Star chef and restaurateur Peter Xaviar Kelly opened his first restaurant, Xaviar’s in Garrison, when he was 23. Since then he has battled Bobby Flay, cooked at the James Beard House, introduced Anthony Bourdain to the Hudson Valley's bounty, and opened more restaurants. At his latest, Xaviars X2O on the Hudson, the Zagat-rated menu mixes Asian embellishments with Italian and Spanish touches and traditional French techniques. Thai barbecue, for example, spices the grilled portuguese octopus appetizer, and a brown-sugar-cayenne crust plays off the béarnaise sauce that tops aged-and-grilled cowboy rib eye steaks. In the Dylan Lounge, chefs slice sushi rolls into edible artworks such as jalapeño hamachi with pumpkin-seed oil.
An active turn-of-the-century Victorian pier hosts Xaviars' dining room on the Hudson. Vaulted 25-foot ceilings take support from three walls of glass that grant sweeping views of the Tappan Zee and George Washington Bridges, pepper dinners with sunsets over the Palisades, and allow guests to keep eyes out for approaching giants. Inside, dark-wood furniture, mod lighting, and stark white tablecloths set an elegant stage for edible performances.
Red Hen Bistro's made-from-scratch menu revolves around the fresh, seasonal meats, fish, and produce in French and Californian cuisine. Francophiles will feel conflicted in trying to select only one dish, be it the croque madame, an upscale ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($10.95), or the salad nicoise, a hearty helping of organic greens crowned with roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs ($8.95). California dreamers can sample West Coast–inspired temptations such as tamales with braised pork ($8.95) and fish tacos served in crisp tortillas ($9.95). Simplicity seekers can opt for the tomato soup and grilled cheese ($9.95) while enjoying the restaurant’s attention to detail—evident in both the food and front-of-house service. With rich-red walls, large windows boasting street views, and touches of French country charm, Red Hen Bistro exudes an air of casual intimacy, though lacy nightclothes are discouraged.
Chef Thomas Keller is known for his emphasis on local foods. He and his team at Per Se have created a pair of nine-course tasting menus that celebrate the harvests of New York’s farmers. The small plates are designed, somewhat cruelly, to leave diners wishing they had just one more bite of foie gras or poached quince.
Named after an olive native to France and Italy, Picholine fittingly infuses French cuisine with Mediterranean notes. Considering how close the two regions are to one another, this fusion consistently yields surprises, such as a sea-urchin panna cotta with caviar and chilled ocean consommé.
Stacks Pancake House and Café offers early-rising breakfasteers and midday-rising lunchatoons a menu brimming with fluffy pancakes, double-decker sandwiches, and piping-hot cups of Joe. But Stacks’ dishes aren’t the usual diner mess; they are elegantly presented and often overflowing with fresh fruit. Peruse the list of more than 20 pancakes varieties and order a stack of Strawberry Fields (infused with farm fresh strawberries, $7.25) or Addiction (banana-mixed pancakes topped with melty chocolate chips, $7.25), or opt for oversized pancake wraps, which are named after Hoboken streets, such as the Hudson filled with scrambled eggs with home fries, melted cheddar, bacon, and salsa ($7.95). Those hankering for protein can chomp a flavorful omelette, such as the tomato-infused American ($6.95), paired with breakfast all-stars crispy bacon and toast. Stacks' talented team of batter-flippers also serves an array of hearty sandwiches, including corned beef on rye ($6.95) and Philly cheesesteaks ($7.25). Stacks' dining room, which has bare brick walls and high ceilings, makes diners feel at home with a blend of traditional and trendy decor.
Sugar and Plumm manages to exude a distinctively French charm that appeals to the refined palates of all ages. The Parisian–inspired whimsical haven caters to virtually every taste bud by enlisting the talents of formally trained chefs, Parisian chocolatiers, and various ice cream makers and pastry chefs. Together, this team creates an eclectic assortment of sweet and savory treats, beginning from scratch whenever possible, and enjoyed while dining in or being delivered.
Executive Chef Ben Dodaro oversees the kitchen at the Upper West Side bistro, cooking a sophisticated combination of upscale yet familiar French classics and refined versions of American comfort foods. His team handles every piece of protein from start to finish by butchering, smoking, and curing all of the meats and fishes in-house. This extra bit of effort helps elevate dishes such as the waffles with crispy, free-range chicken, and it complements the classical elegance of dishes such as the salad with confit rabbit, heirloom carrots, and an orange-cider vinaigrette.
Sugar and Plumm’s savory offerings are only one small piece of the puzzle, though. Master French chocolatier Thierry Atlan and his team use raw, all-natural, sustainably farmed chocolate as they meticulously craft small batches of treats. The pastry chefs bake in two shifts every day, ensuring that the shelves are lined with fresh macarons and cakes, even while taking the time to make their own jams and jellies in-house. These chefs also prepare their own ice creams and sorbets from scratch, patiently allowing the flavors to meld and coalesce by using a process that, much like a book club discussion of The Oxford English Dictionary, takes two full days.