Communal Kitchen, Nyack
Forget extravagant menus and desserts; this chef gives the people what they want
Photographs by Roy Gumpel
After three-and-a-half decades of working in Manhattan hotel kitchens as executive chef, beverage director, and sundry other corporate titles, Jed Gidaly had had enough. Last June, with his wife, April, the veteran chef opened Communal Kitchen in Nyack with the simple goal of offering really good, accessible food in a social setting.
“We wanted to open the kind of place you could go on a Wednesday night, but could never find — a local, neighborhood restaurant that takes everything seriously but itself,” says Gidaly. “Maybe it can be a little loud and boisterous, but that is what the place is all about. I wasn’t looking for it to be a bastion of fine dining.”
Too late. Despite the chef’s refreshing humility, this place really is a cut above. For starters, go for the butcher’s platters and the artisanal cheese board ($15-$28). “It’s a great sharing item,” says Gidaly, noting that it’s what chefs usually eat after a long day in the kitchen. It’s also a favorite for people who have to eat and run. They can just take a seat at the bar with a glass of wine and munch.
The menu continues to evolve, but it’s purely customer-driven. “Nyack is a pretty big vegetarian town,” says the chef, “so I really have had to devote myself.” Crispy Brussels sprouts made with Thai chili caramel is a hot ticket. (“I’m not exaggerating when I say that every other table orders it,” he claims.) Fried cauliflower with yogurt tahini sauce and pomegranate molasses is also wildly popular. And Gidaly’s roasted rainbow carrot dish, served with whipped Feta cheese and local buckwheat honey, has been likened to dessert. (Small vegetable plates range from $10 to $15.)
Meat makes an appearance, too: Root beer-glazed lamb ribs are served with roasted Japanese eggplant; pork belly with miso and kimchi is another menu staple (both are $16). Hyper-seasonal blackboard specials, priced around $24, keep the menu lively and fresh. Fish usually appears, perhaps pan-seared branzino with purple Thai rice, asparagus, and coconut clam sauce. Meat-and-potatoes people get their fix with dishes like steak frites with mustard greens. Expect surprise appearances of more exotic fare, too, such as okonomiyaki, Japanese savory pancakes served with noodles, cabbage, and shrimp. One thing you’ll never see on the menu: crab cakes. Instead, look for lobster cod cakes with succotash and romesco, a nutty, peppery sauce ($25).
Desserts are homemade affairs: simple cobblers and crisps, nothing that requires the services of a pastry chef, which would needlessly drive up the price (dessert prices are around $8). Look for butterscotch crème brûlée with a fun caramel popcorn topping, or warm little chocolate cakes with peanut butter ganache centers.
The 50-seat spot took over a former restaurant location. “We tweaked a dark space and brightened it up,” says Gidaly. During the renovation, his team built a wine rack in the dining room that holds some 300 bottles. “Wine has always been a hobby of mine,” says the chef. “I wanted to make a big statement.” Everything on the list is sold by the glass (around $8-$12) or bottle, thanks to the restaurant’s wine preservation system for everything that’s uncorked. As the seasons change, the entire front wall of windows opens up, so diners have the sensation of eating outdoors without having passing pooches nab their bread.
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