Croton Reservoir Tavern
108 W. 40th St. (b/w 6th Ave & Broadway)
City: New York, NY
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: West 40s
Entree Price: $20-25
If the name Croton Reservoir Tavern conjures up people sitting around a bar, gulping down beer and watching football, you’re not off-base. And yet you are. This midtown spot has one of the most severe cases of split personality since Sybil. In addition to its decidedly upscale pub-like flavor, Croton serves up some very serious – and seriously expensive – dinner fare in the far more plush surroundings to the right of the bar area. Dropping by for an early pre-theater Saturday night dinner, we found the kitchen a bit unprepared. No bread was offered until requested, though the selection of warm chewy rolls and lavash were at least worth waiting for. And when asked about the fish of the day, our helpful waiter informed us that it had all been ordered the previous evening, along with most of the kitchen’s supply of salmon and tuna (which we had liked a lot when we went for a later meal about a year ago). That information, while slightly disappointing, also made the choosing a bit easier. For starters, we happily indulged in an extremely tasty salad of arugula, blue cheese, green apples and spiced pecans in a nicely balanced strawberry cider vinaigrette. The salad was large enough for a meal; and, in truth, every dish we tried was easily splittable by two diners. In fact, it would take no work to divide the crab cakes – which come as a pair; they were a tad heavy on the breading, though not so much as to mask the essential crab flavor, and given added kick by a chili-spiked mayonnaise. I’ve never been a filet mignon fan – unlike my frequent dining partner – but I will admit Croton’s version was unusually flavorful and cooked perfectly rare, as requested. The hearty slab of beef sits atop an enormous mound of blue-cheese-enhanced polenta, along with a lovely melange mushrooms, onion and spinach. Such decadence doesn’t come cheaply: the dish costs $32. On the other hand, the linguini with shrimp proved to be a relative bargain at $20, consisting of six firm crustaceans set within a very big bowl of well cooked pasta in a pleasing oil-and-garlic bath. Indeed, portions were so generous, we couldn’t bring ourselves to even taste the desserts (though my recollection of that year-ago-visit was that the kitchen does decently with sweets.). Perhaps we’ll come by to try them after the theater some night, and catch the 11 o’clock news while we’re at it.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton