Photographs by Danielle Brody
After spending an afternoon amid a breathtaking display of daffodils, tulips and orchids (courtesy of “Orchidelirium”) at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, I found the show continued when I sat down for dinner at its new hotspot, the Hudson Garden Grill.
The first act was a full view of the expansive, open kitchen, where staff moved swiftly and harmoniously behind the walnut bar. A server, dressed in a neat denim uniform and white apron led us to the dining room, where matching blue-and white-checked tablecloths covered wooden tables topped with faux birds’ nests.
The high ceilings, massive windows and large canvases of flora made eating at the Hudson Garden Grill feel like a picnic in a garden. Taking that cue, the menu offered a mix of vegetable-focused dishes, seafood and comfort food from locally sourced vendors. All of the dishes were garnished with colorful herbs and flowers.
We came for an early dinner (the restaurant keeps garden hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays in the lighter seasons), starting with the irresistible monkey bread and Hamachi Tartare. I wouldn’t say the two exactly go together – one starter being warm and heartily doughy, the other cool and light, but we were going for the full spectrum of the menu. The bread, which resembled challah, was served in a skillet. Ripping apart the warm pieces revealed the speckles of rosemary baked inside, which added complexity to the taste. If that wasn’t enough, the bread came with butter subtly sweetened by honey.
The Hamachi Tartare looked like an artwork – the delicate squares of fish were tucked under expertly sliced avocado. I slid the silky creation – served with slices of apple – onto the crunchy base for a textured, flavorful experience.
Moving on to the main course, we tried the Bucatini pasta, a lobster Bolognese with local ricotta cheese. The light ricotta (from Salvatore Brooklyn) blended with the zesty tomato sauce for a creamy creation and teamed with the homemade pasta and fresh chunks of lobster for a real treat.
The Hudson Chopped Salad with Napa cabbage and tropical fruit was fresh, filling, and packed with flavor in every bite. The honey-ginger vinaigrette added a kick but let the ingredients shine. The sweet, crunchy candied walnuts and chicken were also a nice touch.
Another main course, Anson Mills Grits, was tasty and creamy. What could have been a boring plate was enhanced with the caramelized onion and garnish. Still, with only a single egg for protein, the dish was somewhat underpowered for a whole entrée. I would have preferred to have a smaller portion of grits on the side of a burger or chicken.
Hudson Garden Grill also offers a well-rounded selection of desserts. We tried the Crispy Cheesecake with syrupy cherry compote on top. Since the dish was served warm, it was more like fried dough with an oozing cheesecake filling rather than a true dense cheesecake – but it was still delectable. We also sprang for the Bomb – chocolate peanut butter mousse on top of a red cake, covered in hard chocolate. The peanut butter muted the chocolate flavor, making it less decadent than I had hoped for. Still, the mousse had a smooth consistency and worked well with the chocolate shell and the salted caramel ice cream on the side.
Perhaps owing to the spot’s popularity, the service was a little slow but nonetheless enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Our waitress recommended drinks from the signature list, and, when the local beer we wanted was unavailable, she brought over almost every bottle for us to choose from.
With the 40-acre Ross Conifer Arboretum as a backdrop, the Hudson Garden Grill makes dining an experience for all your senses. It would be “sense”-less not to make it a stop on your next garden visit.
For more, visit nybg.org/visit/dining.