Monday, January 5, 2009

X20 Xaviar's on the Hudson: Sorry, Peter Kelly

Had my second visit to X20 Xaviar’s on the Hudson last Saturday night. Our party arrived at 6:30, when the restaurant was still a bit quiet. We had just begun to peruse the menu, when what do you know, Chef Peter Kelly appeared at our table. He greeted us ever-so-quietly and thanked us for coming, wearing a shy smile, and never mentioning his name, only professing his hope that we would enjoy our meal. My friends thanked him, and Chef began to turn away. I was dumbfounded.

“Guys,” I said. “That’s Peter Kelly!”

Chef turned around slightly, a bit startled.

“You, know – the one who beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America!”

Chef gave another small smile, uncomfortable with the attention. “…So, please,” he tried again. “Enjoy your night.”

With that, he turned away for good, leaving me to four incredulous stares. “You dumbass,” my friend whispered.

“Well at least I played it cool,” I said, indignant.

What can I say? When X20 Xaviar’s on the Hudson opened last year, it was the talk of the town. The majestic glass restaurant looks as if it is floating on the Hudson River, with spectacular views of the Tappan Zee Bridge to the North. At night, it is the festive and warm landmark of the near forgotten, now re-booted Yonkers Municipal Pier. As the restaurant neared its opening, Kelly adorned covers of magazines, found himself on TV, but never broke the cardinal rule—he never forgot how to cook after becoming a celebrity chef.

My first visit took place during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week: Summer 2008. The meal was absolutely lovely, although I remember scratching my head when seeing how similar my chicken dish looked and tasted to my companion’s pork dish. There were only three options for entrees, and I thought it odd to go with two such similar dishes. Maybe that’s why it took so long to find my way back to X20.

Last Saturday, however, I had the whole menu to choose from. I ordered:


Ravioli with Short Ribs and Foie Gras in Truffle Butter
Grated Amoretti and Broccoli Rabe: $14.50


Ahi Tuna Served Rare with Puffed Rice and Dried Seaweed
Yuzu Butter & Caramelized Soy, Chinese Broccoli & Baby Bok Choy: $ 32.00

I also sampled some of my friend’s Red Velvet Cake for dessert. I’m not sure if this was included in the bill or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was complimentary. The service was just so thoughtful. “Happy Birthday” had elegantly been written on the plate, and when I had called earlier to make reservations, the hostess made it a point to ask if dinner was a special occasion (It was my friend’s 30th birthday). The host, God bless him, even tried to sing “Happy Birthday” to my friend in a whisper. We weren’t sure whether to join in or not, because you know, the place is just so classy, that the poor guy whispered the whole song all by himself.

My friends were delighted with their meals, but for me, it was a night of 'Bests.' The ravioli was absolutely wonderful. The short ribs were so tender and juicy-- the added sweetness from the foie gras, mixed with the decadence of truffle butter, all packed into homemade pasta—it was out of this world. And I couldn’t believe how generous the portion was.

As for the Ahi tuna… I have never had tuna as fresh or as well-cooked as this dish. The rare-side couldn’t possibly match any sushi restaurant, while the searing was top-notch. And the texture from the puffed rice…. At first, I thought the crumbly topping was a medley of crushed nuts, but they were just too light – that’s when I realized that was the puffed rice. Go to X20, if not only for the Ahi tuna.

And stay for Red Velvet Cake. I’m not really a cake person, but my friend convinced my to try a bite. I ended up eating half the slice. It was just so rich and moist—I went from skeptical, to really adoring it. One of our servers later mentioned it is one of their most popular desserts.

Be prepared to valet your car ($3), as the surrounding area is still a little rough, and parking is hard to find.

x20 Xaviar's on the Hudson
71 Water Grant St.
Yonkers, NY


  1. Mr. Kelly greeted us as we began to experience that which you described so accurately. I didn't react quite the same way you did as he approached our table, but I thought of your fun interlude with the chef as I calmly smiled. The food was art and every bite was sensational. By the time we left (around 8.30pm), the place was packed with people. We had a great time and enjoyed our meals tremendously. Thanks for painting the picture!

  2. So interesting to read this because my husband and I trekked down to Yonkers on a snowy Wednesday in mid-January and had a not nearly as so enjoyable dinner there.

    Other than Peter Kelly visiting our table, which impressed us, nothing seemed worthy of all the great press this restaurant gets.

    If it was only the food that was "just okay" I would've written it off as an off night (maybe because of the bad weather??) but it was more than just the food that was shoddy. Examples: the flimsy paper doily that was under my appetizer plate (felt like what I'd expect at Red Lobster), an undrinkable X20 Margarita that sat on the table untouched after the first sip without one waiter bothering to ask if it was okay, and the toilet paper holder in the lady's room that still had the plastic from the price tag hanging off it it.

    I'm glad to hear that others enjoy what seems like a much different experience than we had (no paper doily in your photos!), still it's unlikely that I'd go back again.

  3. Went to my cousin's 70th anniversary party (Rose and Ralph Hittman) on Jan, 2nd. The food was great and the room and view were amazing. I ordered the skirt steak which was probably the best tasting piece of meat i ever had.

  4. It is my view that discerning patrons play an active rather than passive role in creating the quality of a positive dining experience. At one extreme, if service is inattentive, for instance, I, for one, will get up, find the waiter, smile, press an advance tip discreetly in his palm, and whisper that we need more of his attention; it works unfailingly for the rest of the evening and beyond. That solves the lonely Margarita problem. As for a shred of plastic on a tissue roller, which seems minimally offensive, I would focus on the quality of the ambiance, the view, the character of the staff, and, above all, the
    nature, quality and presentation of the chosen menu items.