Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tarry Lodge: Mmm Mmm Good.

Did you ever have a meal that just made you happy?

My mom and I were both extraordinarily happy after an impromptu lunch at Tarry Lodge last Friday. Our server Dan told us we were downright giddy. But that’s what happens when the planets align, and you get something better than what you had originally planned.

You see, my mom and I had taken the same day off, partly to take advantage of the last of New York City Restaurant Week (extended until the end of February). Our plan involved lunch at Café Boulud, and later in the day, snacks and goodies at Momofuku Milk Bar.

The weather had other plans. The thermometer registered 12 degrees Friday morning. I opened an email from my mom.

“We’re going to freeze our asses off,” she wrote.

That’s how we instead found ourselves at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s hopping new Italian Trattoria, Tarry Lodge, opened in October 2008 in the heart of Port Chester. We called ahead and yes, the hostess assured us, as long as we were willing to wait until 2:00 p.m., they did indeed have a table that very day.

We arrived promptly at 2:00 p.m. My first impression was that the restaurant seemed to be winding down—I don’t know if it was necessary to make us wait so late in the day; the downstairs was quiet, and the second floor was almost empty. Nevertheless, it looked rustic and comfortable, and we were happy to be there.

On to the deliciousness!

First up, our friendly and knowledgeable server Dan appeared with complimentary focaccia bread and lightly seasoned olives: very good.
Here’s our antipasti:

Farro with pomegranate and mint: $5

Shrimp with grapefruit: $8
Tarry Lodge’s antipasti dishes are updated regularly. For instance, if you look at the online menu, farro is currently paired with charred corn, and the shrimp is served with pickled watermelon. I say thumbs up for keeping the menu seasonal and using what’s fresh, but what a tragic shame that I can’t go back to Tarry Lodge and order both of those antipasti plates exactly as they were served that day. I mean, what a mind-blowing way to start our meal.

It might not look like much, but the shrimp were perfectly cooked, with a grilled, smoky flavor and a slight kick. The grapefruit kept the dish refreshing and zesty, and the shaved fennel root added a slight crisp (the fennel root has a very neutral flavor; stalks are what give off that licorice taste). What else was in there? Not much; perhaps some olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. The complexity was in knowing how to balance the flavors and let the ingredients shine. The farro was prepared simply as well: it was served room temperature, and had a hearty snap, with pomegranate rubies sending little splashes of sweetness to our tongues.

Our antipasti was going to be a tough act to follow. “Don’t worry,” Dan assured us. “The best is yet to come.”

Indeed, Dan. Indeed!

BEHOLD, the guanciale, black truffle, and sunny side egg pizza!!! ($14)
This pizza was every bit as sinful and decadent and preposterously delicious as it looks… and then some. The first bite was heaven. The crust was thin and crisp with a slight char, while the top was this soft, milky richness. The guanciale, essentially an unsmoked Italian bacon (it’s made by drying pig jowl meal for three weeks), added sweet fullness, the truffles added earthiness, and the sunny side egg, well…

“No, no, no,” Dan said, shaking his head, feigning exasperation. “You gotta really work that egg in there!” He took a spoon and began spreading the yolk aggressively around the pizza. He surveyed his handiwork, satisfied.

Rest assured, this pizza was just all sorts of crazy, crazy ludicrous deliciousness. Go ahead and order it for yourself. You’ll see.

Pumpkin and sage ravioli in brown butter accompanied our pizza: $15
Dan mentioned that some pastas on the menu are homemade, while others aren’t, so it’s prudent to ask before ordering (who wants to come to a Batali and Bastianich restaurant and order pasta that isn’t homemade?)

The ravioli--one of the homemades--was a fine choice. The pumpkin was sweet and rich, and the sage had a soothing, calming effect on a cold day. Wonderful flavors, but I don’t know if it could compare to the pizza… I don’t know if anything could, really.

My mom and I were both full beyond belief when Dan floated the dessert question, but I was curious if Tarry Lodge could pitch us a perfect game. I asked for the pannacotta with grapefruit sorbet, and even though they had just run out, Dan went into the kitchen to see if he could rustle one up (Escoffier, take note!). Meanwhile my mom, who had just proclaimed to Dan how full she was, waited until he was clear across the dining room before she bested her inner demons and shouted that she would in fact like a flourless chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream and blood oranges.

A wise choice. Look at these bad boys!
“This is a very good restaurant,” my mom murmured completely unnecessarily, as she ate her chocolate cake.

Yes, that chocolate cake, hands down, was the best I’ve ever tasted. I don't say that lightly. It was the BEST. Similar to a soufflĂ©, with an almost pure chocolate goo core and a slightly crisp crust—this dessert soared. The pistachio ice cream was also perfection.

My pannacotta was paired with grapefruit sorbet and candied fennel root. While the grapefruit/fennel combination worked well in our earlier shrimp dish, it did nothing to compliment the pannacotta, which was extraordinary all on its own.

Guess what, guys? There is a new restaurant in town—a place that understands what it takes to make people happy. It’s affordable, it’s creative, it’s comfortable—I simply cannot wait to return!

Tarry Lodge
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
(914) 939-3111


  1. Tarry Lodge made me and my tummy very happy. And your pictures are making me very hungry.

  2. I took my boyfriend, Scott to the Tarry Lodge recently to celebrate what an amazing boyfriend he is! Your blog was right on. Scott and I loved this restaurant and definitely want to go back sometime soon. Your description of the chocolate cake was perfect. It was truly the best thing that I ever had in my entire life. The outside was slightly crispy and the inside was soft and delicious. I do recommend anyone that likes chocolate cake to save room for this one, it is a must! Thanks Sharon, you blog is the best!!! If I am ever looking for someplace new to try I always check out your blog first.