We’re off to a very good start. Was it cheap? No. Was it delicious? Absolutely.
In case you haven’t heard, I’ll be dining my way through Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, which runs from today through March 21 (except Saturday). You can see all the participating restaurants here at hudsonvalleyrestaurantweek.com. Dinners are $26.09 and lunches are $16.09.
My first meal is at a new entrant in the HVRW game: Equus, the restaurant at The Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown. I’m going to write my review â€” but I want to hear about your experiences, too: whether at Equus or anywhere else. So give me your reviews…. and I’ve got some incentive. I’ll give the authors of my five favorite comments 2 free tickets to our Wine&Food Festival, April 4, 5 and 6 at the DoubleTree Tarrytown.
Now: on to the food! That up there is the filet mignon. (Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin: Roast Root Vegetables and Potato Straw with Shallot Red Wine Sauce.) It was terrific. There was a lovely crust on the edge. It was perfectly medium-rare as I’d asked. There was a tiny hint of truffle oil in the salad-potato tuft on top. The carrots and onions were toothy but not too hard. Only one minor trouble: There was a $20 surcharge for it.
I went to Equus with three other people so we were able to try the entire HVRW menu. We started with a drink at the bar. Vueve. We couldn’t resist.
Have you ever been to the bar at Equus? It is seriously a gem. Look at this little nook inside the cirle of a turret. It might be the best table in all of the Hudson Valley:
There’s also a lovely lounge outside the bar area.
Little areas for conversation before dinner. And the wood paneling is simply gorgeous. Look at the fireplace.
Oh â€” and the view! I can’t wait for summer to come out on this patio overlooking the river.
After a drink we moved to our table in the dining room. It’s very rococo with lots of tapestries and carvings. Like a castle should be.
There were a ton of people. I asked the receptionist and she said it was definitely due to HVRW. You might have trouble getting a reservation.
But if you do get in, you won’t be disappointed. Here is the Roast Beet, Walnut and Endive Salad with Maytag Blue Cheese Dressing Laced with Port Wine Walnut Vinaigrette:
The earthy beets and the bitter endive were a great match. They were cooked perfectly, too.
The Roast Sweet Potatao and Pear Bisque Garnished with Duck Confit and Spiced Pear:
Garnished? I’d say. More like how some people put vermouth in a martini: by waving the closed bottle above the cocktail shaker. I didn’t see any duck confit. Maybe that was a good thing. The first bite my friend had was so salty she puckered. But then she gave the soup a good stir and everything was salvaged. It was actually a very nice flavor. Well-balanced and not too sweet, as you might expect. Good for these still-cold days of March. But duck confit? Eh â€” why advertise it? Just leave it off the menu and nobody would be the wiser.
The appetizer winner in my book? Salmon Carpaccio with Radish and Pea Shoot Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette:
My favorite thing about this dish was the temperature. So often a dish like this comes out so cold you can’t enjoy the flavor of the fish. It was just lovely. And there were little hints of salt and citrus that popped in my mouth. The radishes were spicy for contrast. I think there were a few too many pea shoots, but that’s quibbling.
On to entrees. I already told you about the beef. I really liked it, but I’m not sure you need to spend the extra $20 unless you’re dying for beef. It’s very very tasty, don’t get me wrong â€” but if you’re on a budget, don’t fret. All of the other dishes are great, too.
Braised Oxtail, Pancetta and Radicchio with Creamy Mascarpone Polenta:
Comfort in a bowl. Falling apart beef, nice porky flavor from the bacon and the polenta soaks it all up.
Hazelnut Crusted Tilapia with Honey and Anise Braised Carrots with Curry-Carrot Couscous:
The couscous was Israeli, so it was nice big rounds of grain that soaked up the sauce. There was a bit of a muddy, earthy flavor in the crust of the fish that I didn’t care for, but the fish itself was flaky and moist. And I liked all the accompaniments, from the curry to the foam to all the carrots in their various forms.
Grilled Paillard of Chicken Marinated with Orange and Aged Sherry Vinegar, Crispy Fingerlings, Shaved Chorizo, Manchego Cheese and Spring Bitter Greens:
That chicken was amazing. It was so moist and flavorful I couldn’t believe it. And I thought having a sherry sauce was going to be old-fashioned, but it was a fresh take: not too dense, just light and dancing on the plate.
The restaurant offers wine pairing suggestions on the menu, but they were all more than $11 each. We were trying to be economical, so we ordered by the bottle (there were 4 of us) and asked for the two cheapest bottles on the list at $40 each. A Sepp Gruner Veltliner, which went well with our appetizers, and this cherry, chocolatey tempranillo â€”
a 2003 Marques de Riscal Rioja, which was a nice match for all of our dishes, even the fish.
This dessert â€”
â€” was billed as a Chocolate Panna Cotta with White Chocolate-Pistachio Crus. It wasn’t really, it was more of a mousse. But the flavor was satisfying. I didn’t really care for the other choice, the Orange-Basil Frozen Bavaian with Orange Froth:
The orange and the froth were nice, but the Bavarian was frozen so hard I could have used a knife. The flavor was sweet, but I didn’t find any basil to make it more interesting.
They gave us a little lagniappe at the end; a two-cookie package of biscotti, with chocolate chips inside:
All in all, this is one of the best meals I’ve had for restaurant week in a very long time â€” and I’m talking in NYC, too. I just have one complaint. I looked at the regular menu, and there isn’t one dish in common with the HVRW menu. The braised oxtail and radicchio ragout comes with the sea scallop appetizer and the beef tenderloin entree, but that’s the only common denominator I could find. Still, I’m willing to overlook that because I got such a good feel for chef David Haviland’s cooking through this meal. It’s definitely enough to get me back.
They’re really going all out at Equus. Our service was friendly, polite and accommodating (though sometimes a little slow), and the food was beautifully presented and delicious.
And with a setting like this?
It’s hard to imagine finding a better value. But believe me, I’ll be out there trying.
Equus, 400 Benedict Ave., Tarrytown. 914-631-1980. castleonthehudson.com