This is David Maggiotto, guest blogger for the day. Last night I enjoyed a wonderful, though not flawless dinner at X2O Xaviars on the Hudson. Another guest blogger, Lorraine Alteri, visited X2O on Sunday, the opening night of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, and she snapped photos of all of the dishes I will describe. For visual aids the reader can refer to her blog. [Liz: The link to Lorraine’s post is here.]
I arrived a half-hour early for my 9 pm reservation and waited for my dining companions in The Dylan Lounge, X2O’s bar area that features a window allowing guests to see Chef Kelly running the show in the kitchen. While I was not able to get a reservation in the dining room at an earlier time slot (the restaurant did a whopping 326 guests overall, I know because I peeked at the hostess stand on my way out) numerous unoccupied tables were available in the Lounge, where diners can choose to eat off the normal dinner menu or order from a sushi and sashimi bar.
My companions arrived right on time and it was nice to see my parents, who are residents of Hastings on Hudson. I live in Manhattan, which is very accessible to X20 with the Metro North Yonkers stop being a one-minute walk from the restaurant. By 9:05 my father was wheedling the bartender for “something to nibble on” when the hostess appeared, bailing out the bartender out and showing us to our table.
She seated us in the mezzanine level above the main dining room. In addition to the $28.09 restaurant week menu X2O is also offering a special drink list featuring wine and liquor from the region. We tried a glass of the ’08 Mountain Laurel blend, a white wine from Whitecliff Vineyard in Gardiner, N.Y., and an ’07 Chardonnay from Millbrook Vineyards called Xaviars Cuvee, bottled specifically for Peter Kelly’s group of restaruants. The Chardonnay was delicious, but the blend from Whitecliff Vineyards was far too sweet for my taste.
All three of us ordered off the restaurant week menu (diners have the option to eat from the regular a la carte menu) and we varied our choices to try as many items as possible. For appetizers we ordered the field greens and beets salad; tuna sashimi with crushed pistachio and raspberry sauce; and warm asparagus flan. The flan was absolutely spectacular, light and flavorful, sitting in a bed of buerre blanc sauce that was heavy and highly flavorful. Swimming in the sauce were chunks of rock shrimp, which added a necessary firm texture to the dish. All around, this was easily the best dish of the night.
The other appetizers were fine – the salad was a salad, nicely composed if not a touch too generous with the red onion slices. The sashimi was good too, though I found the accompanying raspberry sauce offensively sweet. My Dad liked the sauce and thought it complemented the fish; I thought it tasted like melted raspberry lollipop.
With the entrees we tried the two local reds on wine list – an ’07 pinot noir from Millbrook Vineyards, and an ’05 Cabernet Sauvignon from Brotherhood Winery, in Washingtoville, NY. As for the food, I’ll start with the best first: The Murray’s Hudson Valley Lemon Grass Chicken was perhaps the most finely roasted chicken I’ve ever eaten. I never order chicken in a restaurant, because how good can it really be? Chef Kelly showed me last night, as the juicy, impossibly tender quality was something that only a master could achieve. The coconut rice and chinese long beans that accompanied the bird were not as inspired, but it didn’t really matter – turning chicken into such a delicacy is a feat worth applauding.
If only they could have done the same thing with my pork loin. It was a shame because everything surrounding the two slices of pork loin on the plate were so good – the jalapeno polenta was probably the third best thing I tasted last night (after the buerre blanc drenched flan and the chicken), light and creamy and somehow bursting with jalapeno flavor without any real spiciness. The wilted swiss chard was good too, as was the fatty braised belly. Perhaps it was this braised belly, a lump of delicious fat that melts when you chew it, that brought full attention to the toughness and blandness of the loin. While I still ate one of the loin slices, the bulk of the other slice was the only food item left on the table when the waiter cleared our plates.
I should mention that the cod entree was good too, though my father gobbled most of it down before I had much of a chance to try it. He assures me that it tasted fresh, if not particularly inventive.
Everything up to this point was, on the whole, very good. The service was attentive and thorough (we had to ask for a second helping of bread, the roquefort cheese rolls were too good to keep away from) and the raised dining room overlooking the lit skyline of Manhattan was a lovely setting to enjoy a meal.
The desserts were good, not particularly special in opinion. When I expressed this sentiment to my Mom she told me I was “being too fussy.” She thought the buttermilk panna cotta with pear syrup was very good, despite the glowing-green hat of lime aspic it was capped with. Both my parents also enjoyed the coconut parfait with Mango and Pineapple pieces. Everyone was a little disappointed with the chocolate selection however, a white and dark chocolate timbale with a pistachio center and a creme anglaise sauce. The dark chocolate formed the shell of the timbale, with the white chocolate being part of the mousse-like center. I thought the hearty dark chocolate shell was undermined by the too-sweet mousse, and the choice of pistachio in dessert is never my favorite. Lorraine, the aforementioned guest blogger with the pictures, wrote that this was one of the best chocolate desserts she ever had, so I guess opinions will diverge.
X2O really does have it all – very good food, professional service and a world-class setting. My experience was not without small criticisms, but the good aspects of the meal far outweighed the bad. In honor of my Dad, who enjoys rating all of life’s experiences on a scale of 1-10, I give my meal an 8.8 out of ten.