By Bill Cary
Since opening in 2008 at the top of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown White Plains, 42 has been through a series of transformations. First it was a formal, jackets-required dining room where chef-owner Anthony Goncalves dished out complex yet playful molecular gastronomy. Then he dropped the jackets rule, then added an informal tapas room called Bellota, sort of a restaurant within a restaurant.
Last summer, Goncalves, who is Portuguese, decided it was time for a whole new look — more casual, more homey and informal, yet still sophisticated and special-occasionish, all in a single restaurant — and a return to his Iberian roots.
Well, the food is just as good, the space is still lively and fun, and the service is wonderfully warm and friendly and utterly competent. In other words, you can still count on a great night out if you’re dining at 42, whether it’s just for snacks and drinks or a multicourse celebration.
What we tried
Serrano ham: On our last visit, we loved the Pata Negra, which is the Cadillac of Spanish cured hams. The lower priced Serrano was nearly as good, wonderfully chewy and flavorful and served thinly sliced on a big platter.
Bread basket: You pay an extra $7 for this, but it’s worth it. The basket is usually a mix of four house-made breads. Ours included a tomato focaccia, cornbread, parsley biscuits and ciabatta, with three addictive spreads: olive oil and Parmesan, honey butter with sea salt, and a Sriracha cream cheese. All of the breads were delicious, and a perfect underpinning for the Serrano.
Spring greens: Another winner and very fresh, with arugula, Bibb lettuce, asparagus, candied pecans, radishes, carrots and sections of red grapefruit, with a balsamic vinaigrette. A perfect seasonal mix of late winter and early spring flavors. On the sweet side, but the grapefruit kept it well behaved.
Clams casino: Their version has linguica (Portuguese sausage) mixed in with the clams and breadcrumbs. A pretty presentation, served in a wooden boat over stones.
Crispy calamari and shrimp: Like all of the small plates we tried, this one was a generous portion, but not huge. We love the spicy, lemony tartar sauce and the fried pickled pepper slices tossed in with the well-cooked seafood. They added a nice vinegary element to cut the whole fried thing.
Beef and pork pastry: This reminded us of an old-fashioned English meat pie, with a fresh update: creamy burrata and an egg and pistachio sauce. Delicious, except that the burrata was stone cold — would have been better at room temperature.
Drinks and dessert
On the extensive wine list, we had winnowed our bottle selection to something Spanish or Portuguese — and we wanted to keep it under $50, too. Beyond that, we needed help. The sommelier listened to our food choices and wine likes in general and immediately suggested a 2009 Quinta da Terrugem from Portugal for $45. “I read minds,” he said with a laugh, when he stopped by later to see how we liked it. Very nice — I’m already looking for it in wine shops.
We had decided to pass on dessert, but the manager, Jordan Sammarco, convinced us to at least try one of pastry chef Melissa Camacho’s signature creme brulee-filled doughnuts. I haven’t been much of a doughnut fan since college days, but this was delish, served with toasted almond ice cream.
We dined with a mix of couples, foursomes and families celebrating special occasions. There is also a private dining room for larger celebrations. Raucous and happening bar scene!
Where to sit
The views up here on the 42nd floor are sublime, stretching from the Hudson across Westchester to Long Island Sound and down to Manhattan. So, obviously, you want a front-row seat at one of the windows.
Fireworks aficionados know that 42 offers the perfect spot to catch the show in the sky over Playland, usually at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Pull up right to the door of the Ritz-Carlton for valet parking ($10, for eight hours). There is a kids menu, too.
What we will order next
We stuck with tapas and small plates, so next time I’d try at least one of the entrees, perhaps the 24-ounce slab of dreamy looking rib-eye that landed on a table across the way. Or I’d be happy to go the burger and fries route, here with a nice twist. There are Drunken Burgers on the tapas menu, with whiskey fried onions, that would go well with the Patatas Bravas, delightfully crispy fries drenched in a spicy sauce. Oh, and the pastas all sounded good.
You’re right in the heart of downtown White Plains, so there is tons of stuff nearby, including bars and nightclubs with live music. Stop in at ArtsWestchester, at 31 Mamaroneck Ave., to see what’s on view in the galleries. Or drop in for a nightcap at the bar of BLT Steak, also in the Ritz, on the ground floor.
The 411 on 42
Cuisine: Portuguese and Spanish, with a whiff of Italian Entree price range: $23 to $49 for the 24-ounce rib-eye Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Excellent Desserts, Seasonal Menu, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Kid Friendly, Girls’ Night Out, Late Night Eats, Meeting for a Drink, Going Out on Mondays, People Watching, Private Room, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Singles Scene, Small Plates, Special Occasion Dining, View, Wine List Noise level: Not bad at all, even with a full room. Hours: Kitchen is open Mondays to Thursdays, 4:30 to 10 p.m.; until midnight Fridays; Saturdays, 5 p.m. to midnight. Fridays and Saturdays, the bar is open later. Closed Sundays. Happy hour: 4:30 to 8 p.m. weekdays. Go: 1 Renaissance Square (in the Ritz-Carlton), White Plains, 914-761-4242, 42therestaurant.com.