Meritage Restaurant in Scarsdale: Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2012

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David and Brandee Dallow, your WestchesterFoodies, here to tell you about Meritage Restaurant in Scarsdale.

It hadn’t occurred to me that this was the second year in a row that I’d be reviewing an Italian restaurant for HVRW until the evening of our dinner. Smarter people than I will grab a reservation at a steakhouse, a place where they charge $18 for creamed spinach without apologizing, but not us. Meritage did, however, have a major upside: I could probably throw a tennis ball from my house and hit the place, a convenience I appreciated given that our reservations were for a Monday night! Tucked into an upscale strip mall, its proximity is probably why I’d never been. It was always too easy to say I’d get there some other time.

Lest the phrase “strip mall” add any sort of stigma, let me assure you that once you enter the location becomes moot. A small bar area quickly yields way to a candlelit dining room. The tastefully appointed room maintained the perfect level of brightness, dim enough for intimacy, but not so dark as to be squinting at your menu. Wainscoted walls led up to small ledges created by elegant moldings which held the aforementioned candles, their flickering lights casting lovely shadows across the table. Seriously, whose appearance doesn’t benefit from candlelight? The lovely artwork adorning the walls was no afterthought, but rather seemed to have been chosen by someone with a real eye for art.

Upon being seated we were given Restaurant Week menus as well as the regular restaurant menu. I was a bit surprised at the brevity of the Restaurant Week menu. This is only my second year participating, so perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but there seemed an aggressive lack of options. There were four appetizers as well as a soup, five entrees and two desserts. I found this particularly surprising as this was an Italian restaurant and my understanding has always been that pastas have the highest profit margin. There were only two pasta choices available. Why not bulk up the menu with a few more? That petty griping aside, there were intriguing offerings to choose from. FoodieWife, a sure bet to order a salad, looked past a pleasant sounding pear salad with candied walnuts because the other option was a beet salad with goat cheese mousse, pistachio, baby greens and cider vinaigrette.

FoodieWife has never met a beet salad she didn’t like so this was a forgone conclusion. That said, this happened to be an above average beet salad. The mild citrus dressing had just enough acidity to offset the sweetness of the beets, the creamy goat cheese doing the same for the vinaigrette. The baby greens were tender and tasty while the pistachios added a needed crunch to the texture as well as a nutty flavor.

One of the appetizer options was a choice of any two of four small plates. I looked right past the marinated artichokes and roasted red pepper, eschewing the empty vitamins and minerals, instead choosing chicken liver crostini and prosciutto and gruyere panino.

 

The panino was, essentially, like the best grilled cheese you’d ever have. Each crunchy, buttery bite giving way to melty cheesy goodness. The nutty, woodsy flavor of the cheese worked in beautiful harmony with the porky prosciutto. Each bite tasted a lot like what I’d imagine a cardiologist’s tears to taste like. And then I got to the chicken liver crostini.

This small bite was pure luxury, silky but without the overpowering funkiness often found in organ meats. This was an elegant presentation of a rustic dish.

FoodieWife and I could live on pasta, but oddly we overlooked past the two offered. Both were taglietelle, one in a tomato cream sauce for vegetarians and the other with a meat ragu for the normal people. Even tougher to pass up was a duck confit with white beans, pancetta and caramelized onion. Normally this would be right in my wheelhouse but, as I was already considering ordering angioplasty for dessert after my incredibly rich appetizers, I passed on that as well, opting for the far lighter Grilled Brook Trout, shaved fennel and apple, pomegranate and lemon.

After the richness of my appetizers this entree was……well, just what the doctor ordered. Satisfying while being almost ethereally light and refreshing, it was as close to the perfect choice as I could have found. Well cooked trout, with crispy skin and beautiful bits of char, sat atop perfectly balanced slaw of fennel and apple. The lemon added a pleasing acidity while the pomegranate seeds provided small but intense bursts of flavor.

FoodieWife ordered what was listed as Pan Roasted Chicken.

 

It actually resembled chicken cooked under a brick, flattened with incredibly crispy skin. Cutting through the crackling skin to be rewarded with chicken that was still tender and juicy was sublime. It was served with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, two of my favorites, which were easily overshadowed by a fantastic potato puree.

Though we’re not normally dessert aficionados, preferring instead the savory portions of meals, we each ordered one of the (only) two offerings. The first was a Chocolate Bread Pudding served with homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was quite good, the chocolate shell cracking to yield vanilla ice cream, which in turn led down to a soft bread pudding with a slightly hardened, chocolatey top. The second dessert was a Hazelnut Poundcake, served with strawberry sauce and, again, vanilla ice cream.

This too was enjoyable but the repetition of the vanilla ice cream got me thinking. Both salad appetizers featured the same dressing, both pastas feature taglietelle and  both desserts utilized vanilla ice cream. The repetition may not have been as noticeable had the Restaurant Week menu not been small. All the food was very good, well prepared and beautifully plated. I’ve always felt the difference between good restaurants and great restaurants was in the details. Being a part of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week has gotten me swept up in the spirit of the event, I would have like to have felt a bit more of that from Meritage. That said, everything I ate was certainly good enough to warrant a return visit!

The 411 on Meritage.

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6 Comments

  1. Who edits these HVRW reviews? He has the nerve to say vegetarians are not normal people, yet his wife has a very “normal” name. Brandee! I think lohud.com should make him post an apology for his offensive remark.

  2. No problem. The second you get a sense of humor and take up your issues with the man who wrote it, not the woman who didn’t you misogynistic stick in the mud. Have a steak and loosen up.

  3. scott knudsen on

    I normally don’t bother commenting on food blogs but Joe… you got my attention.

    Now, I was going to ask the obvious question and simply say “why would a vegetarian even bother reading a food blog?” and leave it at that. But I have some time on my hands so I reckon I’ll go a step or two further

    I wouldn’t expect a cowardly* sack of crap like yourself to have any kind of research skills so I saved you the trouble. Here’s a fact for you: less than 10% of the population is vegetarian. Now, since the definition of “normal” is “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual” then by definition a minority that small isn’t normal. Leaving aside the dictionary definition there’s also the little fact that such people are actively resisting millions of years of evolution, there’s the small matter of most of them being humorless prigs like yourself. Such a marked lack of humor (not to mention self-awareness) is also abnormal.

    Now that we’ve established the factual nature of your abnormality let’s address your churlish remark aimed at someone who’s using her own time and money to help write reviews, free of charge, for ungrateful sacks like you. It turns out that “Brandee” is one of the 1000 most popular girl’s names in America, and if you count all the various spellings it actually cracks the top 500 (of course it’s nowhere near as common as “Joe”, but you can take up any issues with your parents lack of creativity with them). That means that a sound statistical argument could be made that women named “Brandee” are more normal than vegetarians.

    So, what can we take away from this critique of your post? Basically that you’re a sub-cretinous moron with no sense of humor who doesn’t know a damn thing about good food.

    You’re welcome.

    *by any reasonable definition taking a shot at a guy’s wife is cowardly. If you’re going to behave that way you may as well go ahead and own the label.

  4. Notwithstanding the comments above which are completely off track for the review of this restaurant, Meritage is a very dependable local haunt where the food is consistently good, the atmosphere not imposing and the staff, friendly and always helpful & eager to serve. One can expect to have a conversation here, unlike MANY other restaurants where the noise level approaches that of a rock concert at Madison Square Garden. I have been to Meritage multiple times and will continue to return again and I look forward to seeing my friends and neighbors there knowing that we don’t have to drive to distant locations to have a quality, satisfying and intimate dining experience.

  5. Jimmy,

    You are 100% correct. I was trying to work in the fact that it’s a great neighborhood restaurant without making it sound like a local joint as its elegance surpasses that image. It was, indeed, quite good, the atmoshere very conducive to actually conversing with your dining partners and I look forward to returning as well.

  6. I must repectfully disagree with one item about Meritage and that is the service, It is a local haunt for me which is why I have tried it on three occasions No more… I am a respectful erson and expect the same in return. I am not demanding considering some of the clientele may be . The waitors were rude twice, and unattentive all three…when I mentioned it to the owner, one time , she got defensive and didnt care. I was quite embaressed since I had taken a friend there for dinner. Jimmy, they obviously know you, so are attentive to all your needs.. they are not like that to all who go there.

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