Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar in Armonk, NY- Hometown Japanese Restaurant Run by the Chinese, Paled in Comparison to Daido

Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar used to be called Kira Sushi when I first moved to Armonk eight years ago. The menu was more Japanese than Asian fusion. Now with the new brand name, it’s clear that they serve both Chinese and Japanese dishes with a bend at being fusion. Their specials that day were dominated by many Chinese dishes and the staff all spoke Mandarin. This was my first time at Kira.
Tuna or Toro Tartare (Chopped tuna or toro topped with caviar serve with chef’s special sauce)
Chirashi Deluxe (Assorted sashimi over a bed of steamed sushi rice)
Special that day – a version of Chinese broccoli.

Honestly, this was average. This was something I would expect from a good restaurant in Armonk: fresh sashimi, good presentation, and tasty. But there are so many restaurants like this in the Westchester area. The only reason Kira would stand out is because it is the only sushi restaurant in town. I would repeat because I live in the town. Would I travel to eat at Kira? Probably not. I would travel to go to Daido, the Japanese grocery store in White Plains, to buy the sashimi and cut them up myself.

This experience took place at

Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar
575 Main St #7
Armonk, NY 10504
(914) 765-0800

Wraps and Things in Larchmont, NY – Find Your Perfect Match with Fresh Ingredients

It has been one month and eight days since my last post. I am about 20 posts behind and I figure the only way to catch up is to get straight to the point. Wraps and Things resides at the corner of Palmer and Larchmont Ave in Larchmont, NY. When I was a full-time mom and my child went to the French American School of New York, I used to go there with fellow moms. Never found it great until my recent visit.

They don’t have a web site and rely on the kindness of Google+, Yelp and UrbanSpoon. It’s a very small location with only 4-5 tables. It’s mostly a take out joint.


This is the $6.50 Roast Beef with Swiss cheese, Russian salad dressing, sun-dried tomatoes, green-leaf lettuce on a flour tortilla.


This is the special that day. Blacked salmon, avocado, spinach, squash and tomatoes on jalapeño tortilla. I don’t remember how much it was (this was back in early April), maybe $8?

These two wraps did not sound special. I was skeptical when my drummer friend, Joe, decided to go there for lunch. Not until I re-experienced the wraps did I realize how fresh the ingredients were. That was what made the wraps excellent. But you should figure out what you like though. Joe’s favorite – the roast beef was not such a great match for me. But the blackened salmon was a perfect match for me. I would love to have the kick from the jalapeño everyday.

Bottom line, good fresh ingredients. Find your wrap. It’s worth the drive.

This experience took place at

Wraps and Things
1936 Palmer Ave
Larchmont, NY 10538
(914) 833-7656

Lola’s Mexican Kitchen in White Plains NY – Contemporary Mexican Cuisine. Wish It Had Made My Heart Sing

Lola’s Mexican Kitchen in White Plains, NY is right off Mamaroneck Ave and next to Brother Jimmy’s BBQ (a popular location for the bar hopping crowd). Lola’s is an upgraded version (more sophisticated and upscale) of Brother Jimmy’s. The horseshoe bar in the middle of the restaurant is the focus. The moments from the bartenders, the dark wood furniture, and the dim but somewhat neon lighting were inviting. The contemporary Mexican food served here is above average – I would go back but it’s not something that makes my heart sing. On the scale of 1 to 10, the food is a 7, a couple points above average.

Slightly off topic, it has been a while since I had food that made my heart sing. I cannot wait for my trip back to Taiwan this Summer. I look forward to the shock that a foreign country would deliver to my system. I look forward to the warm weather (translation – the unbearable humidity) and the bizarre food ingredients (translation – the stinky, the fermented, and the gelatinous things) .

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House guacamole: traditional. Chunky. No complaints.

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Salsa and chips which come standard to the table

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Tacos three ways: shrimp (roasted veggies, Chipotle glaze, mango salsa), steak (chopped cilantro, onion, salsa verde) and brisket (sweet plantains, quest fresco, ancho bbq sauce). This was my entrée. Not so thrilled. The mango salsa was an overkill to the taste buds. The steak was tough. The brisket was the best but there was too much sauce for it to be refined enough for my taste.

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Chimichurri skirt steak with roasted vegetables & potatoes, chimichurri sauce. This dish in comparison to mine was much better. I guess it’s hard to go wrong when it’s just a big piece of steak. The chimichurri sauce was a tasty addition if you smother it evenly across the steak.

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Oh, what can I say?  They were out of my favorite Mexican dessert – flan! I tried for chocolate…  Also didn’t have it.  What’s going on guys?  Don’t you know dessert is the most important part of a meal?  Had to settled for this red velvet cake.  Not impressed.

This experience took place at

Lola’s Mexican Kitchen
169 East Post Road
White Plains, NY 10601
914.358.4939
info@lolaswhiteplains.com

Work Cafeteria in White Plains, NY – Super Pumped to Influence their Menus

I work in a corporate park in White Plains, NY and there is a small cafeteria for the entire building.  The food in general is horrible.  The cafeteria had received terrible comments in the past that is related to hygiene, freshness or the appearance of the dish.

This was breaded sole with Spanish rice and broccoli.  When I shared this picture with a friend, he called this the “jail food.”

Since lunch is essential for my well-being, I tend to make do with my own or buy very restricted items from the cafeteria from time to time. A toasted everything bagel with egg and ham is one option that is consistently acceptable.  Today, I had the salmon with tomato sauce, rice pilaf and vegetables.  See below.

The salmon was decent, close enough to what I could do.  The rice pilaf was worse than the kind from the box.

But this is not a post to slam my cafeteria.  I am super-pumped that I have finally become friendly enough with the chef (whose name rhymes with Brownie) in the cafeteria that he is going to make the kind of dish I like!  I love lamb and lamb is not a popular protein.  He will be making roasted lamb and possibly Israeli couscous in the next two weeks at my request!  Better yet, he will text me so I can get the lamb when it first comes out of the oven.

I start to imagine how I can slowly influence the menus of my cafeteria…  Bringing fresh ingredients, poaching the wild salmon, confining the duck, sous-viding the snapper, etc..  May sound pathetic but I live a big chunk of my life in the office.  I need quality food.  I need food that is more palatable. Otherwise, an English muffin with peanut butter plus black tea or cereal with chia seeds and soy milk make a rather boring midday chow.

This experience took place at

A large corporate complex in White Plains, NY

RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen in Tarrytown, NY – Post Holiday Work Fun

This is my first entry in February, after a month-long absence. I hope all my readers have missed me terribly and have been out eating on my behalf. I know I have – some exciting posts coming up!

Back in January, my CMO took the entire department out for a post holiday luncheon at the RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen in Tarrytown, NY. This restaurant is located closed to the Hudson River and has a great view of the river from the dinning room. #HudsonRiverView  The food is #NewAmericanCuisine that appeals to both the common and the slightly snobby. I count myself in the middle of that spectrum but according my BBFs at work, I am at the far end of the snobby when it comes to food. I feel rather misunderstood.

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A menu especially picked for our department. Great job, Andrea and Kerri.

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This is one of the Hors d’oeuvres: mozzarella, tomato and olive pizzetta. Mmm. Just ok.

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Lobster Bisque with warm seafood salad crostini. The bisque tasted watery (in a good way) and filled with sea flavors. There is a bit of saffron in the soup. Pieces of lobster and the crostini added texture and substance.

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This is the Gnocchi or according to my CMO – “Yoncchi.Gnocchi with Stone Broke Farm’s 100% grass-fed beef bolognese, roasted hen of the woods mushrooms. Other than the witty banter I had on the “yoncchi,” this dish was completely not redeemable. The texture was weird. It felt like I was eating cardboard instead of a carbohydrate.

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Steak Sandwich with Sugar Hill Farm hanger stake, vidalia onion with confit, locally foraged mushrooms, house-made focaccia, and fries. I chuckled at this menu description. I wondered if the restaurant foraged the mushrooms right outside near the Hudson River, next to the parking lot where homeless men pee. This is marketing that has gone too far and too bohemian.  According to my peeps who had this dish, it was delish –  not a verifiable fact since not all tasters are created equal.

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Panna Cotta with Meyer lemon, Battenkill Valley buttermilk, white chocolate crumble, marinated blueberries. Passable but not great. Too sweet and the sweetness drowned out any subtlty from the berries or the lemon. This is a 5 out of 10. For a better panna cotta with berry experience, click here.

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Chocolate “Mousse” with cocoa nib crumble, caramel gelée, chocolate oil, and milk sorbet. Looks good in the photo, right? The eaters rated it a 3 out of 10. Ouch.  Double ouch.

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Bread Pudding with chocolate croissant, vanilla custard, warm bourbon sauce. This is rated a 6 or 7 by Dave who loves his mom’s bread pudding. But thanks to Dave, I had partook in his pudding and I rated this solidly a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10.

This luncheon was great because I had fun with my colleagues and had a sweet glass of Sancerre Rosé. We had a great debate on adjectives such as edgy, provocative, and contemporary. Unfortunately, the food went downhill quickly after the Lobster Bisque. Would I return? Maybe. The bar at the restaurant is inviting and the list of alcohol is extensive.  The place is contemporary but not provocative nor edgy.  🙂

This experience took place at

RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen
127 West Main Street
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone:(914) 631-3100

Little Crêpe Street and Little Mumbai Market in Pleasantville, NY – Mumbai Street Food for A Novice

A friend and I went to a Barque concert by Baroque Orchestra of Maine in Pleasantville, NY. Afterwards, we took a short walk to the Little Crêpe Street and Little Mumbai Market in town, where French Crêpes intersect with Indian street food. The owner of the establishment also has the Little Crêpe Street, Little Kabab Station and Little Spice Bazaar restaurant and shop in Mount Kisco, NY; another combination of the French Crêpes and Indian food. See my last review for the Mount Kisco location, click here.

The Mumbai street food approach for the Little Mumbai Market was what drew me in. There are many items that I am unfamiliar with! The dessert crêpe is what drew my friend in. Not only did she enjoy her food, she also left the restaurant with 3 orders of crêpes for her family!

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Cappuccino

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Hot chocolate with a marshmallow. Loved the whipped cream and the marshmallow hidden within the whipped cream.

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Sweet crêpe – Lemon curd + fresh berries: blueberries, raspberries

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Keema Pav: Minced lamb, roasted spices. Served with buttered pav bread. I like lamb with strong spices. I found this Keema Pav to be right up my alley and tasty. I actually don’t need the pav bread.  I also took it home and ate it for breakfast.

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Deconstructed Samosa: samosa, chickpeas, yogurt, tamarind chutney, mint chutney. It looked messy and drowning in weird colored sauce. It is too inside out for my taste. The fried bread underneath the sauce was damp and flat. Not a fan of the fried samosa under all that sauce. However, if you can get past the fried/damp combo, then the sauce and the deconstruction were very well executed. The chickpeas, separately, were good.

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The Little Mumbai Market Street food menu.

Overall, it’s satisfactory and I will return to sample more Indian street food. I may even try the crêpes now that I have forgotten what real crêpes should taste like.

This experience took place at

Little Crêpe Street and Little Mumbai Market
475 Bedford Rd
Pleasantville, NY
(914) 773-0500
littlecrepestreet@gmail.com

Lydia’s Country Kitchen and Cafe in Stone Ridge, NY – A Family Gathering and a Time for Serenity

Have you ever felt a yearning when you first wake up in the morning? May not be able to identify what it is exactly and we go through the day trying different things to satisfy or quiet that hunger. That’s what happened while I was upstate with my sister’s family in Accord, NY, for the holidays. I looked for caffeine as the first option in the rented farm-house. Found nothing in the well-stocked kitchen. Then I went for a walk with my sister, nephew and my daughter. A nice long walk coupled with an intimate conversation produced enough endorphins to keep me satiated and temporarily assuage the yearning.

However, not until we got to Lydia’s Country Kitchen and Cafe in Stone Ridge, NY for brunch, did I realize what my body really wanted. The entire family mobbed the coffee and hot chocolate counter at Lydia’s. The three generations lined up in front of the counter with zeal, grabbing plastic cups to fill in various brown liquids. Ha! All addicted to caffeine, the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug.

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I never put whipped cream in my coffee. This was the first time. Honestly, I don’t think the coffee was anything special but because of my mental state, I believed it was the best thing on earth at that moment in time. Completely serene although it was short-lived. Perhaps this is how first time is for everything.

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Veggie Burger – on a hard roll with lettuce, tomato & onions. Does not look interesting. The plating lacked imagination. The food at Lydia’s is very main stream American – a composition of burgers, meat, and sandwiches. Our group ordered a lot of fried food as you will see below.

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Lasagna – homemade meatless lasagna served with green salad & french bread. Did not try this dish but the French bread looked pale. And fundamentally I don’t understand meatless lasagna. I feel it takes away the flavor and the original point of a lasagna. A good lasagna should use a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce made with fresh tomatoes and 93% lean organic ground beef.

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Fish & Chips – halibut batter dipped & deep fried served with sweet potato fries & cole slaw. The highlight of this dish is the sweet potato fries. There wasn’t any complaint from the eater. Nevertheless, the fried fish was repeatedly rejected by my one-and-a-half year old nephew. He is a picky eater and clearly knew what he was doing.

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Fried Fish Sandwich – halibut batter dipped & deep fried with lettuce, tomato & tartar sauce on a hard roll. This is a variation of the fish and chip.

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All American Grilled Cheese with mozzarella cheese.  Now I can tell you that this was completely mediocre. In fairness to Lydia’s, it’s difficult to make a grilled cheese outstanding if the ingredients are so common place. The grilled cheese was well executed and average.

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Chicken in a Basket – half chicken, honey dip batter, deep fried served with cole slaw & a pickle. The highlight here is the curly fries. In fact, curly fries were the second highlight of the meal right after the caffeinated drinks. The fries were crunchy, crispy, fatty, and salted like all good fries should be. The curls made it fun for the one-and-a-half-year old.

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Texas Style Smoked Brisket Sandwich – this was mine. The meat was dry and the taste of the smoke had not gone into the brisket, placed within the two buns which were proportionally too big. Dry meat on dry buns does not make a good sandwich. It was not satisfying and instead I focused on my curly fries and the conversation.

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French Toast – My nephew loved this dish. He dug in with enthusiasm and cried out when his parents wanted him to slow down. Did not try it and cannot comment on the taste.

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Beignet – This was a surprise. The chef came out and gave us complimentary dessert. The beignets were warm and sweet. And fried. I was not a fan. It was a little greasy and the texture was only slightly better than that of Dunkin Donut’s munchkins. The powder sugar on top of the grease only served to cover up the oiliness. This was too much fried food for my system. But the beignets made some other people very happy. We even took the rest home.

For upstate New York, among farm houses and live stocks, Lydia’s delivered enough of the metropolitan flare for those of us who cannot bear leaving the civilization. Stick to simple things, like curly fries and coffee, then you will be fine. Enjoy the temporary serenity food brings.

This experience took place at

Lydia’s Country Kitchen and Cafe
7 Old US Highway 209
Stone Ridge, NY 12484, USA
email: mark@lydiasdeli.com
ph: (845) 687-6373 (NERD)
fax: (845) 687-6372

Hive Living Room + Bar @ the Renaissance Westchester Hotel – Outstanding Service & A Perfect Location for A Business Meal

Thanks to some of my closest business friends, I was at the Hive Living Room + Bar at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel for a wonderful, fun-filled evening. This was the first time I had ever been to the Renaissance and it exceeded expectations in both service and attention to details. I had a subsequent visit since then – read the review here. Now I will tell you why they exceeded my expectations for customer service.

There were eight of us and five of us ordered steaks and asked for various temperatures. Unfortunately all the steaks were done a little too well from what we asked for. I was the first one to realize that my medium steak was in fact well done. So I started asking my colleagues whether their steaks were done correctly. As soon as we started checking our steaks and communicating, the chef ran out of the kitchen and wanted to know what was wrong. Once I explained that mine was well done vs. medium, he offered to re-fry my steak. He then went down the line and asked everyone who ordered steaks whether they wanted their steaks to be re-fried.

Out of politeness and also because we were already half-way through our steaks, we all declined his generous gesture. The chef then offered free dessert platters as an apology. That was #GoodCustomerService! So even though our steaks were a little tough, we all felt happy at the end.  And my friend, Wally, even wanted to order a steak as his dessert!

Below is a quick recap of what we ate.

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MEDITERRANEAN PLATTER: red pepper, kalamata olives, caramelized onion, roasted garlic hummus, and pita chips.  This was average.

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FRENCH BAGUETTE: with sundried tomato butter, herb olive oil, sriracha honey, hummus smears. The sriracha honey was very interesting; the combination works.

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CHEESE PLATTER: soft goat cheese, Roquefort, brie, sweet onion jam, grilled baguette, seasonal berries. This was average.

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CHEF JEAN CLAUDE’S CLASSIC FROM THE PAST (with a very long description of how it came about, quoted below, directly from the menu):
“Coq au Chiron” this is my mother’s recipe, at age of 11, when she opened her first restaurant near the city of Chinon, her popular dish was the coq au chinon, after school I was always in the kitchen and helped my mother cook. It was then I knew that I wanted to be a chef.

We had no idea what the dish was from the description.  My colleague, Mike, was brave enough to order it.  Can you guess what protein it is?

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Special that night – a 9 oz steak!  Way too big for the little woman (Danielle) who ordered it. The rest went to a beloved Rottweiler.

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“STEAK FRITE” seared rib-eye, home-made french fries, maitre d’ butter. Pretty good. Just wish it were medium versus well done for me. For people who ordered medium rare, their steaks were medium. Darn! The fries were good.

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MISO GLAZED SALMON: steamed baby carrots and bok-choy, forbidden rice. Very respectable. The forbidden rice was a nice touch. The color scheme (dark pink, green, orange and black) was very pleasing to the eye. Interesting though – they did not ask whether the salmon was cooked to our liking.

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SPAGHETTI CLAMS: white wine, garlic, basil cream, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts. “Pretty Good!”

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This is the dessert platter the chef put together for us. It included: WARM CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE, CLASSIC TIRAMISU, spiced pumpkin bread and mixed berries. The aspect of a complimentary dessert is nice but the desserts were just ok.

Overall, you cannot go wrong because of their service and how much they want to please the customers. The wait staff were very keen to meet our every need and paid very close attention to every little detail. It made a great evening with friends.

This experience took place at

 

Hive Living Room + Bar @ the Renaissance Westchester Hotel

80 West Red Oak Lane

West Harrison, New York

10604 USA

+1-914-694-5400

Roberto’s in the Bronx, Authentic Italian Cuisine

My foodie friends from out-of-town decided on Roberto’s in the Bronx, NY.  This is in the Little Italy section of the Bronx where authentic Italian food is known.  The restaurant is so popular that they don’t take reservations.  So you wait and wait until you have a table.  We arrived at 5:15pm and waited about one hour for an early Saturday night dinner.

But the meal is definitely worth the wait.  It was excellent even for me who generally avoid Italian restaurants because the Italian food here in the states is never as good as that in Italy.  I still miss the fresh grilled octopus and calamari when I visited Venice in 2003.  A little restaurant in the tiny alley way with less than 10 seats.  It was everyday eating: fresh seafood with a glass of house Chianti.

Burrata plus Calamari
Burrata plus Calamari

This is our antipasti.  Burrata and Calamari e Gamberi alla Griglia.  The calamari was so tender.  The Burrata melted in my mouth.  Wow.

Roberto's Burrata
Roberto’s Burrata

Here is the Burrata again in its full glory.  The capers were a very nice touch.

Tubettini con Polipo e Fave
Tubettini con Polipo e Fave

This was my dish.  I am a sucker for Octopus.  I cannot help it.  I have been told that Octopus has the equivalent intelligence of a three-year-old child.  I am still eating it.

Coniglio a Doppia Cottura
Coniglio a Doppia Cottura

This is the 1/2 grilled rabbit.  It was excellent.  Not gamy at all and delicious.

Penne Melanzane e Provola Affumicata
Penne Melanzane e Provola Affumicata

This is the penne with mozzarella.  Simple but very excellent.

Pasta Special
Pasta Special
Roberto's Pasta Special, cooked in the foil
Roberto’s Pasta Special, cooked in the foil
Tiramisu
Tiramisu
Chocolate Gelato
Chocolate Gelato

Can you really come to an authentic Italian place and not get gelato? Or anything chocolate?  I had the chocolate volcano, pictured up top.

The meal was very satisfying from the beginning to the end.  I have also come to find out that they recently opened a sister restaurant right in my town, called Zero Otto Nove.  Guess where I will be going soon?  Thumbs up!

But before then, it’s time to exercise to burn off those pasta calories.

Roberto’s Restaurant

603 Crescent Avenue
Bronx, NY 10458

Via Vanti! In Mount Kisco, NY

Via Vanti! is a cute little Italian restaurant in the Mount Kisco train station in Westchester County, NY.  It looks a bit small when I first walked up to it.  Once entered, I was greeted by eager and smily hostess and waitress.  The vibe was easy-going and low-key.  The decor was modern chic with a heavy hand on the color red.  The place seems to be frequented by the locals.

The food was what I would consider as new Italian, taking influence from here and there, using in season ingredients, and preparing dishes that fit the palates of New Yorkers.  I had the Red Quinoa & Grilled Shrimp with chunky avocado and mango salsa.  It looked so inviting that I almost forgot to take a picture before completely destroying the plate.

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This is Couscous & Grilled Vegetali.  As you see here, my friend already dived into the food before I had a chance to photograph it.  It looked very inviting and my friend polished it off in no time.

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Via Vanti seems to be big on gelato and sorbet, claims to have 18 varieties daily.  The menu looks impressive.  I will have to try it next time.  It was a good night out.  Will definitely return to try the gelato.

 

Via Vanti! at the Mount Kisco Train Station
2 Kirby Plaza
Mount Kisco, NY 10549

914.666.6400