The Crimson Sparrow Restaurant, Hudson

One of the Hudson Valley’s best new restaurants in 2013: The Crimson Sparrow in Hudson

Playing with Food (Seriously): When chefs Ben Freemole and John McCarthy, alumni of Manhattan’s famous WD-50, threw open the doors of their ambitious Hudson newcomer last June, diners wondered if the New American cooking would be the playful, quasi-chemistry of molecular gastronomy that WD-50 is famous for. Whether it’s strictly molecular or not, one thing was soon obvious: At Crimson Sparrow, you can expect the unexpected. If you’re put out by ordering, say, half a duck and not actually getting half a duck but some deconstructed semi-duck that’s been coaxed into a new realm of deliciousness, be sure to ask your server to explain preparations. The menu lists each dish’s main ingredients, but what form they’ll take is often a surprise, and a welcome one to diners in search of novelty. The ingredients may be a novelty, too, unless your pantry usually contains za’atar, cardoons, ox tongue, and Honshemeji mushrooms, for example.

Freemole says he and McCarthy are “on a quest to keep it interesting,” exploring dishes that contain ingredients from the outer reaches of the international culinary world, and using them in innovative ways. “We like to take humble ingredients and make them fancy, and make fancy ingredients more accessible,” he explains.

crimson sparrow patioThe eatery has an inviting interior courtyard; the large window provides a view of the kitchen

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In December, the restaurant kicked off prix-fixe lunches offering such midday fare as a rice and peanut congee-style porridge served with kimchi orange marmalade; and butter-blanched kale with preserved lemon and garlic. In the works at press time: tasting menus “without the tyranny,” as Freemole puts it, which means a dozen or so choices from which diners can choose, rather than having the chef pick them, and priced affordably enough that they’ll select four or five each. Also new: three-course Sunday night suppers. “Maybe a roasted chicken that you share. You carve your own bird, have a bottle of wine and a convivial evening with no pretense,” Freemole says.

The Setting: A striking mix of industrial and vintage materials create a sleek modern mood in the dining room and bar. There’s also a private dining room and a lovely courtyard where a plate glass window looks into the onetime carriage house kitchen.

The Crowd: Diners who enjoy exploring new tastes. Some may even get to sample works in progress. “We just made a soup of sunchoke, chorizo, white anchovy, and a little bit of radish, and we tested that on a few of our regulars to make sure we’re not crazy,” Freemole says with a laugh, adding, “We don’t charge them for the guinea-pig part.”

Crowd-pleasers: Black garlic pappardelle with za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix), goat and Honshemeji mushrooms; and the kimchi pasta with crab served with kimchi lobster consommé. The vegetarian options are popular at lunch.

The Tab: Small plates start at $10; large ones hover around $30.

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The Crimson Sparrow
746 Warren Street, Hudson. 518-671-6565;

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