Borani without Borders
Offering something for everyone, Eclisse Mediterraneo Cucina sacrifices identity for inclusivity.
Golden walls, an open kitchen, and geometric fabrics at Eclisse
Like a lot of larger restaurants in Westchester—all those vast pan-Asians and pan-Mediterraneans—Eclisse Mediterraneo Cucina is hedging its bets.
At the outset, this White Plains sibling of Stamford’s Eclisse Italian Cucina (which slings Northern Italian fare) is distinguished by pairing the cuisines of the Mediterranean and “Persia.” This is a puzzling bit of geo-political fuzziness that I’m embarrassed to admit I had to research. Turns out that Persia is to Iran what Siam is to Thailand. Specifically, it’s an archaic name that holds more romantic currency than modern geographic meaning. And, geographically, the union of the Mediterranean and Persia is a bit of a stretch: Middle Eastern Iran shares a short border with Turkey, whose western border is, in turn, on the eastern Mediterranean. (There’s a temporal reach too: from about 550 to 330 BCE, the Persian Empire extended through Turkey to the Mediterranean.) But whether we call Eclisse Persian or Iranian—or Italian (its name means “eclipse” in that language)—it really doesn’t matter, because Eclisse Mediterraneo dodges commitment to any specific culture.
Eclisse’s lack of specificity starts with its décor, which avoids the heavy-handed set dressing of some Middle Eastern restaurants. Here, you’ll find no layered carpets; no onion domes; no gilded mosaics of turbaned princes. Instead, Eclisse’s dining room is a nondescript expanse in which a vaguely Moorish, geometrically patterned fabric lines a few walls and pillars.
Fortunately, Eclisse’s cocktail program spins some perfumed, Arabian Nights romance with choices like the Sandstorm (Mount Gay rum, house-made Falernum, and fresh citrus); or the Red Sea Wrath (pepper-infused Arak, pomegranate, and fresh orange juice). Yet, conservative drinkers will find the usual suspects in martinis and off-message mojitos and margaritas. Similarly, and attractively priced, its wine list offers picks from Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and France. Take a moment to ponder your choices (Middle Eastern? Mediterranean?…perhaps a Mexican margarita?) while eating gratis squares of crisped pasta whose addictive crunch echo the shameful deliciousness of Chinese restaurant fried noodles. They’re offered with a tangy, lemony labne and a scattering of olives that go a long way toward soothing any geo-political crankiness.
Like its cocktail list, Eclisse’s menu is inclusive—to the point of diffusiveness. You’ll find superior house-made dolmeh, sweet with macerated raisins and crunchy with pine nuts, that taste of the elusive tannins of their green, leafy wrappers. Yet, somehow, this dish is guilty by menu association with an anonymous mozzarella Caprese. But rakaat—delicious, crisp, cheese rolls filled with firm ricotta salata, mozzarella, and feta—arrived with a subtle mint labne that had me pitying the lactose intolerant. Borani esfenaj (a garlicky spinach dip of amazingly dense, rich yogurt) was perfect for excavating with warm wedges of pita and flatbread, and offered the added bonus of a topping of crisp, frizzled onions.
Sadly, hummus suffered for its banquet-y presentation. The stiff paste was extruded through a star tip—and offered in reddish sun-dried tomato and plain chickpea. And laboo—roasted beets with arugula and crumbled feta—could have appeared in any New American restaurant in Westchester, as could Eclisse’s fried calamari rings. Instead, we loved a fluffy, brightly herbal taboule that celebrated the grassy flavor of parsley.
Eclisse’s menu welcomes timid diners with a wide selection of Italian pastas and a risotto. The best was the braised veal and beef tortellacci, a meaty, rich ragu-and-pasta dish whose earthy richness echoed tortellini Bolognese.
Of the more specifically Persian dishes, our ground beef and lamb kobideh kebab was dry but tasty, especially with its partner of fluffy barberry rice, though somewhat marred by a regrettable plating choice of a grilled, split, midwinter tomato. Still, we loved its accompanying bowl of powdered, brick-colored sumac, which added a lemony, mildly peppery flavor.
Though a Thursday visit revealed a sparsely inhabited room, on Saturday night, Eclisse is thronged (and its service suffers).
Desserts at Eclisse are as globetrotting as its cocktail list. You’ll find a dense chocolate cake, a blueberry bread pudding (from the little-known New England/Persian border), tiramisu, and profiteroles. Of them all, we preferred the crisp, honey-soaked zulbia, which is like a spiral funnel cake, as well as nut-packed, honey-drizzled wedges of delicious baklava. Expect large servings—and plan to swap around historic geopolitical borders.
Eclisse Mediterraneo Cucina ★★ 1/2
189 E Post Rd, White Plains (914) 761-1111
Hours: lunch, Mon to Fri 12-3 pm; dinner, Mon to Thurs 5-10 pm, Fri to Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 2-9 pm
Appetizers: $6-$10; entrées: $15-$34; desserts: $7
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good