Dining Review: Plates on the Park

by Paula Eisenberg

(June 3, 2004) If culinary talent, energy, hospitality and good looks matter to local food-lovers, then Plates, Larchmont’s newest fine dining restaurant, has a bright future.

Plates, Larchmont

Chef Matthew Karp, fresh from Bouley and Restaurant Daniel in New York, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and culinary travels around the globe, brings a worldly, light touch to fresh “artisanal” ingredients, drawn from small Hudson Valley purveyors and farmers. Inside the stylishly renovated building (formerly Carl’s Restaurant on Myrtle Boulevard), diners are treated to some clever, classy touches and imaginative, Manhattan-quality food.

Chef Matthew Karp

Working from a small, seasonal set menu with just a few nightly specials, Scarsdale native Chef Karp serves up bright, interesting dishes influenced by many national cuisines. Littleneck clams, their meats sweet and tender, are steamed and bathed in a slightly creamy, frothy green curry broth. Another menu appetizer, sashimi of tuna, is a timbale of chopped raw tuna mixed with chive, jicama and mango, with a mild ginger dressing. The dressing is a bit too mild, in fact, needing more punch to make this dish truly special.

Plates dining room staff, left to right: Antonio Flores, Catherine Franti, Sarah Rasmusson, Matthew Nelson, Wendy Weinstein Karp, Eduardo Flores, Eric Mazelrey, Sam Lipp, Jody Berman

On one occasion recently, Chef Karp switched continents when preparing a regular menu appetizer, the grilled Thai beef salad. Instead of the usual Thai ingredients like lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger and cilantro in the sauce, the dish arrived with an Italian flair. Perfectly grilled skirt steak rested on a bed of fresh arugula, roasted cherry tomatoes and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings, topped with a flavorful, subtle vinaigrette.

Crabmeat and softshell crab cocktail

A few weeks ago, when softshell crab was just in season, a lump crabmeat cocktail was crowned with the crispy indulgence of lightly battered, fried softshell crab. Diced cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatillo and cilantro added sweetness and spice to this unusual presentation.

Seasonality is a key ingredient of Chef Karp’s approach. Another fleeting pleasure of spring, wild ramps, made an appearance in early May, accompanying a moist, delicate braised cod (actually sable fish). The ramps, also known as wild leeks, have a robust, earthy flavor, a perfect counterpoint to the mild-flavored fish.

From the regular main courses, several dishes stand out. The duo of beef, consisting of a grilled strip loin and braised short ribs, is much more interesting than it sounds. The ribs are braised in a chimichurri sauce, the Argentinian answer to steak sauce, combining olive oil, herbs, vinegar and cayenne pepper. It’s spicy but not hot, adding just the right piquant edge to the richness of the beef. Pennsylvania farm chicken, served with a wild mushroom ragout and Marsala mashed potatoes, falls off the bone and tastes the way chicken used to taste, before we lost flavor to Mr. Perdue and his mass production techniques.

El Lobster Loco

Two main courses wowed this reviewer and a friend. Boiled Maine lobster, removed from the shell, was served in a complex tomato broth enlivened with fresh basil, roasted peaches and paper-thin homemade farfalle pasta. A surprising combination of ingredients, to be sure, requiring a leap of faith for a believer in the “less is more” approach to lobster. Sometimes, courage is rewarded. We wouldn’t mind if this dish became a regular on the menu. Our friend and her husband raved about the sea bass, served atop a rich, delicious risotto dotted with fresh spring peas, shrimp and a touch of Parmigiano cheese, drizzled with an asparagus and lovage oil emulsion. “We’ve just gotten back from Italy, so we’ve tried a lot of risotto lately,” she said. “This was very, very tasty.”

When it comes time for dessert at Plates, stop Atkins-izing long enough to try the country doughnut. Perhaps the chef was having fun with the name of this concoction, or maybe he simply couldn’t think of a way to describe it. Think Krispy Kreme to the 10th power, by way of Paris and Rome. Two smallish doughnuts, crisp (not glazed) outside and light as air inside, nestle beside homemade cinnamon ice cream, with just enough espresso chocolate sauce to wake you out of your carb-loaded dream.

Plates patron Jane Miller of Larchmont

The food is delightful, the dining room lovely, the bar scene lively après-commute (the restaurant sits within Memorial Park, hard by Larchmont’s Metro-North station). The noise level is high, but it’s the good sound of people enjoying themselves. Some early glitches in communication between kitchen and dining room seem to have been worked out, for the most part. Plates did not have a slow period right after opening night in which to work out the kinks in the dining room. It was hot right away, busy most nights from the start. Co-owner Wendy Weinstein Karp, a welcoming presence in the dining room, told the Gazette, “We never expected to be so busy so early, and it’s been a bit overwhelming.” We think she and the young dining room staff are learning, fast, and soon they will match the magic Chef Karp is working in the kitchen.

Maitre d’ Sam Lipp is full of information about the well-chosen, eclectic wine list. One nice touch: when you order wine by the glass, the bottle is brought to the table for tasting. Why don’t more upscale restaurants do this, rather than reserving the gesture for those who buy a whole bottle?

Appetizer prices are in the $9-$16 range, main courses $18-$29.

From the Plates website:
July Concerts and Bar-b-q “al Fresco” in the Park

2005: Mondays July 11th & 25th will be foot stompin' and finger lickin'! In conjunction with the Town of Mamaroneck free Monday night concert series in adjacent Memorial Park, Chef Matthew Karp and his team will bar-b-que a southern style menu that would make Elvis proud.

Come to the parking oval next to the restaurant at 121 Myrtle Boulevard, pick up your dinner on paper PLATES, and settle down on your lawn blanket for a southern style evening of Bar-b-q and musical favorites. Grill fires up at 6:00. Concerts begin at 7:00. Limited Outdoor tables will be available. Rain dates for the barbeque are the Monday following each concert: July 18th & August 1st.

121 Myrtle Boulevard
Larchmont, NY 10538

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