|Out on the patio, into the Garden, and a world away|
|Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
Story by Adrian Cabreja and Debralee Santos
Photos by Debralee Santos
It is said that treasures are often hidden. And tucked into the sloping hills near Manhattan College is one such delight: The New Riverdale Garden, just off Broadway and far from the rumble of the nearby #1 train.
Nelson Báez, Pedro Vargas, Carlos Gil and Gabriel Pena are the restaurant’s new owners, and they’ve together invested in recreating a culinary experience that offers fine dining at affordable prices, and in a first-class setting.
“Many restaurants start of with a vision, and slowly but surely, go astray. We are looking give people the greatest experience, and to stick to our vision,” said Baez.
That vision specifically speaks to exposed brick walls, tawny wood paneling, romantic candle backlighting, and sparkling chandeliers. No detail has been spared.
And did they mention the patio garden?
Make your way past the white clothed tables, dressed with spotless silverware and glasses poised for heady pours of sparkling wine or water, and you’ll find yourself on the red outdoor deck of the restaurant, which overlooks a white-pebbled path and the namesake “Garden”. On either side of the path are tables that can easily accommodate a group of ten for lunch as they can a far more intimate dinner. And tucked into a lush green alcove in the garden’s far reaches are canopied sections with white curtains that billow out and enclose you and your guests in a secret, serene setting. You’ll find it difficult not to curl up onto the red and cream banquettes that peek out invitingly.
“Many restaurants don’t have this kind of space. Most have their outdoor areas on the side walk,” explained Baez. “We dedicated a lot of time in decorating and making this outdoor area very inviting,” continued Baez.
The food is as thoughtfully presented, with a wide-ranging cuisine that fuses American continental favorites such as banana French toast and eggs Benedict for brunch with traditional Latin dishes such as braised oxtail, as in the inventive “El Rabo de Riverdale” that is served with black beans, yucca fritters, cilantro aioli and avocado.
For dinner, there are similarly inventive dishes, with Jack Daniels Coffee BBQ Braised Short Ribs that are paired with a creamy polenta and cheddar cake and pickled jicama slaw. There is also a prosciutto-wrapped halibut that is moist and bright on the palate, with a sharp lemon zest to finish.
The Garden offers a serene setting in which to share an intimate dinner as well as host a larger group, all seeking to share delicious cuisine at affordable prices.
While each member of the team has input, the food has the undeniable mark of Pedro Vargas, who boasts 18 years experience in the kitchen, and prides himself on what he terms an “exotic and contemporary” flair to his food.
A recent brunch visit to the restaurant, open just over a month, shows just how palatable the dishes are proving to local residents.
At one table, a little girl determinedly plowed her way through her bread basket selections, dipping her muffins and croissants repeatedly in the rich guava butter, while her parents feasted on cocktail glasses heaping with citrusy shrimp ceviche. At another table, a couple deliberated between mango or orange mimosas from pitchers that were generously plied by gracious servers.
The owners explain that they started this restaurant because they wanted to bring a new experience to the local scene, accessible to both residents of the Bronx and northern Manhattan.
The New Riverdale Garden also offers entertainment for a complete evening out- and away.
Stop by on Havana Thursdays, when guests are given the opportunity to hear live Cuban music, including the famed boleros [ballads] of yesteryear. This all happens while cigars are rolled and great food is served.
“We want our customers to be one with the food, the music and the environment,” said Baez. “We want to take them away.”
As late summer gives way to the crisp snap of fall, bring a sweater, pull up a seat, and have a mojito at the New Riverdale Garden.
The respite may best your summer vacation.
Riverdale Garden is located on 4576 Manhattan College Parkway in the Bronx. The telephone number is 347.346.8497, and the website is www.theriverdalegarden.com.