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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Brain trust (from left): Arielle Sous Chef Robert Kistner and Executive Chef Darek Tidwell in the downstairs dining room, which was extensively renovated to evoke the peaceful simplicity of a French country house
Unfortunately, four people can only eat so much. It was difficult to pass on the soup pistou — a thick vegetable soup flavored with garlic, basil, and olive oil — and the grilled sardines served with a warm shallot vinaigrette. But we were not disappointed with the choices we did make. The night’s special appetizer was Moroccan spiced salmon cakes. A well-blended mix of salmon, red and green pepper, onions and a house-made, cumin-based spice, the cakes were coated in a brioche-crumb-and-panko mix and sautéed. Served with fresh lemon, we could happily have made a meal of them. An appetizer of grilled octopus basquaise was just as described: tender, not-too-chewy pieces of octopus sautéed in olive oil with sweet red peppers and onions. The pâté de campagne was a well-made classic, a smooth mix of ground pork and fatback accompanied by cornichon, mustard, and crisp crostini. An unexpected delight was the crispy sautéed artichoke hearts with a lemon-caper yoghurt sauce. Who would have thought that a simple sauté in peanut oil would result in such a tasty, caramelized crunch?
Restaurant proprietor Nikola Rebraca also owns the Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg, the site of many weddings and formal celebrations. With Arielle, Rebraca returns to his restaurant roots, planted years ago in New York City where he owned and operated Panarella, an informal Italian restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “I missed everything a small restaurant has to offer,” he says. “This brings me back to my youth where we had a great time on Columbus Avenue. I wanted a menu that is simple, and I wanted to have a place where friends can come in and eat. This is like mixing business and pleasure.”
Arielle describes itself as a French/Mediterranean restaurant, although the menu has some Moroccan, Greek, and Italian flavors mixed in. The presentation was noteworthy: everything was a pleasure to look at without being overly fussy. Take the branzino, for example. A chef favorite because of its flaky, white flesh and relatively mild taste, the fish is boned in the kitchen, reassembled, and attractively served atop a mound of Tuscan beans with a tomato vinaigrette. Aficionados of duck confit won’t be disappointed, either. Luscious is the perfect word to describe the duck leg served with herb-laced gnocchi and a contrasting fall fruit compote. The pan-roasted salmon (yes, farm raised) was flavorful and accompanied by parsnip purée and tiny Brussels sprouts (which were roasted to a mouthwatering sweetness). But if forced to single out one entrée for special mention, it would be the Friday night seafood paella special. A combination of rice and an assortment of seafood (mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops, and cod), each component retained its unique texture and flavor, which was heightened by the saffron rice mounded in the center of the plate.
The house-made ile flottante (“floating island”) is a popular dessert
Desserts are made in-house, and although the list is small — just five selections — each of the three we tasted provided a satisfying finish to the meal. We sampled the warm apple tart tatin served with vanilla ice cream and ginger; an orange blossom scented cardamom crème brûlée; and an ile flottante, a poached meringue surrounded by creme anglaise. A menu rarity these days, the intermingling of soft meringue with rich custard made this last dish an especially happy finale.
Arielle offers great food in attractive surroundings. Dining out is not just about the food, however: enjoying an atmosphere of community is just as important. Sadly, that was missing the evening we were there. But if these folks pay the same attention to customer relations that they do to the menu, food lovers from near and far will likely head to Rhinebeck with increasing frequency.
Arielle: Lunch & dinner Tues.-Sun., Sun. brunch. Appetizers range from $7-$14, entrées $18-$32, desserts $6-$7.
51 E. Market St., Rhinebeck. 845-876-5666 or www.ariellerhinebeck.com