beautifully plated and served in a sweet garlic confit and topped with a “rocket” (looked like a micro green –arugula?- with purple edges) salad.  The garlic confit (think roasted garlic only tidier and more efficient in process) was tender, sweet without the caramelization you get from roasting, and delicious.  Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than garlic and oil… The greens were fine, offering visual aesthetic.  The flan, however, was scaldingly hot and pretty bland.  The dairy (milk, eggs) totally drowned out any butternut sweetness.  It seemed like a miss- I didn’t get nearly enough of the side notes I’d expected: maple, maybe ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves? Heck! Even throw me a little parmesan cheese! Nope.  Nada.

My sister received a similarly scalding hot onion soup gratin with sherry and caramelized Pine Island black onions (yummy and from Warwick!).  Our appetizers came out with diner speed and outrageous temperature, which once again, bespoke a machine-like culinary efficiency.  I have this vision of mis-en-place being hastily thrown into an oven, plated with a doily, and thrown in front of the waiting consumer.  My sister’s reaction?

“French onion soup is French onion soup.  It’s hard to mess it up.”

My entrée was the pan-roasted Murray’s organic chicken.  (Murray’s is one of the few local –i.e., Pennsylvania– farms that offers certified humane chicken, so I try to habitually support them.)  What came out was a mediocre, albeit juicy, boneless, skinless chicken breast… the same kind I buy at DeCicco’s for $6 a pound and cook for myself at home.  It wasn’t strongly seasoned or very flavorful; nor was the port glaze it came in.  The tastiest component of the plate was the asparagus risotto.  At first I was getting this faint taste of Swiss or Gruyere, but thinking that odd, I dug in to find out more.  Truffle oil. I inquired with the waitress, “Does this asparagus risotto have truffle oil in it?”  She transmitted my question to the kitchen and came back with an affirmative response.  One of those not-on-the-menu, little, unexpected surprises…

My sister had the Captain Lawrence beer braised short ribs. How delicious does that sound? And it was. This dish was my favorite in the meal.  The beef was flavorful and tender.  The white cheddar grits were hearty and also flavorful.  The fried Brussels sprouts had nice caramelization on the exterior, making them a little chewier (a good thing!).  My sister thought they were greasy, but I suppose my oil threshold is a little higher.  🙂

The desserts were pretty standard fare: cream (a buttermilk panna cotta or a crème brulee), chocolate (with caramel center), fruit (a cobbler), or a cake (citrus almond pound cake).  We decided to share the apple-cranberry cobbler and the chocolate “Milky Way” galaxy: a hemisphere of chocolate ganache with a soft caramel center and crème Anglaise.

For the most part, the desserts were as hit-or-miss as the savory courses.  The cobbler was tart and tasty, served covered with thin strips of pastry, a dollop of cinnamon ice cream (the most outlandish thing on the menu, really). and a rolled, pirouline-like crisp.

The “Milky Way” was a visually nifty but unremarkably flavored ganache spaceship with a stylized sugar garnish and a shortbread-like biscuit in the shape of a shooting star.

I really, really wanted to like Restaurant X.

I really, really wanted to walk away impressed.

We were ceremoniously imparted with a pair of coconut macaroons along with our check.

A lovely couple at the table next to us, regular patrons, shared their enthusiasm.   “It’s the only place of its kind near here,” they shared.

I really, really wanted to share their enthusiasm.

But it still felt very robotic to me… like plates prepped well in advance and rapid-style fired.  It felt more like a large-scale operation than individual, lovingly plated dishes.  I could probably forgive the assembly-line automaticity if the menu were more unique, but Restaurant X caters “safely” to its Westchester-Rockland crowd of regulars; there are no wild-and-crazy experimental dishes here.  Then again, knowing and catering to his market is probably what makes Chef Kelly the successful owner of four restaurants.

I don’t know… I hear his brunches are amazing… and that Xaviar’s is really the place to go.  Maybe I’ll give it another shot.  🙂

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