Based on my colleagues’ rave reviews and others I’d read online, I was so looking forward to a recent weeknight dinner at Saint George Bistro in Hastings-on-Hudson. Last fall, it took the place of one of my favorite dining spots in Westchester, Buffet de la Gare, a glistening French jewel of a spot manned so well for so long by the Goulet family.
Saint George is the newest addition to executive chef Chris Vergara’s restaurant family, which also includes Meritage in Scarsdale and Harper’s in Dobbs Ferry. Jason Steinberg is the owner-operator.
I’m happy to report that the updated yet classic French bistro fare is just delicious, capably assembled by Vergara and his crew in the kitchen. The room is still wonderful, too — cozy and warm and so inviting. How can you go wrong with pressed tin, etched glass, old mirrors, candles, marble tabletops and a long mahogany bar? Now there is an antique absinthe fountain on the bar, clever new cocktails and an all-French wine list.
I just wish the service had been better. Upon arrival, we had an unseemly long wait inside the door before anyone acknowledged us, then no one offered to take our heavy coats and bags. We didn’t get menus until 10 minutes after we were seated, then finally drinks, then our first course — just six oysters, mind you — didn’t hit the table until an hour after our 7 p.m. reservation. Our server could not have been nicer, but he seemed unsupported.
Every restaurant has its off nights — this felt more substantial. We didn’t have the sense that anyone was in charge, overseeing the overall care and comfort of diners and guests. Just the opposite of how we felt treated by the Goulets.
Fortunately, once our food began to arrive, our evening perked up decidedly.
What we tried
Beausoleil oysters: We ordered six of these plump and briny little darlings from New Brunswick and could easily have gone for another couple of dozen. Mignonette sauce often sits around for too long, but this was fresh and bracing and laced with just-chopped shallots. There are usually a half-dozen varieties of oysters on the menu, priced around $3 each.
Chicken liver mousse: From the charcuterie portion of the menu, we went for the classic mousse — rich and creamy and just delicious. Thank you for the warm toast. The duck terrine looked good, too.
Crab tartinette: The crabmeat salad was laced with capers and piled generously on two slices of bread, with a simply dressed green salad on the side. A really nice starter, and perfect for sharing.
Hudson Valley duck breast: Another winner — well seared, with the fat attached, and served with a melange of roasted apples, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. A splash of Calvados pulled it all together. We ordered it medium rare, and it tilted toward rare, but it was the perfect antidote to the dreadful winter weather outside.
Onglet steak frites: Oh my, this was the highlight of our night. My colleague Liz Johnson had visited Saint George in December, and she was practically in tears as she described her hanger steak. Ours totally stood up to its star billing. It was perfectly charred and incredibly juicy and flavorful. Great fries, too, especially when dunked in the Bearnaise sauce.
Drinks and dessert
The cocktails list has five specialties, and in a toast to the frightful weather we both went for the Southside Sazeracs, spiced with orange and Decanter bitters. On the wine list, we opted for an Antugnac Pinot Noir, which seemed thin at first but opened up nicely by the time our entrees arrived. At $39, it was on the bottom tier of the list. For dessert, we thought long and hard about profiteroles or chocolate mousse, then went for the classic creme brulee — silky, full of flavor and generous.
The crowd was a nice mix of sophisticated couples and fours, commuters from the nearby Metro-North station and a few families with well-behaved children who appreciate good, homey French food. The bar stayed fairly busy for most of the evening.
If you’ve been saving a special bottle of wine, bring it along and pay a $25 corkage fee. There is also a private dining room on the second floor.
What we will order next
We had a serious case of plate envy whenever a hot crock of the onion soup wafted by. Here the French classic has been upgraded with the addition of duck bouillon and confit. I could also envision an evening of oysters and charcuterie at the bar, washed down with a vodka martini or two.
If you haven’t seen the newly restored walled Persian gardens in Untermyer Park in northwest Yonkers, here’s your chance. Head south on Broadway to No. 945, just south of St. John’s Riverside Hospital. Go to www.untermyergardens.org for more information.
The 411 on Saint George Bistro
Cuisine: French bistro fare
Entree price range: $22 to $36; $84 for cote de boeuf for two
Great for: Date night, solo dining, brunch, BYO, cocktails, dining at the bar, girls’ night out, historic building, meeting for a drink, people watching, private room, romantic, dinner with grandparents, small plates, special occasion dining, wine list
Noise level: Pretty loud, with bare wood floors and pressed-tin ceilings and walls.
Hours: Dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, to 9 p.m. Sundays. Brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Go: 155 Southside Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson. 914-478-1671, saintgeorgebistro.com.
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