Restaurant Review: Restaurant
Despite its bland name, Restaurant in Columbia delivers lots of flavor.
To the Point
Restaurant’s straightforward name hints at the winning simplicity of the rustic fare served up inside
By Bernadette Vail
Whether looking for adventure or stealing a few hours away from the kids, I’ve often found myself driving north on Route 9G. The road, which winds through Dutchess County before crossing into Columbia, passes by lots of enticing attractions. I’ve discovered the lively hamlet of Tivoli, toured the beautiful gardens at Clermont State Park, and visited Frederic Church’s Olana, to name just a few of my favorite finds. On these travels, I’ve often ridden through the sleepy main drag of Germantown without giving a thought to stopping. That, I am happy to report, is no longer the case.
I’ll gladly find my way back for the delicious, warm fig pancake with Parma prosciutto and aged Asiago ($9.95) served at Restaurant, an eatery located just off the Columbia County village’s Main Street. The salty ham and nutty cheese perfectly complimented the earthy pancake, sweetened by figs and aromatic spices. Another enticement that’s certainly worth a detour is the Bucatini Pomodoro with Veal Meatballs ($12.95) — but more about that later.
At Restaurant, chef/owner Marisa Scali, a CIA graduate, is serving simple, rustic food in a comfortable, congenial setting. She revamped an old deli, imported a wood oven from Italy, and opened for business in May 2005. The night we were there, the airy dining room was suffused with early evening light, casting a warm glow over the entire room. Cozily ensconced at our table, we sat looking over the menu, nibbling on bread served with a spicy mixture of olives, pearl onions, and garlic slivers.
The servers, though affable, seemed inexperienced and could use a bit more polish. We sat patiently as our waitress struggled to open a bottle of 2004 Pinot Nero Bianco “Gugiarolo,” Lombardy, Italy ($28.00). But the crisp, ash flavored wine chosen from the small, moderately priced list was worth the wait, and we happily started our meal.
In addition to the wonderful pancake appetizer, we chose a satisfying, fresh arugula salad dressed with olive oil and lemon and topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano ($7.95). Shrimp, garlic, and white beans from the wood oven ($9.95) were served in an earthenware gratin dish. The flavorful shrimp sat atop a generous helping of beans, which were lightly tossed with olive oil and sage and had a subtle hint of garlic. The understated but flavorful ingredients made this a dish of winsome simplicity. Baked clams oreganata ($10.95) were also straightforward, but they seemed to have lingered a bit too long in the oven; the breadcrumb topping was overly crisp and browned.
We chose one main course from each of the three menu categories: individual pizzas, pastas, or meat and fish. The white pizza with broccoli rabe ($10.95) was delicious. Dollops of ricotta were interlaced with fresh broccoli rabe on the thinnest, crispiest pizza crust. The grilled wild salmon with horseradish sauce and cucumber ($19.95) was a well-thought-out treat. The crisply grilled yet still rare salmon worked nicely with a robust barley and grilled vegetable salad, the barley studded with grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and tomatoes. Sweetly pickled cucumbers lent a cool freshness to the plate. Our only regret was that there wasn’t more of the horseradish sauce.
The Bucatini Pomodoro mentioned earlier was as good a comfort food as you’ll find. The rich, slightly sweet sauce, dotted with flavorful mini meatballs and studded with slivers of basil, seemed to come straight from Nonna’s kitchen. Originally put on the menu for children of the chef’s visiting friends, it has now become a staple of enamored adult customers.
This enjoyable meal ended with two delicious desserts. A rich, dense chocolate ganache-like tart would have been wonderful on its own, but topped with thinly sliced pieces of chocolate with ribbons of toffee, and finished with Honey Earl Grey Anglaise, it was over the top. Restaurant’s version of strawberry-rhubarb shortcake, equally enjoyable, was comprised of a biscuit-like cake with layers of sweet strawberries and a velvety Champagne sabayon sauce.
From the food to the ambience, there is a beguiling simplicity to Restaurant. Nothing is overstated, but everything is satisfying.