1654 Route 212, Saugerties,
(845) 679-1223. Serving dinner Mon-Thu 5-10, Fri-Sat 5-10:30,
Sun 5-9. Sunday brunch 11-3. AE, MC, V.
Entrée price range: $8.50 (burger) to $22 (lamb
Ambience: Earth-toned elegance
Clientele: Shrewd foodies
want this to be a community restaurant,” says Kevin Katz,
chef-owner of the Red Onion. “You can come in here for a burger
after you’ve been out hiking. It doesn’t have to be just a
place to go for your anniversary dinner.”
It’s not, literally, a white-linen restaurant, but that’s
only because there’s no linen on the tables. Otherwise, the
food and service are what you’d expect from a top-flight eatery,
but the Red Onion (on Route 212 in Saugerties, near Woodstock)
makes no pretense of excessive formality.
It’s a modest looking old house on the outside, pleasantly
blending with its rustic surroundings; on the inside is a
thoughtful design approach. Sponge-painted walls in a warm
earth tone—Pompeii Orange, it’s called—add a welcoming feel,
as do the colors at the bar.
They take drinking seriously here, which means there’s some
fun to be had. Along with a well-chosen wine list are any
number of more spirited libations, many of them served in
oversized martini glasses.
Front-of-house operations are under the aegis of Tim Alles,
who has traded the chaos of running seven restaurants at Harrah’s
Casino Hotel in Atlantic City for the relative quiet of the
Catskills. The staff is so well-trained that the operations
seem transparent: Servers are attentive and knowledgeable,
pleasant and unobtrusive. The sense of well-being this imparts,
combined with the stunning food, is what dining out is all
menu has a broad focus,” says Katz, whose recent offerings
typically include a half-dozen starters, a few salads and
eight or so entrées. A daily menu of specials also is offered.
Back in December, those specials included a superb serving
of calf’s liver ($18), with red onions caramelized in Balsamic
vinegar as well as the traditional bacon topping; old-fashioned
mashed potatoes and crunchy green beans gave it that comfort-food
appeal without sacrificing any of the flavors these ingredients
offer at their freshest.
The potatoes were reimagined slightly as accompaniment to
grilled escalare ($20); in keeping with the more subtle
flavor of the fish, a heartier mix of garlic and olive oil
informed the dish, with escarole and roasted peppers also
garnishing the plate.
Skillet-roasted mussels ($8.50) emerge on a griddle and bear
the flavor of their skirmish with that skillet, but another
preparation was offered more recently, pairing a bowl of steamed
mussels with a coconut-milk-based Thai green curry sauce ($9.50).
The balance between that and the component chili peppers and
lime juice was sweet and superb, with just the right amount
of cilantro to truly exoticize the flavors.
A picture of batter-coated bar food crossed my mind while
contemplating an appetizer listing of fried baby artichokes,
but they’re deep-fried without any such coating, crisping
the leaves and making them an ideal vehicle for the accompanying
aioli. And even as simple seeming a dish as guacamole ($7)
benefits from being absolutely fresh, with a side of tortilla
chips fried in-house.
At $8.50, the burger is a bargain. I know this burger from
visiting the Red Dot in Hudson, where Katz was chef just prior
to opening the Red Onion exactly one year ago. Which means
the accompanying fries also set a standard.
But I was deflected by an entrée of seared rare tuna over
a roasted Vidalia onion purée ($21). The purée is chutney-like,
a powerful confluence of sweet and sour to tug at the more
cautious flavor of the tuna, itself a beautiful hunk of fish
that quickly segued from a crisp crust and a thin layer of
opaque white into the rich red of the raw center. A sweet
red-pepper coriander sauce completes the flavors.
Part of the talent of successfully bringing together such
disparate flavors is innate; the rest is experience. Katz
began his restaurant career in Woodstock at the Bear Café,
and went on to work at Le Pavillon in Washington, D.C., and
then to some of San Francisco’s more innovative places. The
return to the Woodstock area, then, is a homecoming for him.
Perhaps that’s why it feels so welcoming. A simple entrée
like roasted chicken ($17) manages to be both accessible,
an important aspect of that welcome, and surprising. The meat
itself, from Stone Church Farms, is unlike the store-bought
stuff. Flavor is more concentrated, and thus suits the roasted-corn
and shiitake-mushroom ragout that accompanies it.
A vegetable curry ($13), one of several available vegetarian
dishes, mixed broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and zucchini
in a light sauce over basmati rice, with a concentration of
spices that would seem pallid were it not for the fact that
it gave the vegetables themselves a chance to speak.
It should be no surprise that ice cream and sherbet are made
on the premises; a dish of caramel ice cream is a light-textured
wonder. But end, if you can, with the mousse. Served in one
of the trademark martini glasses, it features three layers
of whipped chocolate that grow progressively less sweet as
you near the bottom.
Woodstock’s restaurant scene has been quietly burgeoning.
And the Red Onion is one of the ingredients that will help
keep it pretty classy—and even more worth the trip.
of the Woodstock area, it’s the 10th anniversary
for New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212,
Saugerties), and there’s a celebration today (Thursday,
July 3) with a luau! For a mere $20 per person
($5 for those under 12) you can enjoy Ric’s Slow
and Low Spit-Roasted Kalua Pig, steamed mahi mahi
in banana leaves, wasabi shrimp, hot hibachi shiitake
mushrooms, fresh veggies and tofu, and an all-night
pu-pu platter. And more. Call (845) 246-0900 to
reserve space. . . . Can’t get enough of celebrating
independence? Celebrate Bastille Day in the French
manner at Ferrandi’s Restaurant (322 Route 67,
Amsterdam), with a four-course meal that starts
with your choice of Mussels Marinière, Escargot
de Bourgogne, Onion Alsacienne Quiche or Goat
Cheese Salad; an entrée of Lamb Shank à la Provencale,
Bouillabaisse de Marseille (add $5), Coq au Vin
de Bourgogne or Steak Tartare; a degustation plate
of three French cheeses; and Profiteroles au Chocolat
for dessert. Parties of six or more get a complimentary
bottle of wine. The menu will be offered July
11 through July 14, and it’s $29 per person. Call
842-6977 for more info an reservations. . . .
Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
fax info to 922-7090)
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.