A man walks into a restaurant and orders Arctic Char (stop me if you’ve heard this one).
Arctic Char arrives.
Man looks at it, a confused expression on his face. Then..
“What part of this is ‘char’?”
“You didn’t know you were ordering fish?” Dining Companion #1 asks, surprised.
Man looks slightly embarrassed. “I dunno; the ‘char’ threw me off. I thought it would be meat.” Then, more under his breath: “[Bleeping] fish.”
“Fair enough,” says Dining Companion #1. “But what part of ‘Artic’ made you think you were going to get a steak? What were you hoping for? Polar Bear?”
“Polar bear is endangered,” says Dining Companion #2.
That’s pretty much how our dinner went down at Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville on Friday evening. My feisty dinner companions for the evening were: Todd (aka “Man”), Bill (aka “Dining Companion #1), Lori (aka Dining Companion #2), and Dad and myself (the laugh track).
It was our first visit to Iron Horse, and a last-minute Restaurant Week addition. The restaurant has an intimate vibe and a turn of the century feel, a place where you’d expect to see a man holding his monocle saying, “Quite right, quite right” to no one in particular. Making the rounds that evening was head chef and owner Philip McGrath, seating guests, jotting down orders, and even hanging coats. He exuded confidence, ease and friendliness, and made our party feel comfortable and special simultaneously.
Our meal, while perfectly decent, didn’t do justice to the restaurant’s reputation, which is extremely well-regarded. We chalked it up to Hudson Valley Restaurant Week syndrome, a disorder I experienced in abundance last year, but which I was hoping to cheat this time around after a solid, near perfect, first start. Sadly, Iron Horse didn’t deliver the night of our visit, but a few parts of our meal hinted at the greatness that may exist the rest of the year.
For appetizers, there was Ricotta Stuffed Rigatoni, with parsley sun-dried tomato pesto and pancetta:
The rigatoni were cooked well, and had an almost doughy quality. My only disappointment was that the sauce seemed a bit common.
Here’s a look at the wild mushroom soup (I forgot to make note of the formal description; something about a cappucino):
This is the dish that hinted at Iron Horse’s potential. There were layers upon layers of flavors and earthiness. Elegant and tasty.
For dinner, there was the aforementioned Star Anise Arctic Char with stir fried edamame and crisp rice noodles:
Once Todd got over the fact that his Char was not a steak, he admitted his dish was seasoned well (the star anise glaze was tangy and syrupy), and the noodles added a delightful crunch to the velvetiness of the fish. I stole a few bites and found it pleasing. It just wasn’t knocking socks off.
Here’s my dish, the Captain Lawrence Glazed Short Rib of Beef, with Saffron-Vegetable Risotto:
I enjoyed the flavors, but this tasted more like a beef stew. A little texture on the plate would’ve gone a long way; everything was so soft. I was also hoping for more innovation and punch. …as well as more food. (The portion was tiny.)
Here’s Bill and Lori’s dish, the Confit of Hudson Valley Duck, with Black Bean Chorizo Cassoulet:
This dish looked amazing, but duck was tough and little bland. The cassoulet had some interesting things going on. (I should mention that Lori liked her dish; and told me I was being a total hard-ass the entire night.)
And dessert. First, the Coconut Sorbet, with Pina Colada Pineapple, Lemon “Langue du Chat”:
This dish should’ve been a homerun for me (I love all the ingredients); yet something about it was overkill. Maybe it was the coconut shavings on top of the sorbet, which added unnecessary texture.
Finally, there was the Grand Marnier tart (again, my apologies: I forgot to jot down the formal description). There was raspberry sauce, and … I do believe, “masticated orange slices?” Is that a real thing? I was half-expecting a plate full of chewed-up oranges.
Regardless, my dad loved this dish. The rest of our table? Meh. I would’ve liked a firmer, thicker crust on the tart, but I preferred it to the coconut sorbet.
All in all, my descriptions may come off as harsh for a restaurant as highly-esteemed as Iron Horse Grill, but they’re accurate for the level of food we sampled that night. A shame, because the soup, the personable service, and the lovely atmosphere hint at so much more. Maybe we’ll try it again soon now that Restaurant Week is over.
Iron Horse Grill
20 Wheeler Avenue
Pleasantville, NY 10570