By Karen Croke | Photos by Joe Larese
Coming straight from work, I thought I might be seriously under-dressed for an early weekday dinner at Equus, the restaurant located in The Castle at Tarrytown, a historic, century-old castle noted for its fine dining and Relais & Chateâux-rated accommodations.
I shouldn’t have worried. While jeans and sneakers won’t cut it, Equus is no longer a strictly formal, special occasion destination (although there are a few spots appropriate for those once-in-a-lifetime moments).
The hotel and dining rooms have been refurbished, emphasizing the building’s impressive bones, which include original mahogany panels (some of which belonged to Louis XIV), tapestries, stone walls, stained glass and Hudson River views to die for. There’s a new Thai-influnced spa and a cool cocktail bar just off the lobby.
Let’s just say this: If the Castle were a boutique hotel in Manhattan, you’d never get in.
Equus, too, is lighter, brighter, cooler. This is still a top-notch, French-style restaurant — with its attendant prices, let’s be clear — but with a modern approach using seasonal locally sourced ingredients.
What we tried
Shigoku oysters: Our well-informed waiter explained that these are farmed Pacific oysters with deep, tumbled shells. Each came balanced on a small, flat green oval made from colored sea salt. Dosed with a bit of “oceanic” foam and a dab of dashi gel, these smallish oysters tasted of clean, crisp flavors.
Butter poached lobster: OK, so yes, this was an utterly decadent dish: a succulent piece of shelled meat, lightly caramelized with a spicy carrot emulsion and then served with okra and a corn succotash. Enough said.
Celery soup: An amuse bouche, there were hints of chestnut and Brussels sprouts and a crunch from tiny pieces of diced Honeycrisp apple.
Wagyu Beef Duo: We shared a small tasting portion of this dish which paired beef cheek and dry-aged sirloin. Loved the underpinings of Ewes Blue polenta and asparagus, but the beef cheek, which is cooked for 48 hours, is an acquired taste.
Pennette pasta: Pennette is a small, tubular pasta, great for rich sauces, and it was served well by a topping of truffled ricotta, diced butternut squash, hen of the woods mushrooms and dried sage. The sage gave the dish a nice pop, but I loved, loved, loved the truffled ricotta.
Montauk Point Skate Wing: I was so happy I decided to try this dish. Skate is a relative of a ray and its flat body contains two edible wings. The filet, very thin with all the bony cartilage removed, was crisply pan fried — almost like a paillard — and then served atop Asian pears, Brussels sprouts and gooseberries prepared in a balsamic ginger reduction. This was the best dish of the evening.
Drinks and Dessert
There’s an excellent list of proper cocktails — we had Negronis — and wines, with a few by the glass. For dinner, we had a bottle of Cakebread Cellars pinot noir.
Desserts are decadent, which you need at the end of a special meal. There’s a Valrhona chocolate mousse cake served with caramel sauce, but I could not resist a mocha “Igloo.” A take on the classic Baked Alaska, it reminded me of a little white porcupine, the result of its peaks of meringue getting a quick caramelization before serving. After a few thumps with a knife, it yielded an interior of mocha gelato, blood orange and candied almonds.
Hotel guests, of course, but mostly an adult crowd. We saw a lot of couples. This is not the place to take the kids.
If you’re not up for dinner but would like a little test drive, head to The General’s Bar and Tapestry Lounge, where you can have a drink and enjoy the view and a plate of fried oysters ($30) or a pate sandwich ($18). Once the weather warms up, there’s an outdoor terrace.
What We’ll Order Next
I would love to come for Sunday brunch just to try the ricotta griddle cakes, which are served with blackberries. The three-course brunch is $56 per person, which includes a glass of Champagne.
The Tarrytown Music Hall is about five minutes away (37 Main St.). So is Lyndhurst, a historic estate which is home to the annual Lyndhurst crafts fair and many other weekend events. It’s also a terrific destination for a weekend hike. 635 S. Broadway, Tarrytown, 914-631-4881.
The 411 on Equus
Cuisine: Auberge-style French
Entree price range: $18-$36
Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Solo Dining, Seasonal Menu, Brunch, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Meeting for a Drink, Going Out on Mondays, Special Occasion Dining, Wine List
Noise level: Quiet
Hours: Open for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. Lunch noon-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner daily 6-9:30 p.m. Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Go: 400 Benedict Ave., Tarrytown, 914- 631-3646, www.castlehotelandspa.com