First Taste: Sweet Grass Grill

5

I stopped by the new Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown last night and shared a few things with a couple of friends. By no means is this a full review, just a sampling, but I have to say I was impressed. My favorite dish was the chicken:

Crisp skin. Juicy meat. The broccoli rabe was cooked with a lot of attention — it wasn’t stringy like it can be sometimes. The pine nuts gave the dish a nice texture contrast, too.

The restaurant is done in tones of green. Like the grass, I suppose. The dining room is spare. The one wall looks like the outside of a house. There are varnished wood tables and chairs. Wood floors. Green walls. Except the wall by the bar. That’s brick:

(The baskets hanging on the wall are made of sweetgrass. They’re made in Rwanda and buying them supports the women who weave them.)

The chef, Tommy Lasely, formerly cooked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where he was a was a vegetable cook and meat entremetier (that means entre-maker). He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He was raised in North Carolina, and worked in restaurants there, too, including as sous chef of Cypress International Cuisine in Asheville. (In my post here I called him Carl, which is his first name. He goes by his middle name.)

The first thing we tried was the pigs in a blanket.

On the menu “Stone Barns pork wrapped in pastry with a tarragon mustard.” The pork was great. The vegetables and herbs were too. The tarragon really came out. The pastry wasn’t what I expected. I guess I didn’t think it was going to be puff pastry…. and so it was a little buttery. I also expected it to be smaller?

One of three sliders:

The other two:

I liked these. The foccacia was crunchy (and buttery and I liked the butter!). I wondered why they didn’t have a top, but I just ate them with a fork and my fingers and didn’t miss the extra bread. The sauce was mustardy. And I found more tarragon flavor. (I called the chef this morning and he thinks this may have come from the fennel seeds in the bread.) The meat was beefy and good.

These were bar none the best sweet potato fries I have ever had.

Crispy, salty, sweet and earthy. Just delicious. It’s so hard to get these right. They’re usually limp. These held up all the way through dinner. Completely addictive. Really a winner.

I guess you could call this a “salad.”

On the menu: “Spinach Salad with a Poached Stone Barns Farm Egg: Homemade pancetta and potatoes.”

The egg was, of course, delicious. The fingerlings were cooked perfectly. The pork was just right. The asparagus didn’t do much for me. The spinach was great — and the red stems were beautiful. (You can just see one peeking out at noon o’clock in the photo.) But don’t think you’re going all weight watchers if you order this “salad.” It’s indulgent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! The balance was very nice.

Tempura fried sweet baby shrimp. Passionfruit and kaffir lime sauce.

My two friends very much enjoyed this. I was ambivalent. The breading was light, airy and crisp and the shrimp tasted nice. You may very well like as much as they did.

Back to the chicken:

The chicken is really the sort of dish you want from a neighborhood restaurant. Underneath was a “loose stuffing,” as Tommy calls it, made of sourdough bread, sherry vinegar, chicken stock, shallots and chives. It reminded me of dumplings. And what goes better together than chicken and dumplings? It was fun to pull my fork across the bottom of the plate and pick up the stuffing with the rabe.

The restaurant officially opened April 17. It’s only been two weeks. And people have been waiting a long time — more than six months — to check it out, so it’s pretty mobbed. Especially before an event at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The staff was harried between about 7 and 8 o’clock… after that things were running pretty smoothly.

You can absolutely see Dan Barber’s influence in Tommy’s cooking. Some dishes are very similar indeed. (But why would that surprise you? Dan is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential people!)  The compositions are not careful, precise and edited like Dan’s, but I’m not sure they’re meant to be.

This is a bistro-cafe, so the food is laid back. But there are lots of layers and components (herbs, pinenuts, that “stuffing”), and lots of flavor. I guess if I had one small complaint, I’d say that I tasted a tarragon flavor in almost every dish… and wished for a little more variety. But I’ll be back to try more of the menu. And soon.

The 411 on Sweet Grass Grill.

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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.

5 Comments

  1. I visited the Sweet Grass last week with a friend and we were both impressed and only a tiny bit disappointed. I think there were some kinks to be worked out, but when they are- I think this place is exactly what Tarrytown needs. It has great potential.

    My friend and I sat at the beautiful bar and had pigs in a blanket, the spinach and egg salad (pictured above), and the bison burger. The pastry on the pigs was too buttery and not light enough and so the dish was lacking some much needed texture. However, the “pigs” and the tarragon mustard were de-licious. yum. The salad was beautiful – eggs cooked perfectly, but I would have preferred my pancetta a bit crispier. The bison burger was cooked perfectly and was juicy and yet lean; the bun was more like a biscuit and I ended up dipping my burger into the egg from the salad. so good!

    We had an excellent bartender, who was a little green, but attentive and amiable. I’ve heard from a friend who went with kids that Sweet Grass was a bit immovable on the menu, and they were disappointed with the size of the menu. I’m a fan of a limited menu and don’t expect everything to be a TGI Fridays monstrosity.

    I’m interested to see what eating here at like 10 PM would be like – I wonder if the bar gets crowded? I’m definitely going back for seconds!

  2. I agree with Ms. Johnson when she comments about the tarragon taste in every dish. I felt that way about quite a few components in the dishes … arugula the common garnish with each of the three appetizers we ordered. The same foccacia placed on the table upon being seated was the same bottom served with our sliders.

    My criticism aside, the food was good. I may complain of lack of garnish variety but there is no mistake about the freshness of each ingredient down to the mustard vinegrette dip that accompanied the table’s foccia.

    I must also say that the table service was awfully confused. I suppose it’s because they just opened? Give them a break right? Well we do take that into consideration but it was a 60 plus minute wait for our 3 appetizers and a salad. We wanted to sample the menu so we ordered the pigs in blanket, sliders and the Stone Barn’s sausage. (I too agree about the puff pastry! Weird). For those few things (no entree at all), it took more than an hour and a half and frankly that’s not right. They did apologize but $72 later it somehow didn’t feel sincere.

    I’m sure we’ll be back after they work on oiling the machine.

  3. Always love to check out new restaurants. Ambience like the menu was eclectic, sparse but effective. Staff was inexperienced but eager. Owner/hostess was cordial, professional & focused. Pigs in the blanket & watercress salad were very tasty. Cod Entree was served sashimi style (not noted on menu).Rectified after returning for more fire.Doughnut dessert was very novel. Portions are not huge, but priced accordingly.The theme of GREEN is everywhere…attire, the bar wall, the plates…which is ok.
    No specials offered as of yet. Will go back!!….What’s with all the kids !!! Do you serve children ? “yes…well done !” A+ for the wines by the glass !

  4. I visited Sweet Grass for lunch as I am a big foodie with a softness for T-Town. I always go to Solmar up the block so I thought I’d give this a try for lunch with a friend..had the spinach/asparagus salad..loved the egg…my friend had the bison burger really dry…along with the massive bun…too much and too dry…I had the BBQ pork…mediocre at best…not a place I am likely go back to since the menu is limited..I had a great ale…Ithaca Ale…IPA…pretty tasty…..better than Sierra Nevada…

  5. David’s restaurant review:
    Wow’s the word.
    The name of the restaurant, Sweet Grass Grill, in Tarrytown implies that it’s vegetarian. Far from it. The menu ranges from grilled veggies to red meat. Luckily, we went as a group of six adults and two children and so were able to share a variety of appetizers. Large, succulent mussels from Blue Hill, Maine, came with croutons in a tasty Indian spiced sauce. Tempura fried shrimp was slathered with a passion fruit and kefir lime sauce. We all sampled the chilled spring tea soup with herbs. A mellow, buttery faccacia came with the appetizers. For the main course we chose mushroom burgers and buffalo burgers with sides of fried sweet potatoes and Arctic black cod on a bed of mashed potatoes and asparagus. The wines and mixed drinks met with full approval and one glass of beer from the tap was touted as the best ever tasted. With all of that we didn’t have room for dessert, and we decided to save it for our next visit. Can’t wait.
    from sheila & jim

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