Magic on Market Street
French favorites — spiced up with the flavors of the Mediterranean — await diners at Rhinebeck’s newest brasserie
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It was not an auspicious beginning.
A week before our Friday night dinner, our party of four made a reservation at Arielle, the most recent addition to Rhinebeck’s thriving restaurant community, which opened last summer in a late 1800s storefront building on Market Street. My husband and I arrived first and were immediately offered a table for two. “No,” I said. “We have a reservation and are waiting for another couple.”
There was no acknowledgment, no quick glance at the reservation book for confirmation, and no effort to push two small tables together. Instead, we were offered seats at a communal table in the center of the dining room. When we demurred, we were escorted upstairs and seated in an empty room. There we waited for our companions.
Mind you, if you have to wait, this is a great place to do it; the room is decorated with such care that it deserves more than just a casual mention. It reminded me of a Louis XIV-era bordello, although our friends later likened it more to a seraglio. Why they are so familiar with the details of a harem, I don’t know (although it did provide for some lively dinner conversation). But I do know that the French toile-covered banquettes, the deep plum-painted walls which highlight the colors of the stained glass windows, the black marble-topped tables and soft lighting, all make for a comfortable, attractive, and yes, subtly seductive room. Noise level? Obviously, I can’t report on that since our party remained alone in the upstairs room for the entire evening.
Once we started eating, however, it was clear that any unhappiness we had experienced with the front of the house did not extend to the back of the house. Executive Chef Darek Tidwell, a March 2008 Culinary Institute graduate, performs splendidly. Our waiter was also knowledgeable and efficient, with just the right balance of friendliness and formality. And despite the fact that he had to run up and down stairs and probably was serving tables on the main floor as well, he seemed always to be right there when we needed him.
The menu is a single thick page with separate sections devoted to appetizers, entrées, plates (a variety of pastas), steaks (from steak frites to a cote de boeuf for two), and daily specials (such as grilled calves’ liver with onions and balsamic vinegar on Tuesdays, and braised short ribs with soft herb polenta on Saturdays). Arielle also lists vegetables and other side dishes separately (following the footsteps of a growing number of restaurants in this cost-conscious climate).
At first glance, the wine list seemed a little too cute, with wines categorized by price as “pretty good” ($32), “very good” ($46), and “exceptional” (priced by the bottle). On second thought, though, it is an easy, user-friendly, and effective way to make your pick. We chose a Cote du Rhone Blanc “Les Trois Chemins” 2005 from the “pretty good” list; it was such an excellent value, we ordered a second bottle.