It's always relieving to have established that go-to neighborhood place, the one you order from when you don't feel like cooking or the one you pop by on a Friday night to unwind after work. Iron Tomato used to be the former for us, and we ordered or went in there 2-3 times per week. Now that it has changed hands and lost all that made it special, we don't even patronize it. Peniche used to be the latter for us, until we went in there Friday for an entirely disappointing meal.
We adored Peniche. The food, drinks and vibe (at least before it gets crazy-busy around 7:00) were just right for a Friday night meal, and we went there often. We haven't been since the holidays and dropped by on Friday evening. The first signal that something was off was that they got rid of the checklist for ordering. I remarked on it to the waitress and she said, "They want us to talk more to the customers now." Then, we ordered an appetizer special off a computer printed, ripped half-sheet of paper, which just seemed strange and less-than-classy. When it arrived, we were surprised to find it had octopus on it, especially since octopus wasn't listed in the description. Our waitress strongly encouraged us to "try" it, which we did, although my wife is not an octopus fan. We sipped on our drinks (the grape caipiroscas). Was it my imagination, or were they lacking?
But the real sign that something was off was that none of the food was up to its usual standard. The ribs had a different sauce and entirely different taste (less complex and unique), the butternut squash was not as flavorful and not cooked to its usual texture, and the steak dish with egg over brioche just didn't come together. If this was my first meal at Peniche, I wouldn't come back. Since this was probably my 20th, I knew then what the issue was.
"Has the kitchen changed hands?" I asked the waitress.
"Yes, we have a new head chef as of January 1."
"I thought so, because the food tastes very different."
"Better, I hope," she said, with a question mark.
"Unfortunately, no." I told her.
She gave us a pouty look and then of course brought our comments to the open kitchen less than ten feet from where we were sitting. We knew she had done so because the kitchen staff all began to stare over at us. This was the extent of the interaction, as no one came over to follow up with us or to check in.
So, it seems another fine establishment has died. I am sad, because I really loved the place and have so few places in Westchester I can say that about consistently. On the plus side, we had a fantastic experience at Arrosto the next night. If only it was closer to home, I might be able to call it my new neighborhood joint.
175 Main St, White Plains, NY 10601
The Iron Tomato
57 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains, NY 10601