FISH & GAME — Hudson, NY
We are always up for a good road trip through The Valley, as are our weekend houseguests Vicky and Marthinus. Having recently celebrated their wedding in Stellenbosch, SA, we looked for a restaurant that boasted a local menu and good wine list and settled on Fish and Game (also recommended by one of our favorite Manhattan chefs, Claude Godard of Madison Bistro fame). So off we went to the lively town of Hudson about 30 minutes north of us.
The woodsy and enticing aroma of the place led us from our parking spot to a space marked by a vibrant bar scene and dining area marked with wall hangings of…well…fish and game. We were greeted warmly and led to our table even though we arrived about 20 minutes early for our reservation and were immediately met by our server who gave us cocktail, wine, and food menus. The restaurant is impeccably decorated, located in a building originally used by blacksmiths. Even on a cold winter night, or especially on such a night, you can easily understand that Fish & Games was a Finalist for the 2015 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design.
We arrived early hoping to have our cocktails at the bar but every seat was taken even at an early hour and we were directed right to our table.
A bit jealous of the bar crowd, we indulged in cocktails from the specialty menu. The drinks were strong and creative; we sampled drinks featuring rye, vodka and bourbon. My Manhattan was served strong and perfect and I dove right in. Well lubricated, we focused on the menu while Marthinus studies the wine list.
A word about the wine list. Wine Enthusiast has named Fish & Game one of its 100 Best Wine Restaurants two years running in 2015 and 2016. The list focuses on wines made in a “natural style”; that is, wines made with minimal intervention. We ordered a bottle of 2013 Chiarofiore, a “white” wine from Tuscany. It arrived looking every bit as a rose, with a salmon blush. In fact, the restaurant’s excellent sommelier explained it was just the opposite of a rose, which is made from red grapes and then separated quickly from their skins. Here, the wine is made from white grapes (mostly Trebbiano) but allowed to stay intact with the skins for a longer period of time to impart the color. The wine list is not the usual fare but fairly priced. Ask the sommelier for some help. We did and he directed us to a bottle that was less expensive than the one we identified and exactly what we were looking for in style and flavor.
There are a reasonable number of food choices, both for starters and entrees. All are locally sourced and feature selections that will please carnivores and vegetarians alike. Prior to the starters arriving we were brought an amuse bouche of bone broth with ginger (having heard about the restorative properties but never indulging, I was extremely curious about it) which was smoky and delicious. The broth was delicious – we noted the more we consumed, the more we enjoyed it.
For starters, Marthinus and I ordered the wood oven roasted snails served with herb butter, absinthe, and LJA vinegar. We liked them but thought they could benefit from more garlic. Vicky requested the beet ravioli from the entrée list as her starter. We were not sure whether they would serve a half portion as a starter and in fact they brought us the full entrée portion, which allowed all of us to sample the pasta. It was outstanding, served with chicories. (At the end of the meal we declared it the second-best dish of those we sampled during our visit).
Lew picked hearth cooked beans, served with clams, grilled squid, sambal, and bok choy for his starter. Although the combination is not one he — or we — had before, it blended beautifully and Lew declared it one of the best starters he has had anywhere.
Then our entrees were served. Again, we were choosing from a wide selection. Marthinus and I ordered the tagliatelle, which was prepared with Marcel Petite comte and black truffle. Alas and inexplicably, the serving placed in front of Marthinus was lukewarm at best. We had to call over the waitstaff who took it back and replaced it with a hot dish. Unfortunately, we must report that the dish was simply not memorable and disappointing.
Vicky ordered the black bass prepared with lobster coral butter, wood ear mushrooms, tamari, and grilled onions. Vicky remarked that it tasted “light and fresh” and was cooked perfectly. She was very pleased with her order.
Lew ordered smoked and braised lamb served with grilled fennel, Yong’s rice, and Moroccan spiced yogurt. Lew pronounced the lamb among the best he had ever eaten. It simply melted and was the most tender lamb any of us had ever had.
While we could have stopped there, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert because Lew’s absolute favorite was listed: rice pudding. He prides himself on being somewhat of a rice pudding aficionado and this did NOT disappoint. Great texture and flavor and generous in portion. The addition of using locally grown brown rice and the addition of dried fruits put all of us in rice pudding heaven.
We stumbled out of the restaurant full, happy, and willing to discuss our experience on the 30 minute car ride home. We agreed the restaurant’s ambience is first rate and the wine list spectacular. Our experience that particular night was that there is a wide variety in the quality of the dishes. We can heartily recommend the beans, beet ravioli, bass, and lamb but would not recommend the taglietelle with truffles. Notwithstanding this, we wouldn’t hesitate to return, nor to recommend it to friends. Chefs Zak Pelaccio and his wife, chef Jori Jayne Emde know their food and know how to make their guests feel welcome and are committed to working with the best local farmers and purveyors to create satisfying and creative menus. The restaurant features a tasting menu which we are eager to sample on our next visit, perhaps in the spring or summer to see what seasonal local specialties are featured.
Know Before You Go:
Spend some time in Hudson. It’s a shining example of revitalization in the Hudson Valley. Fish and Game is one block off the main drag Warren Street, which is filled with antique stores, galleries, cafes, and renovated Victorians. In fact, Fish and Game used to be a Blacksmith shop. Walking through Hudson will energize your creative vibe.