Next Week’s Restaurant Review: Sidewalk Bistro in Piermont

13

Next week’s restaurant has had a lot of people in Rockland talking. The maitre d’, Daout Celestini, worked for many years for chef Peter Kelly at Xaviars at Piermont. The chef, Alain Eigenmann, cooked at Provence in Manhattan. The two friends — they were each others’ best men —became partners and opened the Sidewalk Bistro this summer. It became Rockland’s first casual French restaurant.

sidewalkbistro001.JPG

So the Blacks paid a visit. They found it a bit uneven, as you’ll see when you read the review. But that’s what this forum is her for. Have you, readers, found it uneven too? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll choose a few of your comments to print in the paper next to this review on Wednesday.

Deven Black and Jill Rovitzky Black
For The Journal News
Sidewalk Bistro is a good news/bad news story. The good news: The restaurant, recently opened by the well-regarded chef Alain Eigenmann and Xaviars front-of-the-house veteran Daout Celestin, brings a stylish but not too pricey dining and drinking destination to Piermont. The food is tasty, a combination of classic dishes and modern riffs, with an eye toward attractive presentations.

Besides the bar and two dining rooms, Sidewalk Bistro offers two outdoor seating options: If you don’t want a street-side table, you can while away a summer evening in the back patio, complete with its own bar.

Now the bad news: service was puzzlingly amateurish, full of gaffes and gaps that were surprising, given Celestin’s experience. Surely he knows better, and should know how to train his staff better.

We noted other discrepancies between ideal and actual. The wine list seems pretentious and overpriced relative to the menu, with only three bottles below $35 and the bulk of the list in the $50 range, without being particularly notable or interesting. And computers and printers have been both small and affordable for quite some time, so there’s no excuse for failing to provide a printed list of specials.

We started with an impressive appetizer special, soft-shell crab atop a mound of crisp and piquant daikon slaw. Below that, a thin sheet of watermelon. (The kitchen at Sidewalk Bistro loves its mandoline; elegantly slim slices of things show up frequently.) The crab was expertly sautéed so that the meat was delicate but firm, and the dish overall was a pleasingly balanced blend of sweet, tangy and salty.

The endive and pear salad was less successful. The endive looked a tad mature and was served at room temperature when chilling might have perked it up, but the pear slices (there’s that mandoline again) were perfectly ripe and the vinaigrette lively. A skimpy sprinkle of crumbled cheese was more garnish than full-fledged salad ingredient.

Grilled cod was tasty but similarly skimpy, as was the luxuriously creamy mound of mashed potatoes alongside it. The accompanying grilled vegetables were skewered on rosemary stalks and dressed with basil-infused oil, but required a hit of salt to bring their flavors alive.

A kobe burger with sautéed onions was tasty and cooked precisely medium-rare as requested, and its companion shoestring fries were crisp without being greasy. But if you’re serving high-end beef, give it a little class. In midsummer, it shouldn’t be too hard to send a burger out with a slice of ripe tomato, rather than the vapid coral-colored example we got. And it wouldn’t hurt to tweak the pickle concept with a couple of cornichons or something more interesting than a mushy wedge of deli-style dill.

Sadly, the lunch-counter style plating was in line with the general level of service, which was well-meaning but clearly suffered from lack of training and supervision, as if there’s no hand on the tiller in the front of the house. Plates were whisked away while people were still eating, flatware was removed with the appetizers but not replaced with the entrées, and drink orders went unfilled until long after food was served.

Overall, we had a good meal that could have been so much better. Sidewalk Bistro attracts lively crowds and the groups at the bars, inside and out, seem to be having a grand time. Maybe avoiding the tables is the secret to getting good service. We look forward to seeing Sidewalk Bistro meet the expectations generated by its owners’ reputations.

Sidewalk Bistro
482 Piermont Ave.
Piermont
845-680-6460
sidewalkbistro.com

Cuisine
French Bistro
Price
Entrées $15 to $25
Hours
Lunch and dinner daily.

In brief
Tasty, well-thought-out food with an eye toward attractive presentations at this stylish addition to the Piermont scene. The major downside: Service so far is amateurish, which is perplexing, given the pedigree of this restaurant — one of the co-owners worked front of the house at Xaviars for nearly two decades. Lively bar and dining scene, in the two dining rooms, the sidewalk tables and back garden.

Features: Open Mondays, brunch, outdoor dining, singles scene, seasonal cuisine, late-night eats, small plates, dine at the bar, meet for a drink, jeans OK, vegetarian friendly.

What we liked
Soft-shell crab, kobe burger, grilled cod

Share.

About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

13 Comments

  1. The review is dead on. My wife and another couple dined at Sidewalk Bistro on August 7. The food was mediocre at best. I thought the portions were just right. I had the seared tuna nicoise salad. The greeens were fresh and flavorful but I can’t say the same about the tuna. My wife had the mussels with frites. The frites were better than the mussels. Not what I expected from a high caliber establishment. The service was ok but the busboys did not know how to set a table. They do need to be trained. Hopefully it will improve as time goes on.

  2. Ive been to Sidewalk Bistro about 5 or 6 times and I agree with the reviewer whole-heartedly!

    I’ve come to the conclusion the restaurant is two different animals…
    Midweek, it’s a nice casual Bistro to goon a nice evening, and sit outside or at the bar for good food, and mediocre service.
    Weekends, it’s a crazy disoriented restaurant with good food and mediocre to poor service, and you have to wait a long time for a table.
    One weekend I was there twice. The busboy was promoted to waiter overnight with no training program. The service was awful.
    I decided I’ll only go there midweek evenings..

  3. I must agree completely with the review by Liz. My husband and I dined at Sidewalk on the evening of the soft opening and have at least once, sometimes twice a week since. We anticipate confusion from any new opening followed by improvements. The food was good, great job creating an atmospheere, but service goes from bad to worse. My husband and I had high expectations, a sure hit we thought considering the experience up front and in the kitchen. No one seems to be trained, or working in teams,food arrives by happenstance, drinks sometimes. We try to have patience with the servers considering they appear never to have worked in a real restaurant. Having silverware at the same time you have food is tricky. We’ve had servers deliver knives and forks with their hands wound around the tops rather than the handle more than once. Drinks delivered with hands around the mouth of the glass. Where did these kids train? Bread is consistently served (reserved from earlier) rock hard and without much taste even when fresh unlike the irristible bread found in Freelance.

    Tables may be full while we’re “in season” full with out of towners, but the heart of winter business is found in the locals who dine out regularly looking for that something special in a local restaurant and willing to pay for it.

    We’ll hang in with hopes for improvement in service and broadened or additional selections to keep the locals coming back for more.

  4. While I can understand the concerns of some about the service at Sidewalk Bistro, I have to disagree. On the nights I have been there I have found the restaurant to be buzzing with lively energy, fantastic food, and service that makes you feel welcome.

    It seems to me that Eigenmann and Celestin are definitely onto something. The main dining rooms are charming with their bistro inspired large mirrors and french wine holders on the walls. But equally as charming is the back patio where you can sit and enjoy your meal (along with a great glass of wine) beside nature. But if that isn’t enough of seating options for you, there is always the front sidewalk which is great for people watching, or just to admire our great town of Piermont.

    As for the service, I have found it to be on point with the type of resturant that Eigenmann and Celestin so proudly present. I just love the hustle and bustle of this place, and I especially like how the staff is not afraid to show some personality along with some great service.

  5. First of all, I will say they did an amazing job transforming the interior. It looks beautiful. I agree with all of the above comments regarding the poor service. I have sympathy for the front of the house at Sidewalk Bistro. True, Daout has experience, but Freelance/Xavier’s are fine dining establishments. Sidewalk Bistro doesn’t require the same type of service. They need to be like organized, friendly “robots” for this is a “turn and burn” establishment. I have been there 4 times (hoping it would get better) and every time my server appeared to be a deer caught in the headlights. They are attempting to be a bistro, no? Casual and well-executed food and service is a lot harder than you think. What frustrates me most is that they don’t stay true to the french bistro classics. The tuna nicoise salad was missing key ingredients to make it a classic nicoise. The french fries seem to be frozen, not hand-cut. And no steak au poivre!( Hudson House of Nyack has a great one, btw) Twice my desserts tasted of refridgerator. My friend’s “kobe” burger, requested to be cooked medium-rare, was served as a hockey-puck. I don’t get it. Twice we weren’t offered bread and it is always difficult to get another drink. I guess the place is busy partially because of the great location and that people want to try out the new place. Time will tell, especially in the winter when the tourists and cyclists are few. I want to mention that I have previously worked in the restaurant business both in casual and fine dining restaurants. Doesn’t make me an expert, but I do understand how difficult it can be. I am never one to complain and I hardly ever leave less than a 20% tip. This is the first time I have ever publicly complained about a restaurant simply because I am so frustrated by this place. I think it still has a chance, and I hope they recover.

  6. The Sidewalk Bistro has become another disappointing restaurant in Piermont. As a resident of Piermont I was looking forward towards the new transformation of the Sidewalk because it is a great location with much potential. However, I have dined at the Bistro five times and still am extremely disappointed. I have noticed that many people are disappointed with the service which I also strongly agree on, but I am also disappointed with the food. The meat has always been charred and overcooked and the seafood is not fresh. In fact, the last time I ate there I became very sick after having one of their signature dishes the Brochette Provencale. In addition to the disappointing dishes are their desserts. The French are known for their pastries and this place lacks in creativity and taste. The deserts are also not fresh, in fact every time I order one they seemed stale, old, and refrigerated. I do not believe that this new establishment deserves the title of a French Bistro. My first experience there I couldn’t even order an espresso because the machine was broken!!! As a French Bistro this is very sad. Last but not least their staff needs some serious improvement especially the hostess who is extremely rude and is in need of an attitude adjustment and grooming. I would recommend for diners not to waste their time and money there. It is highly overrated for the quality of food and service. The only good thing they have going is the location which they don’t deserve to have.

  7. There is a difference between help and good help. Help may be hard to find in Orangetown, but good help is a product of training and supervision. There are many restaurants in Orangetown that have service that is good or better. It is not a matter of luck finding people, but a matter of clearly communicated expectations, the training to meet those expectations, and supervision to deal with the kind of unexpected situations that always seem to come up in restaurants.

  8. Yes, perfectly put. Thanks for phrasing it better then I. Like the difference between good writers (you), & bad writers(me!).

  9. I strenously disagree with the criticisms of this “breath of fresh air” establishment in Piermont. Daout and Alain have succeeded in creating a comfortable, friendly and amiable ambiance while presenting excellent courses and superlative appetizers and desserts. My wife and I have dined there at least six times and we were always warmly welcomed, cheerfully served and pleasantly entertained by one of the owners, amidst the hustle of a thriving and crowded restaurant. The reviewers’ criticism of the staff is particularly misguided and unecessarily harsh. I have always found the staff attentive, friendly and conscientous, keeping with the atmosphere of a french bistro.
    I find it fascinating that people who are so displeased with the restaurant comment that they have returned five and six times. To me, slightly incongruous. It seems to me that people with little constructive to say, immediately revert to the negative. Too, bad, perhaps the readership of this blog may be better “served” with a more objective review.

  10. We dined last evening and I have to disagree with several of the comments above. The hostess was delightful. Our waitress was knowledgable, pleasant and efficient. While I didn’t like the taste of the prawns in my main dish, everything else was truly delicious. My husband’s risotto was cooked to perfection and our dessert of fresh fruit and cream was delightful. It was also quite a scene! Guests kept arriving and the back area was full as was the main dining room and bar. We enjoyed it and thought it was a nice addition to the neighborhood. We will return.

Leave A Reply