Elegant and innovative cuisine just a few minutes over the border
This New American, farm-driven restaurant run by alums of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe has been generating buzz in Westchester since it opened more than a year ago. More recently, Greenwich foodies have been crossing the border into Armonk, and dishing about the locavore outpost that’s worth the drive. After all, what’s a few miles in exchange for a fab meal? But don’t just cruise up Riversville Road on a whim. Reservations are required and not easy to come by; call Tuesday for Friday night, as I did, and you may be out of luck or forced to pick between dubious times of 5 and 9:30 pm.
We opted for the later table but arrived an hour early to have appetizers and drinks at the bar before sitting down for dinner. The setting at North is simple but sophisticated with a white marble bar, dark wood accents, white table linens, and waitstaff donning black-and-white checked shirts. The crowd? Dense and well dressed, with a whiff of “we just moved up from the city.” From behind the bar, a welcoming, chatty crew poured us beer from the local Captain Lawrence Brewing Company and steered us toward appetizers for sharing.
At their recommendation, we split a wild mushroom flatbread and a striped bass belly crudo. This hearty, generously sized flatbread is layered with arugula, truffled ricotta, and a trace of salume as well as the trio of mushrooms (shiitake, maitake and oyster from Madura Farms) that impart an earthy, nutty flavor. We savored each bite. The raw striped bass is superfresh tasting in a light mustard sauce along with pickled tomatillo, baby turnips and crisp julienned apple. Before our meal had even started we had a hint of what the North mojo is all about: Chef Eric Gabrynowicz’s nuanced dishes reflect careful attention to balancing textures and flavors. His farm-fresh cuisine is inventive but, like the restaurant itself, not at all pretentious or stuffy.
Though time passed quickly as we waited for our late reservation—good conversation and warm pumpernickel rolls with apple-infused butter kept us well sated—the hour arrived and we still weren’t seated. The hostess apologized, letting us know that our table would be ready in a moment. That moment turned into a full thirty-five minutes, but ultimately we were escorted to the quieter (though full) upstairs dining room, which is a bright, high-ceilinged space where we gladly stretched out at a large corner table.
The interior of Restaurant North in Armonk, NY
From that moment on, our experience was nearly flawless. It was easy to choose from the well-edited menu, which changes depending on the ingredients available from local farms and purveyors. While our mains were being prepared, we ordered two more small plates—a harvest salad and foie gras. Then, the appetizers multiplied: Because of our wait, we were also presented with a beef carpaccio and tuna tartare compliments of the house. The lush tuna dish emphasizes the big ruby-colored pieces of fish on a bed of radishes and avocado and is served with wontons; it was an instant favorite. A divine beef carpaccio from Creekstone Farms (a good value at $13) came dressed with a bit of mustard and hollandaise vinaigrette, dotted with fried capers—little bursts of salty flavor—and paired with shoestring potatoes. The harvest salad of arugula in sherry vinegar with a hazelnut-crusted egg won me over with the surprising addition of roasted brussels sprouts. Among the “foie gras two ways,” I preferred the “peanut butter and jelly” (paired with chopped peanuts and a rhubarb jam) to the smoked torchon, which seemed salty.
Just as we were feeling dazzled by the food, co-owner and wine pro Stephen Paul Mancini stopped by our table to apologize for the wait, talk pinot noir and generally see that we were happy. Later in the meal, the chef also came out from the kitchen to say hello. When any one in our party left the table for a moment, a waiter whipped the abandoned napkin into a folded state in the blink of an eye. Every staff member was cheerful and extremely polite. The restaurant’s website quotes organic farmer Guy Jones: “Don’t buy food from strangers.” Yet North’s motto could easily be “Don’t serve food to strangers,” because everyone made such an effort to ensure that we were enjoying ourselves. Our meal continued with creative entrées. I liked the venison loin that my husband ordered the best. Not a hint of gaminess, the meat was served with smoked potato hash and hollandaise laced with sriracha (Thai chile sauce), an unusual but successful combination. A tender piece of swordfish was topped with a pepper purée and partnered with broccoli and sweet and sour onions. The decadent steak strip au poivre was accompanied by a house-made boursin and a terrific potato cake. I was crazy about the hazelnut-pear risotto, the lightly sweet fruit as a counterpoint to the parmigiano reggiano.
Is it possible to consider dessert after such an embarrassment of riches? If you’re game, there are homemade “skillet” cookies (chocolate chip, fudge, snickerdoodle) embellished with ice cream as well as a panna cotta, pear cobbler, carmelized pear upside-down cake and pumpkin bread pudding. Our check came tucked inside Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms—a clever finishing touch—and we were handed house-made apple crumb muffins in a paper bag to bring home for breakfast. What a way to be sure that this place will still be top of mind the next morning. After experiencing this restaurant’s blend of exceptional food and hospitality, I advise with confidence: Go North. But go early.
386 Main Street,
Lunch: Tues.–Fri., 12 pm–2:30 pm
Dinner: Tues.–Thurs., 5 pm–9:30 pm
Fri & Sat., 5 pm–10:30 pm
Brunch: Sat., 11:30 am – 2:30 pm