Since we live in Port Chester, NY – and we all know there are a lot of good restaurants in and around Port Chester — it can be difficult to move beyond our 5 mile restaurant bubble. For me these days even getting in to NYC can be quite a production. So for Restaurant Week I made it a point to find spots that were either on the other side of the county, or beyond. In the case of this post – it’s Maria Reina, once again reporting over the river in Nyack.
Larry and I found this little gem through our friends, Lisa Spielman and Bob Quagliata. They live over in that neck of the woods and are frequent visitors to Velo, on North Broadway, in Nyack. When they heard I was guest blogging again this year they suggested we try it out. Returning to help with my posting duties is Dr. Schlotman!
The atmosphere at Velo is charming and lively at the same time. We were warmly welcomed on arrival and taken right to a very cool semi-circular banquette. From my vantage point I had a great view of the restaurant. It seems big when it’s full of people, but it really is small, maybe 50 -60 seats.
We had a lot to choose from on the menu, which was great. As with some other restaurants we noticed that many items on the HVRW offering were on the regular menu as well. We started off with a couple of fun cocktails while we perused the menu. Lisa and I enjoyed a refreshing St. Germaine and Prosecco drink while Jeff and Larry opted for Dirty Martinis – olives stuffed with gorgonzola.
With all of the courses we each chose different dishes and shared a taste of them all around. For the appetizers we pretty much agreed that their sformato was extraordinary. However, before I go on, the group thought it would be helpful to explain the basic differences between a sformato and a soufflé: A sformato can either be sweet or savory, but you tend to find more savory ones on appetizer menus. The base ingredient is a besciamella sauce (milk, butter and flour) that is mixed with egg yolks and some other ingredient. (In the case of our dish, pureed cauliflower.) Then it is cooked in a bain-marie, or water bath. A soufflé can also be sweet or savory, but the eggs are typically separated and whipped; the yolks combined with the ingredient of choice, and then the whites are folded in. After it is baked, it must be eaten right away, before it falls.
Velo’s Cauliflower Sformato with a Truffled Frisee Salad was just divine. The custard was creamy and light with an intense cauliflower taste. Served with the salad was a frisee salad with a truffle and beet vinaigrette. The bitterness of the frisee and the tanginess of the truffle beet dressing was a perfect accompaniment to the creamy sformato. Truly perfect in every way.
Larry really enjoyed the Crab Cakes. They were served with a tasty Roasted Garlic Aioli and an Apple Cabbage Slaw. I also liked them, but wished they had been a bit chunkier. The crab meat was pretty well broken down, and my preference in crab cakes is to see more of the lumps. Nevertheless, it was a hit at the table.
Other dishes of note were the special soup of the night, Chickpea with Roasted Pepper and Shrimp and the Fried Calamari, which was crisp on the outside and very tender inside.
Right before our main courses arrived, at the suggestion of our fun server Kerbin, we all shared an order of the house special Mac and Cheese. What a treat! Velo’s version packs a punch. Gorgonzola, pecorino and fontina are blended with shaved black truffles and white truffle oil, then topped with a decadent crunch of buttery crispy breadcrumbs. Rich, gooey and very grown-up.
Moving on to the main courses I have to first say the dishes were all beautifully presented. I think of all the restaurants I’ve been to in the past few months, Lisa’s Arctic Char was incredible looking. The colors were so vibrant, with a taste to match. The skin was crisp and the meat succulent and full of flavor. The couscous was infused with beets and the plate finished with parsley pesto. Not only was it a feast for the eyes but all came together in flavor.
I had the house made Cavatelli with Roasted Pumpkin, Sage and Ricotta Salata. The salty bite of the cheese really balanced the sweetness of the pumpkin and creaminess of the pasta.
The other dish of note was Jeff’s skate. It was perfectly sautéed and drizzled with brown butter and capers. The fish is served with fluffy mashed potatoes and crisp tender haricot verts.
Dessert did not disappoint either. Lisa suggested when we first sat down that we needed to try their Cardamom Spiced Donuts, an excellent suggestion. Warm, sugary and spicy donuts with a lemon curd dip was fantastic.
All in all we enjoyed each of the desserts, but the table favorite was the Sweet Corn Pudding. It’s not very sexy looking at first glance, but as each of us had a taste we all had the same reaction: incredible! It was creamy and lightly sweet, and the berry reduction over top added just the right amount of tang to balance the bite.
A great evening with friends and food, all the way around!