Restaurant Review: Stoneleigh Creek (2.5 Stars)



Sometimes it pays to wager. For proof, look no further than Stoneleigh Creek, a relative newcomer to the dining scene in Croton Falls. Owner Alex Rubeo was a sales and marketing executive who, in late 1999, was driving by an abandoned restaurant space on Stoneleigh Avenue and impulsively purchased the establishment on the spot. After extensively remodeling the space, mostly with his own two hands, Alex installed his brother Anthony as head chef and opened for business in April of last year.

 

The remarkable gamble here is that Alex had no background in the restaurant business and Anthony had no professional training as a chef. According to Alex, both he and Anthony are “self-taught” restaurateurs. When asked to explain the emergent success of Stoneleigh Creek, Alex shrugged his shoulders, then answered, “We love to eat and we learned to cook.”

It is entirely possible to teach yourself to cook. But is it enough to open a restaurant? Born and raised in Harrison, the Rubeo boys are proving that it just might be.

 

Although the cuisine is officially billed as “American,” the emphasis at Stoneleigh Creek is definitely on seafood. Head chef Anthony is a self-described “connoisseur of fish,” who spent several of his formative years working at the Fulton Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish market in the U.S. Like many other chefs, many from New York City’s finest restaurants, Anthony travels to the Fulton Market several times a week in search of the freshest seafood. As a result, the menu at Stoneleigh Creek changes daily.

 

The driveway off Stoneleigh Avenue winds around to a simple home that resembles a gamekeeper’s cottage. The inside is decidedly romantic, with a sense of rustic elegance. Exquisitely refurbished pine floors, warm treatment-free windows and simple white linens create a Shaker ambience. The walls are lined with watercolor prints of lighthouses and New England landscapes by the late modern painter Edward Hopper. While the dining room is indeed charming, the bar area, located in the rear, is a tad utilitarian and functions more like a prep station. As the weather thaws, a patio is scheduled to open, and Alex hopes to provide his guests with the option to dine al fresco.

 

With the exception of a handful of selections, the wine list is New World with a particular emphasis on the vineyards of California and Washington State; expect Napa Chardonnays and Willamette Pinot Noirs. Stoneleigh Creek also offers selections by the glass. For the most part, the list is relatively inexpensive with several exceptional values. The spicy 1999 Shepherds Ridge Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand ($22) was a delightful example. Alex is responsible for the wine list and plans to expand his offerings to include local New York wineries.

As soon as we were seated, we were served a fabulous crusty loaf with parsley butter that, unfortunately, must have just been removed from the freezer: it was rather difficult to spread. After softening, however, it proved to be a tasty match.

 

The “cornmeal crusted” oysters ($8) were delicately breaded and served with a tasty rémoulade flavored with anchovies and capers. While they were certainly “fried crisp,” the insides remained appropriately tender and succulent; I found them to be divine. Gorgonzola-stuffed jumbo shrimp ($11) were deliciously innovative and certainly merited more than a watery tomato coulis. Other appetizer choices included sea scallops pan-seared with apple brandy ($10) and Prince Edward Island mussels sautéed in white wine ($8). On our recent excursion, the luscious shrimp bisque, prepared with Brandy and fresh cream, smelled as heavenly as it tasted ($6).

 

Of the main courses, the pan-seared Mahi Mahi ($22) was fantastic and the glorious sweet potato purée, with its subtle accents of cinnamon and nutmeg, was an unorthodox but magnificent complement. The mixed seafood grill ($24), consisting of grilled jumbo shrimp, sea scallops and tuna, served with fruit chutney and red-skinned “smashed” potatoes was uneven in comparison. The shrimp and tuna were quite juicy, but the scallops were tough and the entire plate would have benefited from a genuine sauce; the “homemade” fruit chutney had the consistency of the Comstock filling normally reserved to fill Thanksgiving pies. The carte du jour also included Atlantic salmon fillet ($20), pan roasted with Cognac and orange juice and seafood penne ($20), tossed with garlic, white wine, tomatoes, calamari, shrimp and mussels. Landlubbers could also select from numerous dishes, including the creative grilled pork chop prepared with hoisin, ginger, honey and soy and served with pineapple pecan relish ($22).

 

On the dessert front, the warm cinnamon apple crumble ($6) had a wonderful crust and was enhanced by raisins and vanilla ice cream. Lovely Bananas Foster ($6), flambéed in brown sugar and dark rum, tasted like ambrosia; it’s too bad it was so messy to eat, served in a Margarita glass without the obligatory sous-coupe. Additional options include requisite staples such as chocolate mousse ($6) and crème brûlée ($6).

 

Our waitress was exceedingly pleasant but a bit green. In spite of her friendly earnestness, her lack of expertise could not be concealed. While our food arrived in a timely fashion, she did not possess the menu knowledge necessary at a restaurant of Stoneleigh Creek’s caliber.

Keep your eye on Stoneleigh Creek—it’s a true gem. Though some embellishment is needed, Stoneleigh Creek already has the aptitude to become one of Westchester’s best restaurants. When this wager pays off, it’s going to pay off big.

 

STONELEIGH CREEK

166 stoneleigh Ave., Croton Falls

(845) 276-0000

 

HOURS:

Dinner, Tue. to Sun. from 5 pm on

 

PRICES:

Appetizers: $8-$15

Main selections: $20-$26

Desserts: $6

 

RATINGS: 

Food—VVV

Service—VV

Decor—VVV