When I entered the main dining room of the Riverview Restaurant in Cold Spring, I immediately wondered why so many guests had their hands up in the air. It took me a few minutes to realize that people were actually greeting one another. And when my dining companions showed up, they too joined in the wave. After all, the pair of them explained, they have been devoted fans of owners Jim and Lori Eli since their own wedding 16 years ago. That day, a hurricane threatened their nuptials, which were held at another (now shuttered) beloved Cold Spring restaurant owned by the Elis. But Jim kicked into rescue mode, carrying the bride from the suite above the hall to her position at the windy altar — veil and gown intact. If this were a blog, I’m fairly sure that readers would be posting their own stories of above-and-beyond service by the Eli family.
There are “family restaurants,” and then there are great restaurants run by families. Riverview is the latter, staffed not only by all three children (Naomi 15, Natalie 22, Nick 23), but also by several “members-of-the-family” staffers who have worked with Jim since he opened the eatery in 1989. “We get lots of regulars from Cold Spring, but also lots of people who come in from the city and always make it a point to stop here,” says Jim. In fact, the key to the Riverview’s winning ways may just be the unique balance between the comfortable atmosphere and the masterful creativity of the menu.
The salmon fillet rests on a bed of rice and spinach, and is served with a butternut squash sauce
- Advertisement -
For instance, instead of mashed potatoes and meat loaf, many opt for the Tuna Poke (pronounced POH-kay). A favorite for more than 10 years, it is a traditional Hawaiian comfort food side dish. The word poke means “cut piece,” and the dish is the Indonesian version of Japanese sashimi. Jim serves it both as an appetizer and a main dish. “It’s easy to miss the mark with a dish like this because the flavors and textures are so specific, one could possibly override another,” he says. “We use avocados and mangos that are at the right stage of ripeness. We pick the best quality tuna. And the soy vinaigrette has to be just right, and served with the perfect seaweed salad — not too soft or firm.”
We sampled the high quality of the tuna in both the ceviche tacos and the yellowfin sashimi appetizer. Though the sashimi was served with a fine sauce, our waiter brought a second option that Chef Fernando Sinchi was experimenting with, asking, “Could you tell me what you think of this with the tuna?” Sinchi started as a dishwasher with the Riverview 16 years ago, learned from Jim, and now runs the kitchen. “We start with what’s in season,” says Jim. “But we also listen to the guests. We don’t dictate the trends, they do. Lately they’re asking for a lot of items from our past, like the peanut soup. The rest of the requests are evenly split between traditional comfort foods and more healthy options.”
Jim says that other popular dishes include the roast beef, the Berkshire pork chops and, in winter, the cassoulet. Fish stew is also a menu mainstay. Jim’s composition is Thai-influenced, created in a light lemongrass broth, with scallops, shrimp, cod, and vegetables — “but it doesn’t have the rich creaminess and intense curry of the original Thai version,” he says. Like all their recipes, this one started as an experiment and was perfected over time.
(Continued on next page)
Window Seat: Riverview lives up to its name, with vistas of the Hudson River and Storm King Mountain
During our visit, we passed around a bowl of creamless mushroom soup that challenged my competitive soup streak, and a gorgeous plate of mozzarella with roasted peppers. Next summer, Lori’s gardens will produce up to 15 varieties of tomatoes (including many heirlooms), as well as radishes, potatoes, beets, lettuce, some asparagus, and virtually all of the herbs they need.
The busiest weeknight is always Wednesday. While it is still called Family Pizza Night, the main draw these days is actually the $15.95 prix-fixe menu. “At first, Pizza Night started because our cook needed a night off, so we only offered things that the rest of the staff could cook and serve. Today, it’s more about keeping the audience’s attention, and introducing new dishes. It has become a very creative menu,” says Jim.
Pizza is always available. Roberto the pizza man has been running the gas-fired brick pizza oven for 23 years, garnering pages and pages of Yelp reviews about the authenticity and consistency of his pies. At two for $14.95, you can also get your choice of nine classic versions as take-out. And you needn’t step out of your car to pick them up: Just press the buzzer in the back of the restaurant and they’ll bring the pies right to your window.
We sampled the Pomodoro Pizza, Bronx style, which has just three ingredients: dough, Sicilian Pomodoro tomatoes, and Romano cheese. The nuttiness of the toasted crust mixing with the sweetness of the tomatoes was truly feng shui for my nostrils. At first, we didn’t want to eat the eggplant roulade in marinara because it was just too pretty, but we’re glad we did; it had a nice zip from the pepper and basil and a touch of citrus.
The noise level on the Wednesday we visited was less than on an airport tarmac, but more than at a large, loud family reunion. The tall ceilings and two adjacent dining rooms created an odd acoustic situation. I couldn’t hear my friends (although I did overhear some juicy gossip from a neighboring table). Nonetheless, it didn’t upstage the dessert finales.
We greatly enjoyed a semisweet chocolate mousse, served with hazelnut praline and whipped cream; the coconut panna cotta served with kiwi and local berries; and the passion fruit and blackberry Cabernet sorbet, whose yin and yang of colors and flavors was intense, but not intimidating. But as a chocolate lover, the clear standout was the gianduia. It is a dense, four-chocolate torte with hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream. “We got the recipe from Lori’s grandmother’s cookbook,” says Jim. “We didn’t change much, still mixing four types of chocolate: dark semisweet, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, and Nutella.”
I’m always prepared, so the no-credit-cards policy didn’t phase me, but many guests do have to make a quick trip to the in-house ATM. Aside from this policy, the fact that Jim gives away his recipes and hopes you have equal success with them also adds an old-fashioned charm to the place. And in the summer, your waitress may invite you to the patio to watch the sun set over the Hudson River and beautiful Storm King Mountain — just like any good friend would.
The Riverview Restaurant
Lunch and Dinner Tues.–Sun. Appetizers $9-$13; â€¨entrées $14.75-$24.50; desserts $7.00; â€¨Wed. prix-fixe $15.95 without desser