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 â€” they were each others’ best men â€”became partners and opened the Sidewalk Bistro this summer. It became Rockland’s first casual French restaurant.
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 donâ€™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 Celestinâ€™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 thereâ€™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 sautÃ©ed 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 (thereâ€™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 sautÃ©ed onions was tasty and cooked precisely medium-rare as requested, and its companion shoestring fries were crisp without being greasy. But if youâ€™re serving high-end beef, give it a little class. In midsummer, it shouldnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 thereâ€™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 entrÃ©es, 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 ownersâ€™ reputations.
482 Piermont Ave.
EntrÃ©es $15 to $25
Lunch and dinner daily.
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 â€” 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