By Christine Gritmon
In the four years since it opened, AquaTerra Grille has made a name for itself in Pearl River as a top local spot for private celebrations, special evenings out, and Sunday brunch.
The Lambos family has been in the restaurant business for 40 years; in the ’80s, they operated a seafood restaurant, Hudson Bay, on this very spot. They leased the space to many other ventures before completely renovating the building and opening AquaTerra Grille in December 2010. The contemporary space now includes three event rooms (which can host events for 20 to 100 people), a large bar-lounge area, and a seasonal outdoor patio.
What we tried
Baked Lobster Mac-and-Cheese: Spirals of gemelli pasta smothered in a Vermont cheddar sauce with generous chunks of Maine lobster, toasted with herbed breadcrumbs and served in a cast-iron skillet. The lobster definitely had a presence throughout, without making the cheese sauce taste too fishy.
Garden Gnocchi: A hearty helping of potato pasta dumplings mixed with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, corn, pecorino and basil, all tied together with a balsamic glaze. Everything mixed together incredibly well, forming its own creamy secondary sauce. The vegetables were plentiful and added a fresh, light counterpoint to the density of the gnocchi.
Whole Mediterranean Branzino: Branzino flown in fresh from Greece, roasted whole or fileted, with lemon and white wine, crisped under the broiler, and topped with a saffron lemon vinaigrette. The flavorful sauce complemented the light fish perfectly. Accompanied by asparagus, roasted red potatoes, and lemon aioli.
Drinks and dessert
The waiter steered me toward a California chardonnay from the decently sized wine list, which worked nicely with the gnocchi.
The made-in-house dessert menu featured a lot of tempting options (including a chocolate lava cake, which we deemed too heavy to follow such a full meal) — we opted for the peach melba, a refreshing parfait of peach slices and raspberry sauce with house-made vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and toasted almond slices.
For dinner, couples, adult families, business associates, friends. For brunch, anyone and everyone.
The Sunday brunch buffet is one of the most popular in the area, featuring 12 hot chafing dishes, an ice pit filled with shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon, and a variety of salads, breads and desserts, with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys. Holidays such as Mother’s Day bring an even more extended array of buffet selections.
What we will order next
The crispy zucchini and eggplant chips with cucumber yogurt dill sauce look amazing; I’d love to try them during happy hour. Paella Valenciana — mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops, chorizo sausage, and green & red peppers, served over saffron rice — definitely brings out the best of the Aqua section of the menu; as for the Terra, the braised lamb shank (in a red wine reduction, with spring pea orzo and baby carrots) sounds like a great, vernally inspired choice. Or maybe we’ll just go whole hog and get the Surf & Turf!
Not much; the restaurant sits on its own across from the large Pfizer compound. The Shops at Nanuet are a few minutes north on Middletown Road; a few minutes south is the main Pearl River business district (and Defiant Brewery, which is also on tap at the restaurant).
The 411 on AquaTerra Grille
Cuisine: New American; Seafood
Entree price range: $18-$40
Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Solo Dining, Excellent Desserts, Brunch, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Girls’ Night Out, Late Night Eats, Meeting for a Drink, Outdoor Dining (Patio, Porch, Deck, Sidewalk), Going Out on Mondays, Private Room, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Small Plates, Special Occasion Dining, Vegetarians, Wine List
Noise level: Quiet to moderate.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, till 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Go: 420 N. Middletown Road, Pearl River.