Restaurant Review: Med 15° 35° (2 Stars)

Med 15° 35° brings the Mediterranean to Rye Brook.


Published:

Dining at the Crossroads

Can Rye Town Hilton’s Med 15° 35° overcome its hotel setting?

 

 

 

Hotel-operated restaurants are not known for inventive, exciting food.  Tasked with cooking for the captive audience of guests; for multiple, on-site restaurants; room service; and large, often concurrent, corporate events and weddings, great hotel chefs (excellent in their way) have top managerial abilities, though perhaps not so much niche-market creativity. 

 

So while we expected the food at Med 15° 35° to be good (and it was), we were surprised to find that it’s actually interesting. Med’s menu spans several Mediterranean cuisines (latitude 15°/longitude 35° corresponds to the center of the Mediterranean Sea), but you won’t find crowd-pleasing standards like fried calamari, tapas, or pasta here. Instead, Med’s menu sails toward more challenging shores, particularly to Greece and Turkey, on spice-scented breezes from North Africa.

 

Our favorite starter was the kefalotiri. In this unusual bruschetta, served on za’atar-dusted pita crisps, the eponymous Greek sheep’s-milk cheese is grilled until it’s tight and plump—miraculously, it doesn’t run. When you bite it, the cheese’s firm, burrata-like skin yields to a tangy, warm, and creamy interior. We also loved Med’s cumin-cured wild salmon. In it, silky salmon is “corned” with cumin seeds, which leaves it peppery and hauntingly spiced. The coral rosettes arrive on lemony, chewy, ricotta-enriched blini.

 

Med’s beggar’s-purse appetizer was more of a satchel, though. Filled with fatty Boursin cheese and caramelized onions, it made a tasty, but large and mouth-coating, start to the meal. Its palate-refreshing partner, a savory cucumber sorbet, was simply over-matched. Our briny Portuguese sardines were also poorly paired. While the delicious whole fish came with a plate-lickingly good, sweet/tart coriander syrup, they were paired with an overkill side of fingerling potato hash and completely flavorless fennel shavings.

 

Over-the-top touches spoiled a main, too. The black sea bass with pear relish and toasted couscous was perfect as is; the large, nutty couscous pearls had a satisfying mouthfeel, while the salty/sweet pear relish brightened the rich, butter-slicked fish. Yet it all arrived in a pool of leaden, pinky-beige date-curry sauce that added nothing while subtracting quite a lot.

 

Med’s kitchen can lose track of details. On one night, my Moroccan-spiced duck breast was perfectly cooked but over-salted. On another, flawless lamb chops arrived with a lovely jus and horseradish mashed potatoes—delicious—but the dab of mint-and-herb pesto was ice-box cold. On another visit, our seared tuna spiced two ways (one side with za’atar, the other with black-and-white sesame seeds) was perfectly seared, but slightly fishy smelling—which you really don’t want in an essentially raw dish, especially one costing $32.

 

Desserts are a treat at Med 15° 35°. While ancho-spiced warm chocolate cake isn’t a particularly Mediterranean concept, the chocolate was artfully partnered with the fruity heat of anchos. It came with a spicy, saffron-scented chocolate sauce and cool crème anglaise, the only spoiler being the scoop of crystalline cardamom ice cream. We also loved our pyramid of goat’s-milk cheesecake, which was tangy and dense with cheese.

 

The kitchen at Med 15° 35° is aiming for a “fine dining” experience. Its prices are in line with the more expensive meals in Westchester, with mains reaching $38. The dishes are carefully composed and intricate, employing layered flavors and textures. Another up-market touch: diners are greeted with an amuse-bouche, and the bread basket (from Port Chester’s Kneaded Bread) comes with a tiny tagine of addictive fromage forte.

 

Sounds great, but here’s the problem: Med 15° 35° looks like just another part of this chain hotel. Sure, the décor makes small nods to the cuisine, like the vaguely Moorish (but still hotel-hallway-appropriate) carpet or patterned wall hangings, but none can dent the overwhelmingly bland lobby vibe of the space. You’ll dine to the same canned light jazz that’s playing in the lobby (and on our Saturday-night visit, it was at war with live music from The Den, the hotel’s bar). The tablecloths and napkins are a thin, abrasive polyester blend, and you still have to enter through the hotel’s main doors. Meals this expensive should take place in a lush, interesting, and well-designed environment that supports the concept of the menu.

 

Also dashing Med’s fine-dining aspirations is the staff; they are friendly and very solicitous, but need further training to serve at this price point. On one visit, our waiter cleared each course by pulling the plates toward herself, then stacking the dirty plates and cutlery on the edge of our table. On another visit, our waiter introduced our incorrectly pronounced  “àh-muse-ay” (it’s an amuse-bouche, or simply an amuse) as feta fondue with poached pears, frisée, and walnut dressing—omitting that bacon was included in the gratis snack. If I were a vegetarian, or not eating pork (this occurred during Passover), I would have been horrified after I’d eaten this dish.

 

On both visits, we languished at the greeter’s station before giving up and hailing a waiter from inside the dining room. (The podium is often unmanned, and it’s invisible from the dining room.)  Plus, there was often a protracted lag between courses, I suspect because the kitchen was occupied with concurrent events. These service failures, combined with the dull, anonymous décor of Med 15° 35°, are stinging, given that a three-course meal for two with tip (including a single shared glass of wine and tap water) comes to over $160.

 

Med 15° 35°

★★

699 Westchester Ave  (in the Hilton Rye Town) Rye Brook

(914) 934-2550; www.med1535.com

 

Hours:

Tues to Sat, 5-10 pm

 

Prices:

Appetizers: $11-$16; entrées: $24-$38; desserts: $8-$10

   ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
   ★★—Good                       ★—Fair

 

 

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