The Riverview Restaurant Review in Cold Spring: American Food and Dining in Putnam County
A family affair: A longtime Putnam County restaurant delights diners with affordable and inventive cuisine and scenic views
Creative comfort food — like this eggplant roulade, which is stuffed with ricotta and basil — takes center stage at a Cold Spring mainstay
Photographs by Teresa Horgan
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When I entered the main dining room of the Riverview Restaurant in Cold Spring, I immediately wondered why so many guests had their hands up in the air. It took me a few minutes to realize that people were actually greeting one another. And when my dining companions showed up, they too joined in the wave. After all, the pair of them explained, they have been devoted fans of owners Jim and Lori Eli since their own wedding 16 years ago. That day, a hurricane threatened their nuptials, which were held at another (now shuttered) beloved Cold Spring restaurant owned by the Elis. But Jim kicked into rescue mode, carrying the bride from the suite above the hall to her position at the windy altar — veil and gown intact. If this were a blog, I’m fairly sure that readers would be posting their own stories of above-and-beyond service by the Eli family.
There are “family restaurants,” and then there are great restaurants run by families. Riverview is the latter, staffed not only by all three children (Naomi 15, Natalie 22, Nick 23), but also by several “members-of-the-family” staffers who have worked with Jim since he opened the eatery in 1989. “We get lots of regulars from Cold Spring, but also lots of people who come in from the city and always make it a point to stop here,” says Jim. In fact, the key to the Riverview’s winning ways may just be the unique balance between the comfortable atmosphere and the masterful creativity of the menu.
The salmon fillet rests on a bed of rice and spinach, and is served with a butternut squash sauce
For instance, instead of mashed potatoes and meat loaf, many opt for the Tuna Poke (pronounced POH-kay). A favorite for more than 10 years, it is a traditional Hawaiian comfort food side dish. The word poke means “cut piece,” and the dish is the Indonesian version of Japanese sashimi. Jim serves it both as an appetizer and a main dish. “It’s easy to miss the mark with a dish like this because the flavors and textures are so specific, one could possibly override another,” he says. “We use avocados and mangos that are at the right stage of ripeness. We pick the best quality tuna. And the soy vinaigrette has to be just right, and served with the perfect seaweed salad — not too soft or firm.”
We sampled the high quality of the tuna in both the ceviche tacos and the yellowfin sashimi appetizer. Though the sashimi was served with a fine sauce, our waiter brought a second option that Chef Fernando Sinchi was experimenting with, asking, “Could you tell me what you think of this with the tuna?” Sinchi started as a dishwasher with the Riverview 16 years ago, learned from Jim, and now runs the kitchen. “We start with what’s in season,” says Jim. “But we also listen to the guests. We don’t dictate the trends, they do. Lately they’re asking for a lot of items from our past, like the peanut soup. The rest of the requests are evenly split between traditional comfort foods and more healthy options.”
Jim says that other popular dishes include the roast beef, the Berkshire pork chops and, in winter, the cassoulet. Fish stew is also a menu mainstay. Jim’s composition is Thai-influenced, created in a light lemongrass broth, with scallops, shrimp, cod, and vegetables — “but it doesn’t have the rich creaminess and intense curry of the original Thai version,” he says. Like all their recipes, this one started as an experiment and was perfected over time.
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