Todd Matthews reporting in on Moderne Barn in Armonk for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. The last time I stepped into the space that is now Moderne Barn was to buy a piece of furniture. The Livanos restaurateur family has since transformed this location into what I can only describe as the feeling of being in an Aspen-ish contemporary lodge.
The restaurant is beautifully appointed with a gorgeous wooden ceiling, a catwalk showcasing a fantastic offering of wines in stylish cellars and upper level dining areas. The main floor presents with high-design pendant hanging lamps and Edison bulbs along the perimeter. Enormous windows allow for the flow of natural light. Walls are adorned with black and white images complementing the décor.
Entering the restaurant, the din was present but not overwhelming. It was quite a scene with the dining room and upper levels full in addition to the bar having a crowd, two-deep, with eager patrons ready to pounce upon any available seating. Our reservation was promptly acknowledged and we were seated in comfortable, colorfully upholstered banquettes.
Table service began promptly. Butter presented on a small stone slab was ready to slather on two styles of bread. Water was poured from hermetically sealed bottles and our glasses were never allowed to run empty by conscientious staff.
The appetizer of upstate local mixed greens was a simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions glistening in a light Champagne vinaigrette. The delight here was the thinly sliced chip-like servings of watermelon radishes.
Nonna meatballs bathed in a warm tomato sauce and were adorned with fresh ricotta and a chiffonade of basil. The meatballs were well seasoned and bound with short grain rice. A tasty starter for what was to follow.
Entrée offerings were simple, satisfying and well presented.
A roasted “Free Bird” chicken, as they called it, was a half chicken with skin that crunched with a pleasant dose of salt and cracked pepper. Roasting at its best – -crispy outside, and moist throughout. A red wine reduction was the sauce upon which it was placed in addition to a healthy serving of roasted fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and sunchokes.
Persimmon in color, the grilled salmon was stunning. Complementing it not only in color and flavor was the pairing of a spring pea risotto and a toss of fresh watercress. The salmon was caramelized on the outside with a moist and flaky interior. Carnaroli risotto is so unctuous and was host to mushrooms and an interesting addition of macerated red grapes.
Although pasta is easy and quite pervasive these days, the rigatoni Bolognese did not disappoint. The rigatoni was perfectly cooked al dente and was rolling in a memorable rich ragù that only a nonna could conjure on a Sunday.
Seeing Chocolate Mousse on the menu had me convincing myself that we need more dark chocolate and all the anti-oxidant benefits that come with eating it. An ample wedge of layered chocolate cake with a “grout” of mousse was satisfying. The cake was moist and dense. A dollop of crème fraiche played off the chocolate and a small pool of ganache was not overlooked either.
An assorted selection of cookies was quite “blonde” and begged for an espresso. The plate consisted of chocolate chip cookies that were almost like a chewy sugar cookie with little shards of chocolate. Peanut butter cookies were so subtle compared to the strong traditional flavor most are used to eating. They had little bright white pearls of peanuts scattered throughout. Biscotti were very cake-like and well suited for dunking.
I was disappointed that the Key Lime Tart was not available. However, they offered Crème Brûlée as a substitute. How could one turn that down? It arrived even better than expected. It was a “flight” of Crème Brûlée in three different styles. First, a light traditional version followed by a more caramelized style reminiscent of dulce de leche in color. The third was so dark and creamy and had the appearance of oatmeal stout. I was thrilled that the Key Lime Tart happened to be a sell-out hit.
The overall experience at Moderne Barn was very pleasant. Service was attentive and never imposing. The hospitality of the sommelier was gracious, professional, and unpretentious. Considering the crowds waiting to dine, there was no pressure to “turn the table”.
A return to Moderne Barn and a repeat performance is in order.
This experience completely made me forget that this most beautiful restaurant is where I bought my first dining room table.