By Suzanne Parker
HUDSON, N.Y. — While secure in the knowledge that this borough is the epicenter of the culinary universe, even a Queens foodie needs a vacation.
For our special holiday meal, we headed to the Hudson Valley, to worship at the temple of locavorism — Fish and Game.
The Hudson, N.Y. sport is the endeavor of Zak Pelaccio. Early in his culinary career, Pelaccio did a stint in kitchens in Malaysia and Thailand. He applied what he learned to building his reputation at two attention grabbing restaurants he opened in New York City. The first, Fatty Crab, was a gastro-pub serving mostly Southeast Asian small plates. That was followed by Fatty Cue, a Williamsburg barbecue joint serving smoked meats seasoned the Southeast Asian way.
Seeking a different lifestyle, Palaccio moved, with his family, to a farm in Old Chatham, N.Y. As an advocate of the sustainable agriculture movement, he sought to open a restaurant that reflected his values. The result was Fish & Game, a collaborative venture with co-chefs Jori Jayne Emde, and Kevin Pomplun, and their partner, Patrick Milling Smith.
The restaurant is nestled in an historic Hudson blacksmith shop, gorgeously repurposed. It somehow manages to graciously combine whimsy, in the form of over the top taxidermy, with beauty and charm.
Although Fish & Game marks a distinct departure from the Southeast Asian flavors prominent in Pelaccio’s previous eateries, there is something distinctly Eastern going on. Only a set seven course tasting menu is served, changed weekly, in synch with the availability of local seasonal ingredients. Each course is served precisely arranged on a various handmade dishes and with utensils selected for optimal presentation. This style of serving closely mimics the Japanese kappo (set meal) in which each component is chosen by the chef as much for appearance as flavor.
The first thing to dazzle us was the rustic bread basket. Three fragrant, chewy breads—panne levain (sourdough), Parker house rolls, and a whole grain bread made with faro, came with divine aged butter. It was a herculean test of will not to gobble the whole lot.
Seeking the optimal dining experience, we ordered the wine pairing that goes with the tasting menu. It costs $85, as much as the tasting menu itself, and includes about a 2.5 ounce pour of thoughtfully chosen libations with each course.
The first arrival was a seared sardine with dill and horseradish, posed in a shallow pool of beet borscht with currant juice. The accompanying Kohler-Ruprecht Riesling’s dry limey undertone paired perfectly with the fish. It was followed by a pair of pan roasted heirloom golden cherry tomatoes with a few diminutive squares of pasta, mustard seeds and threads of scallion. The satisfying pop of the mustard seeds was the salvation of this otherwise overly precious dish. Its fizzy companion was Farnum Hill Dooryard cider, a very dry, slightly funky local brew.
Next came a couple of roasted new potatoes with a wild mushrooms, garlic scape (the stem of a garlic flower) topping a generous schmear of pommes aligote (super creamy mashed potatoes). To drink was a mushroom tea — how Japanese can you get? — and a 2010 Buronfosse Côtes du Jura L’Hôpital that hinted of grappa.
Succulent striped bass perched above corn and Calabrian pepper in a curry sauce decorated with nasturtiums and coriander flowers. It was righteously paired with a complex fruity Sicilian wine, Vinujancu, by I Vigneri, an agricultural collective dedicated to indigenous grapes, natural cultivation and an obsessive attachment to the terroir of Etna.
The final savory course was luscious slices of very rare duck breast over an eggplant puree with epazote, mini-cubes of kohlrabi and a ground-cherry—a nice touch. This allied with a Vinirari, a bold, Alpine Italian wine made by Giulio Moriondo, a passionate micro-vintner who tends his small parcels of old vines and makes wine in the cellar of his house.
A pre-dessert, cucumber sorbet, cleansed the palate, followed by the “real dessert,” a slice of peach/green peppercorn cake with anise hyssop, black garlic sabayon. We preferred the refreshing sorbet to the overly complicated cake. Its drinking buddy was a Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling, which shares properties with a sauterne.
The Bottom Line
Such attention to detail doesn’t come cheap, and your value equation needs to factor in quality over quantity. If your idea of a memorable restaurant meal is a massive well-aged steak with some familiar sides, this is not your kind of place. If, on the other hand, you embrace a cerebral dining experience, lovingly and meticulously contrived with a profound respect for sustainability, Fish & Game will rock your world, if you can get a reservation.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Fish & Game
13 South 3rd St.
Hudson, N.Y. 12534
Price Range: Pre fixe tasting menus. Dinner $85, Lunch $45
Cuisine: Local, sustainable tasting menu.
Setting: Cozy refurbished blacksmith shop
Service: Knowledgeable and attentive
Hours: Lunch: Saturday & Sunday 12:00pm to 2pm; Dinner: Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 5:00pm to close
Reservations: Usually a necessity
Alcohol: Full bar featuring classic and invented cocktails
Parking: Easy street parking
Dress: Country casual to slightly dressy
Children: Only if you have to.
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes