As a Westchester resident and a foodie, I’ve been rather ashamed that I had not dined at X2O. After Blue Hill at Stone Barns, X2O is without a doubt the next most noteworthy dining destination in these parts. I had wanted badly to check it out since it opened about 3 years ago but the right occasion never seemed to present itself. Well, I’m pleased to say a worthy occasion finally came up this past weekend as eight of us gathered there to celebrate Esther’s birthday.
I arrived early to take in the sunset views of the Hudson with a cocktail in the bar area they call the Dylan Lounge. From the bar you get only a south facing view but it’s still pretty awesome, with the Palisades across the river and the George Washington bridge off in the distance. Their bar is one of the few places I know of that carries white port, in this case Dow’s White Port, so I ordered a white port and tonic with a wedge of lime. Light and relatively low in alcohol, if you ever see white port at a bar, give this drink a try and see if it doesn’t become your cocktail of choice for the summer.
When everyone in our party finally arrived we headed into the dining room where an even more impressive panoramic view of the Hudson could be had, with large windows facing north, south and west. The dining room itself had a high ceiling with some of the roof beams visible, a bit of a nod to the industrial roots of this part of Yonkers. But enough about the dining room, I know you want to know about the food.
Peter X Kelly is a well respected chef who has stayed true to his Hudson Valley roots and X2O is clearly his flagship. He’s defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and was also recently featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. And now that I’ve tried X2O, I can definitely say the attention he’s garnered is well-earned as the food he is putting out is excellent. My friends told me to order for the table and so I did. And this is what happens when you let me do something like that:
See that dish floating in the upper left hand corner of the picture? The waiter was standing there trying to figure out where to place that dish and there was another waiter standing beside him with the same predicament. There were 22 appetizer plates in all. It is extraordinarily impressive that the kitchen managed to handle that order and produce all 22 plates to be served at the same time at the proper temperatures all on a busy Saturday night no less.
In this parade of superb dishes, a few things really stood out for me. The short rib and foie gras ravioli with truffle butter was as decadent as it sounds. A rather unexpected combination of big eye tuna sashimi wrapped around cold foie gras was not to everyone’s liking but those of us that did enjoy it, really loved it. Sure foie gras is always delicious, but there was something about the interplay of textures between the fish and the foie that really made the combo work. The sweetbreads app was delicious too, so perfectly crispy on the outside and melting on the inside that I don’t even remember what kind of sauce it was served with. The obligatory salad I ordered turned out to be amazing, featuring medallions of grilled octopus and slices of garlic sausage. But the star of the show for me was a crepe generously stuffed with lobster and served in a classic Sauce Americaine. I hadn’t had a sauce like that probably since the 80’s. It’s the sort of thing that harkens back to the hay days of haute cuisine. I’m glad that Peter Kelly is confident enough to serve such an old school dish without fear of it coming off as dated or pretentious. Stuff like that is classic for a reason, and I am proud to say I still love it. In fact I think I had a little bit of an Anton Ego flashback moment as I tasted it.
For entrees, the signature cowboy rib eye for two had a wonderful brown sugar and cayenne crust to it, but parts of it were a touch overcooked which I guess is hard to avoid with a big hunk of meat like that when you’re trying to make sure the center isn’t raw. But in my opinion, a better red meat entree was the saddle of lamb which was perfectly cooked and allowed to sing on its own merits- if there was a sauce, I didn’t notice because it certainly didn’t need it. But the best entree of all was a killer entree of Berkshire Black Hog. Mmmmm, delicious pork. But the side dishes also deserve special recognition at X2O. The brussel sprouts fried to a beautifully caramelized state were so addictive they tasted like they had to be bad for you. And then there’s the creamed spinach. Oh…my…god. This creamed spinach actually tasted like super fresh spinach. Yet it had the texture we’re all familiar with in creamed spinach. But none of that squeaky grittiness you sometimes get on the teeth from spinach. It was like tasting what creamed spinach was always meant to be. I have no idea how you can cook spinach down like that and still have it taste so green and alive. Twoin was particularly awed by it, saying he doesn’t know how many days he will be able to go without having that spinach again. I know you mean Towin, I know what you mean. But I’ll be having the lobster crepe too.