Chic and Sweet
A pastry chef turns a jewel-box restaurant into a place perfect for grazers, nibblers—and those with a sweet tooth.
Chiboust’s industrial interior softened and streamlined for a modern-chic look.
What a lovely first sight one gets upon entering Chiboust: a glass case filled with beautifully displayed and elegantly crafted pastries, looking like so many innocent enchantresses awaiting your arrival. Chiboust is both a bakery and a restaurant. Owner Jill Rose, formerly a pastry chef at Lespinasse in New York City, clearly takes desserts seriously. But no dessert (talk) until we’ve finished dinner.
And in order to eat dinner at Chiboust on weekends, you will need reservations. Should you decide to make a reservation, have your credit card handy: Chiboust requires it for weekend and holiday reservations and will charge a $25 fee per person for no-shows and late cancellations. It is a tiny restaurant with a small window of opportunity to make ends meet—one discourteous no-show can mean the difference between profit and loss for the day.
Let’s move on to the exposed brick walls in the tiny, charming, urban-chic dining room. Soaring ceilings and industrial materials are softened by floating panels of white fabric; simple white tablecloths and modern chairs keep the small space streamlined, while votives and floral touches make it soft and welcoming.
The menu is divided into three sections: Tastings, Small Plates, and Plats du Jour. Grazers will love the Tastings offerings (all of which are priced from $6 to $8); while our server described the selections as “just a couple of bites,” we found them more generous than that. Three prosciutto-wrapped, port-poached figs with melted Manchego started our four mouths off on a lusty note with an explosion of sweet, meaty, and salty flavors. The robust flavors in Moroccan spiced shrimp were equally exciting: tender, perfectly cooked shrimp were served in a sauce of chilies and sweet, earthy spices enriched with butter. Pan-seared, Santori-style squid offered far more fiery heat. The tender rings of squid were tossed in the oil-based sauce of throat-clearing hot pepper and copious amounts of dried thyme and oregano. As you make your way through the small bowl of squid, each bite gets hotter: the thrill-seekers among us loved it and the rest of us cried.
Truffle-crusted macaroni and cheese
Soothe that overworked palate with the gently sweet, fresh, tender mussels in an orange tarragon broth. The light orange and slightly licorice flavors made a lovely counterpoint to the mild briny sea flavor of the mussels.
A thick slab of velvety chicken-liver pâté was, to our delight, far more than the three bites we’d been told to expect. In fact, the rich, unctuous starter was ideal for sharing, as were the heavenly, crisp hand-cut fries served with creamy aioli studded with bits of black truffle. This is the sort of dish that creates a wave in the dining room: as servers bring it out, heads turn to follow the aroma of the truffles.
After Tastings, the next third of the menu is devoted to Small Plates, a name that seems to refer to everything from small salads to sandwiches to pizzas and even a cheese plate. The Chiboust BLT salad was heavily and blandly dressed and lacked tomatoes but did include good-quality bacon. The beet salad is a far better choice: shaved fennel, field greens, and wedges of roasted beets were lightly dressed in a shallot vinaigrette, making this a well-executed, light starter with a satisfying array of flavors and textures.
A selection of house-made pâté and salume
Robust flavors abound atop the pizza Catalan. This thin, crisp, flatbread topped with spicy chorizo, grape tomatoes, and sharp Manchego cheese would be equally well suited as a shared first course for the table or as a light meal for one. (Oddly, the menu described the pizza with almonds, which were in absentia.)
The Waygu burger was a moist and perfectly cooked bargain at $12. The oozing melted sharp cheddar, bright acidic ripe tomato, and crisp sourdough roll made an ideal supporting cast for the rich flavor of the juicy beef. This burger alone was a reason to return.
The final third of the menu lists Plats du Jour, or main dishes. As a group, these selections were more flawed after the mostly terrific starters. Two different duck dishes missed the mark. A seared duck breast was perfectly cooked, but laden with so much cumin we found it inedible. We turned instead to the rich and flavorful duck Armagnac sausage with which it was served. The accompanying polenta cake was mysteriously bitter. The duck breast-and-thigh special ordered on a subsequent visit had flaccid browned skin drowned in a sauce the server had described as spicy but which was purely sweet.
A small plate of grilled shrimp cocktail with duo of sauces
Wild salmon was simply and nicely cooked, with moist, tender results. The fish itself was flavorful enough to not need seasoning, but its accompanying barley and red quinoa pilaf desperately needed salt, seasoning—anything. In contrast, seared sea scallops were crusted in a copious amount of paprika that overwhelmed them. The rémoulade sauce was served in two thin strips along the sides of the plate; each strip ended with a barely visible pile of coarse sea salt that we discovered when we mistakenly got a mouthful along with the sauce. (It was at that point that we remembered that too much salt in the mouth at any one time causes a burning sensation).
Thank God for dessert! A charming tower of carrot cake was a feast for the eyes and the palate: thin layers of moist cake were layered with rich cream-cheese frosting and topped with big shavings of white chocolate. Our favorite was a gargantuan walnut-pecan bar. It was like a thick square of flaky-crusted pecan pie. The creamy homemade vanilla ice cream on top made us love it even more.
We are honestly baffled that a restaurant could have so many really terrific, tasty starters and fall so far when it came to entrées. We want to love Chiboust and, for the atmosphere, the location, and the first two-thirds of the menu and dessert, we already do. We will go back for a light meal made of all the dishes that were truly tasty and well executed. And perhaps one day we’ll give a Plat du Jour a try again. Perhaps.
★ ★ ★
14 Main St, Tarrytown
Hours: Lunch Fri to Sun 11:30 am–3 pm; dinner Mon, Wed, and Thurs 5:30-9:30 pm, Fri and Sat 5:30–10 pm, Sun 5:30–9 pm; Appetizers: $6-$17; entrées: $18-$28; desserts: $7
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good
PHOTOS BY CATHY PINSKY