10 Can't Miss Dishes
(page 10 of 10)
Venison with Juniper Crust
“People want a little luxury in their lives,” declares Peter Kelly, who set out to provide some at his tiny, near-perfect restaurant in Piermont. Describing the appointments is an exercise in name-dropping: The show plate is Versace; the candelabra is Waterford; the salt and peppers are from Cartier. “And there’s a Baccarat figurine on each table — the touches you don’t run into in everyday dining,” says Kelly.
His New American menu reflects the same idea, offering fare that makes you think of butlers and fine country homes: squab, quail, partridge, pheasant, venison. Kelly adds contemporary flourishes to classic preparations, but don’t expect a lot of voguish, experimental cooking. “People go out to have a good time; they don’t want to genuflect at the altar of gastronomy,” he says. No genuflecting perhaps, but critics and customers have been singing his praises since he opened in 1987 — and Xaviars has been the top-rated restaurant in the Valley for years.
Kelly’s red-tail venison (farm-raised, so it’s mild) is cut into noisettes or medallions, then coated with a thin crust of toasted, pulverized juniper and dried ginger, which gives a “hint of the exotic on the outside,” he says. It’s pan-seared, then roasted, and served with a classic sauce Grand Veneur, sweet potato mousseline, roasted chestnuts, and späetzle.
Or perhaps you’d rather have Colorado rack of lamb with garlic flan, haricots verts and Parisienne potato. Or Berkshire pork medallions and braised fresh bacon, served with Swiss chard. For dessert, there may be a warm honey and fig tart with crème frâiche ice cream. Or maybe you’d prefer a hot praline soufflé?
“I tried to emulate the fine dining venues in the countryside in Europe,” says Kelly, who grew up in Yonkers, the tenth of 12 children, and was evidently born with good taste if not much money.
For all its fineness, though, there’s nothing stuck up about Xaviars — the mood is welcoming and the staff gracious. As Kelly intended, it’s a haven from a harsh world. It’s a little pricey (the 10-course Extraordinaire tasting menu is $90; the five-course Menu of the Moment with wines is $100 — or you can wing it and go à la carte), “but I think it’s good value,” Kelly says. “It’s more than just having dinner. You don’t eat here and go to a movie. This is the evening.”