Restaurant Review: Emily Shaw's Inn
An extreme makeover at Emily Shaw's Inn at Pound Ridge.
Inn Out of Focus at Pound Ridge
A new tenant. An old, well-loved space. Can Chef Greg Gilbert (late of Jackson & Wheeler) make it work?
There were all the tell-tale signs: a confused restaurant concept, bumbling waitstaff, an unfocused menu. Yet, ever optimistic, we hoped for the best; we were glad that someone was trying to resuscitate this Westchester landmark. Originally a private residence (built in 1833) and then a boarding house, the structure has been an inn since the 1930s. Emily Shaw, and later her son, John, ran a restaurant at the inn from 1939 until 1989, when the building was sold again and henceforward known as the Inn at Pound Ridge. Recently, it was bought by a first-time restaurant-owning partnership formed by three married couples, who have re-opened the restaurant as Emily Shaw’s Inn at Pound Ridge in homage to the former owner.
Would Emily Shaw be pleased? Does the waitstaff even know who she is? When I asked why the restaurant was named Emily Shaw’s, our waitress couldn’t tell me. That the restaurant’s concept isn’t clear to the waiters—who are effectively the restaurant’s mouthpiece—is not a good sign.
The new owners at Emily Shaw’s Inn have divided the dining area into two distinct spaces. Upstairs is Emily Shaw’s, described as a more elegant room (though it had not yet opened when we visited), while the ground floor Americana 12 Piano Bar and Grill is a rustic bar and restaurant. The menu is identical in both spaces, conceived and executed by Chef Greg Gilbert who, chef spotters will note, has cooked around Westchester for years. Emily Shaw’s website claims that Chef Gilbert’s most recent post was at Crabtree’s Kittle House. Conveniently omitted was Chef Gilbert’s actual last post, which was at the much less tony Jackson & Wheeler in Pleasantville, where he was partner as well as executive chef.
While the name and décor of Americana 12 evokes a rustic American past, the restaurant is serving standard fusion cuisine. The menu lists wasabi, naan, chorizo, gnocchi, pizza—foods that Emily Shaw would hardly recognize. This lack of a focused concept weakens this restaurant. Is it American or fusion, rustic or refined? You won’t find the answers in the menu, which is long and repetitive. Americana offers not one cold seafood cocktail but three, plus five cold appetizers and four hot, including two soups. There are pastas and steaks and nine side dishes, including hot Italian peppers sautéed in garlic and oil, Roquefort potato strudel, and vanilla whipped sweet potatoes. It’s hard to find any uniting point of view among these dishes, or one that relates to Americana’s name, décor, and setting.
The service at Americana 12 also lacks focus. There were half-hour waits between courses. On one visit, we were served bread, but not the olive oil that went to other tables. On another visit, neither bread nor olive oil arrived at our table, although it did appear on others.
Except for a delicious and very pretty beet salad served with locally produced Rainbeau Ridge goat cheese, there were serious flaws on every plate we were served. My appetizer of grilled foie gras with sweet cherry compote and grilled bread arrived as a huge slice of charred bread topped with a disproportionately small, flabby lobe of foie. An unmemorable tuna salad was accompanied by oily naan bread, which also marred an otherwise tasty chicken salad club on the lunch menu.
Some dishes struck us as lazy. My crab cocktail came with three sauces: two mayo-based (a very Hellmann’s-tasting rémoulade and a very Hellmann’s-tasting coarse mustard sauce) and one very ketchup-y cocktail sauce. I would have preferred one good, carefully prepared sauce. This problem of too-much-and-none-of-it-good was rife throughout our meals.
While our steaks were cooked appropriately, poorly executed sauces accompanied both. My grilled filet mignon rested in what was listed as a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce, but arrived as a skinned-over, coagulated mess with no wine flavor whatsoever. The tasty buffalo sirloin was marred with a too-sweet caramelized onion demi-glace—there was no acid to balance the onions’ cloying sugar. The plates arrived mounded with greens—watercress that was quite bruised.
Lunch sides were no better. The chicken club was served alongside a green salad that arrived so wilted and soupy that I initially assumed it was sautéed spinach. My lunch pizza margherita of wan, salmon-colored tomatoes dotted with good mozzarella and basil came on a small (six-inch) disc of cardboard-like dough that wouldn’t be out of place in the freezer section of your local supermarket.
Again, the dessert list was long: 10 dishes, excluding a wide selection of ice creams. Again, none were good. Lowlights included a soggy apple strudel; a chalky/cakey white-and-dark chocolate mousse, and a weepy, separated blueberry sabayon. The worst offender was listed as a chocolate dome cake with caramelized bananas. The bananas were not caramelized but instead plopped raw alongside the cake in a pool of slightly thinned (though not strained) apricot jam.
It remains to be seen whether these are merely growing pains—at the time of our visits, the restaurant had been open two months. Certainly, the waiters’ efficiency will improve in time. The menu is another matter. Serious focus is needed here. What is the style of food being served? How does each dish contribute to the concept of the restaurant? If the owners and chef ask themselves (and answer) these questions—plus reduce the offerings to only the best dishes and then bump up the quality of each—they might do Ms. Shaw proud.
Emily Shaw's Inn at Pound Ridge
258 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge
(914) 764-5779; www.emilyshaws.com
Hours: lunch Mon to Sun, noon-4 pm,
dinner Mon to Sun 5:30-12 am,
brunch Sun 11:30-3 pm
Appetizers: $9-$18; entrees:$17-$39; desserts: $9-$12
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good