Monday, January 23, 2012


Finding  Hudson Clearwater is a little tricky, most of all because although the address is Hudson,  the entrance isn't.   It's on Perry instead, where you'll  wind your way under a arched entry through the garden, up some stairs and into the restaurant.  Most disappointingly, that might be the most intriguing part about the restaurant.  Clearwater Hudson is  a year old restaurant in a bi-level space that fails to escape its prior incarnation as a realty office.  The menu itself looked classy and promising, but at this apparently popular neighborhood newbie, we couldn't get it to live up to the hype.  

A cozy glow comes from the open kitchen, but still there remains an impersonal starkness to the bi-level room.  The chairs aren't that comfortable, and seem organized sort of office-like- and this I noticed before I found out what it used to be.  The young chef, Wes Long, has an admirable pedigree, coming from the esteemed Applewood in Brooklyn.  He's brought with him their seasonal locavore aesthetic, but none of the finesse.  Although we started off deceptively strong with a hot appetizer of butter clams, kale and gnocchi in a rich and buttery bouillon, that was by far the best dish of the night.  And a tiny crock of one, at that.  I took some roasted beets off the sides menu for an appetizer, but they were no more than the ruby tuber, steamed, with some julienned endive and crowned with a single chunk of orange, a couple candied walnuts thrown on top.  Nothing really tied it together, so they just sat there together on the plate, inoffensively, but yawn.....

 Entrees scored the same as the beets- uninventive and a somewhat disappointing.  Even the special (or maybe especially the special) was uninspired:  basically just a slab of steak, spinach and mushrooms on a potato puree.  Plain like a steakhouse entree, it accomplished nothing beyond meat-and-potatoes.  The Atlantic black seabass was just as mediocre.  Balanced against some bland, smooshed rutabaga and leafed-out brussels sprouts, the decently crispy skin was topped with an odd mishmash of apples, radishes and almond pesto, ingredients which had little to do each other, let alone anything else on the plate.  

Speaking of brussels sprouts, their menu description gave them hope.  Albeit shaved, they were prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, Honeycrisp apple and caramel.  Instead, they were excessively sweet and sodden, an experiment in a potentially interesting flavor combination gone tragically awry.   A sassy ragout of melted leeks, mushrooms and watercress were the next bright spot after the clam app., but not nearly enough to salvage the meal.

Why we took the dessert recommendation from our quasi-vegan, rail-skinny waitress is a fantastic question, except for that obviously we weren't doing any better by ourselves.  Thus, we shared that standard, run-of-the-mill molten chocolate cake-ette, labeled a brownie on the menu, but most likely that was just because instead of "Desserts", they called their sweets "Pastries", and maybe a cake doesn't qualify as well as a pastry.  Anyways, it paired with some more (third cameo on this menu) Honeycrisp apple, some pomegranate seeds and creamy-cream drizzled with a red wine jus.  Thumbs sideways.

Nothing at Clearwater is offensive; it's just no better than what I could cook myself with a little elbow grease.  The flavors don't appeal greater than just their ingredients, and the room feels the same, uninspired way.  And it's a little cumbersome to get to... off the beaten path.  I kinda say don't bother.

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