Last night hit 40 West a few doors behind the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck. Was expensive, but a definite go-back. They just reopened after a three-week vacation, so it was not busy at all. If it had been, the one server would have had trouble keeping up. The upstairs dining room is better than down and has a low-key sophisticated feel (no tablecloths, good lighting, Euro-jazz, pleasantly spaced). Had a tasty, potent guava margarita, a house cocktail, to get the ball rolling. Amuse bouche was a wasabi-potato puff, really crisp and hot, with a few cold haricots verts and an Asian dressing. Looked pretty, but the puff didnt have as much flavor as I wanted.
Apps we had were cornmeal-crusted oysters (perfectly cooked, but could have used a more interesting, intense sauce on the side, rather than the tame tartar stuff it came with) and roasted beet salad, which was also fine but tame. I prefer that with intense flavors like roasted shallots, goat or blue cheese, sherry vinegar, walnut oil. Oh well.
Main courses were much better. Seared scallops with a balsamic reduction and artichoke-asparagus risotto was excellent, no bitterness in the reduction, only smooth complexity, and the risotto as it should be, with lots of tender, fresh, quartered artichoke hearts. Pork scallopine was way more interesting than it sounds, with Jarlsberg potatoes, pancetta, broccoli rabe, and a mustard-based sauce. Great wine, too: a Tuscan Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at $38, which Id be happy to find at $20 retail. This was in the middle of their lists range, which has lots of American and European choices. The ginger-pear sorbet was just a distraction, but the banana pudding with bruleed bananas was vacuumed up by someone whod just finished saying how he might not be able to eat any more.
If I wanted to go there and not spend a bundle, Id skip the appetizers. They didnt have the punch you want from a first course. The cheese course was mighty tempting, though, and comes with brandied blackberries on the side. When spring comes I might go back and just get that and a bottle of that wine and sit out on the patio in front. The pastas, all housemade, are fairly priced, but we didnt try them. Maybe next time.
Ive heard other people say they like this place a lot, and I agree. Its way better than Ginas in all respects and has a calmer, less touristy atmosphere than the Beek. Sort of reminded me of a spacious version of the old Bois dArc, with a little more professionalism. BTW, it was obvious that all the other customers were known regulars (3 other tables).