Taking flight

OK, first the answer to the question on everyone’s mind: Yes, the popovers with the strawberry butter are still there.

“That’s a signature of our brand,” says Kevin Garvin, Neiman Marcus’ vice president of corporate food service, who oversees 43 restaurants in 36 stores. “We have to have them, and White Plains makes the best.”

In almost every other way, though, the restaurant at Neiman Marcus, The Westchester has changed, thanks to a four-month, $1 million renovation.

Start with the name. The old restaurant was called Zodiac, with a décor featuring the 12 astrological signs. (One of the treats of going to the Zodiac was sitting under your birth sign or perhaps birth season.) But Neiman Marcus stopped building Zodiacs in the late 1990s. (Garvin says he hopes one day to have only one left, the original in the flagship store in downtown Dallas.)

Enter Mariposa, Spanish for “butterfly,” the luxury store’s symbol, which swirls around the chandelier and flits on Zen-like screens in the bar.

Ah, yes, the bar. The Neiman Marcus restaurant used to be downstairs and when it moved upstairs, it had a bar that was later removed. Now the swank, semicircular bar makes for an arresting entrance, with its animal-print stools and mocha colored backdrop.

“The story isn’t so much about getting rid of the Zodiac as it is about creating a bar and a place where people can meet and get a bite to eat,” says Garvin, who trained at The Culinary Institute of America.

Judging from the crowd at the opening reception, the plan is working.

“I love it. I think the renovation has revived it,” Megan Cook, an internal auditor at Odyssey Re and a Yonkers resident, says as she sips what she calls a “Lilly Pulitzer-style” strawberry margarita.

It’s one of the pink cocktails bartender Marco Tapia is mixing, along with the What to Wear (cranberry juice, vanilla vodka, Cointreau and Prosecco).

New décor and new cocktails go along with an intimate dining area that seats 86 with room for private parties and a seasonal menu that’s locally sourced whenever possible and announces its caloric count and nutritional values. Many of the entrées are gluten-free and/or part of Neiman Marcus’ Go Figure Cuisine for a Healthier Lifestyle (under 560 calories). A good example of an entrée that’s both is the Grilled Shrimp Salad with avocado, radish, carrot, quinoa, goat cheese and heirloom cherry tomatoes in a light, creamy white balsamic vinaigrette (340 calories).

Still, there are some that never change, like the Mandarin Orange Soufflé – Neiman Marcus’ classic chicken salad with seasonal fruit and the daily sweet bread (940 calories).

And then there are those popovers…

“Neiman Marcus Cooks” comes to bookstores Sept. 16. For more, visit neimanmarcus.com. 

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