Durian Opens in Larchmont; the Kellys' Annual Christmas Show; We Look at the Soon-to-Re-Open Storm Damaged Restaurants of Irvington



First Taste: Larchmont’s Durian

Oh, they had me at the name: Durian is the most transgressive fruit on earth. It looks like a mashup of an American football and that spiky ball-on-chain thing that medieval warriors swung into their opponents’ skulls. But its looks aren’t the durian fruit’s most intriguing characteristic—the smell of its creamy flesh has been  likened variously to the odors of rotting meat, sweaty gym socks, and, you guessed it, feces. In Singapore, the possession of a durian fruit can get you barred from public transportation, and, in Thailand, consumption of the fruit is banned in hotel rooms because of its lasting, toxic stink.

So, obviously, I’m thinking, let’s name a Larchmont restaurant “Durian!”

To be honest, noses in Southeast Asia can be hypersensitive. Bangkok riders have been known to, en masse, whip Vicks Inhalers to their nostrils when young, beer-soaked tourists board city busses. Plus, the off-putting odors of durian can also be found (by nasal hysterics) in ripe Epoisses and Limburger cheese. In fact, the soft flesh of durian actually tastes somewhat like ripe Camembert—it’s lush, complex, tangy, and, all right, a little stinky. Durian, Larchmont’s new Thai restaurant, goes into the 147 Chatsworth Avenue space that was recently vacated by the also questionably named Catery, a business that, for years, I thought was either a brothel or a pet store, but, in fact, offered gourmet foods and event planning. Locals might remember Durian’s owners, the husband-and-wife team of Eddie and Mekhala Nippita, from Mamaroneck’s defunct Bangkok; when that modest Post Road storefront Thai restaurant closed, the Nippitas went on to debut the Bronx’s Siam Square to much acclaim.

The décor of Durian is much more stylish than that of Bangkok; its warm-toned walls are hung with Thai cooking utensils (a wooden rice paddle here, a pretty brass strainer there) that flicker prettily in candlelight. Unlike modest Bangkok, Durian holds a full bar and a massive multi-page menu that, aside from myriad dinner options, also offers nine desserts (including house-made ice cream), liquor-spiked “Thairish” coffees, and both breakfast and brunch. We dropped in last week; here are a few first impressions. (BTW: First Tastes are not reviews. We dined at Durian only once, and, besides, it’s way too soon to judge.)

That said, I’m gonna go ahead and advise: Don’t miss this joint. While I’d already sampled Siam Square’s delicious somtum (papaya salad) on one of my more insane adventures, Durian’s yom khun chieng salad (sweet Thai sausage with tomato and cucumbers in lime-garlic sauce) is a new and welcome surprise. In this dish, tart/floral lime, herbal cilantro, and fragrant cucumber made a refreshing foil for juicy rounds of sweet/spicy sausage; I’ve been addicted to a very similar dish at Woodside’s Thai mecca, Sripraphai, for years. Sure, you could go basic and tuck into chicken or flank steak satay, but I really think you should branch out—among the 25-plus starters, soups, and salads on this menu (offered at $5 to $14), we found a delicious dish of beautifully charred Issan sausage paired with sticky, spicy blood sausage. Also good, the delightfully jerky-like “pork-threads” mieng—a leaf wrap of brawny kale, lime, onions, peanut, and ginger.

 

As with the starters, mains are listed in dizzying numbers, which rise precipitously with the choice of protein (chicken, beef, pork, tofu, Thai sausage, or shrimp) offered in many dishes. They range in price from $12 for pad fire dang (watercress, garlic, Thai black-bean sauce) to $32 for crisp fried whole snapper prepared with any one of four sauces. Having only two stomachs between us, we chose carefully: the Thai standard, drunken noodles with beef, and crispy pork belly with steamed vegetables, sticky rice, nam prig noom (spicy roasted pepper dip). Both were good, though my noodles might have benefited from a more daring hand with chilis—my usual source of this dish is SriPraPhai, which lavishes heat in a menu geared for the chili-loving Thais of Woodside.

To end, we wistfully turned away from the house-made ice creams ($4/scoop or $9/3 scoops) that included intriguing flavors (pandan, Thai tea, Thai-style coconut sorbet, vanilla, chocolate), opting instead for the fresh durian fruit with warm sticky rice and fresh coconut cream. Our thinking was, if given a valid opportunity to offend, why wouldn’t we take it? Plus, the menu’s warning (“Due to its pungent odor, please order at your own risk. No refund will be given.”) kinda sounded like a dare. The dish swept through the room under a domed cloche, I imagine, lest the diners in its way gag and faint. The entire staff nervously watched as we lifted the dome, and underneath was a very mildly scented fruit: sweet, creamy, a little acidic. Very pleasant and no one died, which, after all the build-up, was disappointing. Nevertheless, be sure to hit Durian today.

Durian

147 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont (914) 833-1900; no site

 

HotDate: Don’t Miss the Xaviars  Christmas Dinner and Holiday Cabaret!

Fridays: December 14 & 21 at 7 pm

Saturdays: December 15 & 22 at 7 pm

Sundays: December 16 & 23 at 7 pm

Special Sunday Matinees: December 16 & 23 at 1 pm

$150 per person

 

Oh, it’s that time again! If you haven’t seen the Kelly Christmas show yet, you’re just a dope—but, the good news for you is that there might yet be hope. Book your date now; these suckers sell out fast. From the invitation: “We need a little Christmas… now! These famous lyrics from the Jerry Herman Broadway musical Mame! are our inspiration for celebrating this holiday season. For more than 20 years we have shared a tradition of celebrating the holidays together with splendid fare, joyful song, and hearty laughter. The tradition will continue this year and whether you’re joining us for the first time or it’s your 20th year with us, there is no better spot to celebrate the holiday season than at our beautiful X2O Xaviars on the Hudson.

The evenings will begin at 7 pm with passed hors d’oeuvres, eggnog, and cocktails followed by a four-course, sit-down dinner. After dinner, guests will be entertained by Ned Kelly, who will present a Holiday Cabaret performance: We Need a Little Christmas… Now! The evening’s entertainment will be completed with the traditional, spirited, and rousing ‘12 Days of Christmas’ performed by all the guests. Once again, his brother Paul Kelly and Mary Lou Shriber will join Ned.

The evening’s dinner with entertainment, four-course menu, and wines with dinner and open bar is one hundred fifty dollars per person. For reservations, please call X2O Xaviars on the Hudson at (914) 965-1111.”

 

HotPlate: Restaurants of Irvington Are Still in Our Hearts!

Though Chutney Masala, Red Hat on the River, and MP Taverna are still closed for Sandy damage remediation, we remember the Irvington waterfront in better days. Just to show that these restaurants are still in our hearts, this week’s HotPlate is devoted to Irvington’s hardest hit restaurants, all of which will re-open soon. Remember, when they do, visit and tip your servers well!