Distinctive Dining: A Tale of Two Restaurants
casual passerby might never suspect that Peter Pratt's
Inn in Yorktown Heights and Ümami Café
in Croton-on-Hudson share the same ownership. But
both restaurants (and a second Ümami Café
that opened three months ago in Fishkill) are owned
by Jonathan Pratt and Craig Purdy. Pratt is the son
of Peter and Janet Pratt, the prior owners of the
Inn, while Purdy--who holds a master's degree in hotel
management from Cornell, my undergraduate alma mater--once
worked there as a dishwasher 31 years ago.
casual passerby might dismiss Peter Pratt's Inn as
just another stately Westchester dining venue, figuring
it to attract the same crowds as the venerable Frenchies
in the County. And he might identify in Ümami
Café the kind of free-wheeling spirit that
characteries down-County eateries like Port Chester's
Pacifico and Café Mirage.
be partly right. But if our casual passerby actually
dined at the two restaurants, he would discover that
the distinction blurs. Peter Pratt's Inn may have
classical underpinnings, but it can't resist employing
numerous novel touches that propel it past stodgier
competitors. Ümami Café may meld elements
from disparate cuisines, but it still pays strong
obeisance to first-rate ingredients and classic techniques.
distinctions prove more compelling. Ümami Café
is situated in downtown (pardon the exaggeration)
Croton-on-Hudson, while Peter Pratt's Inn is located
up a set of rural switchback (ironically called Croton
Heights Road) where nary a traffic light is to be
found. Ümami Café is modern and minimalist,
while Peter Pratt's Inn is handsome and historic--in
winter, offering dining by the fireplace; in summer,
on its porch.
the two, Ümami Café is the more accessible--in
more ways than one. At Peter Pratt's Inn, the generously
portioned entrees rang from $18 to $29; at Ümami
Café, entrees start at $10 with pad Thai and
top off at $18 for barbecued babyback ribs. Peter
Pratt's Inn features a global selection of wines touching
many price points ($18-$600), while Ümami Café's
simple wine list ($20-$38) draws just from France,
Australia and California.
Ümami Café, parties are encouraged to
bring their own bottle of wine (corkage fee $10).
For me, sake would be the perfect complement to Ümami
Café's East-West fusion menu, so I may bring
a cork-less bottle of sake with me the next time I
come. Surprisingly, when Ümami Café carried
sake, it didn't sell. But Bob and I were quite pleased
with our big (14.1% alcohol) '01 Teatown Merlot, Napa,
California ($8/$38) produced by a friend of Pratt's.
globally, east locally!" is Ümami Café's
slogan. A sign in the café's entry defines
umami (oomlot added) as 1. the fifth primary taste--after
sweet, bitter, sour, salt--identified by Asian cooks
c. 800 A.D.' 2. good taste, deliciousness (Japanese);
3. flavor sensation that triggers a craving response,
4. Not Yo' Mama! or Oooo Mommy!; 5. found only in
certain food but not limited to specific cuisine or
region; 6. food with 'tude. Nearby bathrooms are humorously
labeled udadi and umomi.
in vegetarian ($5), chicken ($6), shrimp ($7) and
chicken and shrimp ($8) versions, coconut lime soup
proved to be a tom kha kai, the classic Thai soup
featuring coconut milk galangal, lemongrass and Kaffir
lime juice. What's more, unlike the tepid versions
produced by some overly timid Thai restaurants, the
tart elements in the broth were allowed to assert
themselves, holding the richness of the coconut milk
in check. The broth was a faithful reproduction, the
solid additions somewhat more fanciful, including
carrot shreds, peas, glass noodles and bit s of mushroom
duck appetizers have achieved great popularity at
Ümami Café--one Japanese in thrust, the
other Chinese by way of Mexico. The first, called
duckamaki ($7.50) is a riff on negimayaki, Japanese
beef roll-ups filled with scallion segments and served
in teriyaki sauce. The Café substitutes duck
for beef and sweet caramelized onion for teriyaki
sauce. The second is a quesadilla ($8) that repackages
the flavors of classic Peking duck between twin six-inch
flour tortillas filled with shredded duck confit tossed
with hoisin sauce, scallion, cilantro and Cheddar,
then garnished with more hoisin sauce, creme fraiche
and scallions. This duck dish also contains a Japanese
echo in a sesame-flavored seaweed salad indistinguishable
from that produced in any good sushi joint.
into our entrees, we tried a couple of salads, including
a sushi joint-style side salad ($4) with a bright
orange carrot-miso dressing and an impressive Ümami
salad ($5) that successfully fused Thai and Indonesian
elements. Garnished with strips of tortilla shell
and crispy onions, this house salad bound julienne
carrot, jicama, green papaya and red bell pepper in
an Indonesian peanut dressing. Although some dishes,
including the house salad, were billed as spicy, most
were actually quite mild. However, fire-eaters like
myself will find such a carnival of flavors in each
dish that the absence of flames won't disappoint anyone.
Pratt draws inspiration from his Chinese-Hawaiian
wife, Suzie Low Pratt, is understandable to this restaurant
critic whose Filipino wife has fueled his love affair
with all thing Asian. Thus, flavorful grilled hanger
steak ($15) was served with Joyce's Beach House Sauce,
a simple sumptuous emulsion of Garlic, butter, soy
and oyster sauce provided by one of Suzie's sisters.
Grilled salmon ($14) in a citrusy yuzu and soy sauce
was served over watercress with choice of white or
brown rice. Three-fourths of a rack of barbecued babyback
pork ribs ("Chee Hou" style ($18) were served
with Nancy's coleslaw (a recipe by another of Suzie's
plentiful sisters) and French fries.
desserts ($5) were homemade, including chocolate lava
cake, a perfect Key lime pie (I so rarely like them)
and a sticky date cake with toffee sauce, an Aussie
days later, I visited Peter Pratt's Inn with my wife
who, having dined there a few years before, insisted
on being included. My wife's no fool. She knows Peter
Pratt's Inn offers some of Westchester's best dining.
kicked things off with an ''01 Christom Mount Jefferson
Pinto Noir, Cuvee, Willmette Valley, Oregon ($50).
How could this former Oregon mountaineer resist this
wine, having scaled peaks to Jefferson's north and
south, including Mount Hood (thrice), the South Sister
(twice) and Mount Thielson (once)? This offering proved
to be a classic, light, versatile Pinot Noir--more
Burgundian than big.
I saw Peter Pratt's Inn also featured the ahi tuna
tacos ($10), I ordered them for my wife, even though
I had already tried them. No one rightly should be
deprived of the experience. Just as lovely was a chilled
carrot soup ($8) made with coconut milk, Thai curry
and pickled (but not especially briny) mango. This
soup is so elegant and natural you would swear it's
a traditional recipe from a Southeast Asian nation,
but it's not. It's a sign of successful fusion when
combinations feel so natural and unforced.
crab cake ($9), served over red cabbage slaw with
a horseradish mayonnaise, clung to more classic lines
but was remarkably good. Made with Venezuelan lump
crab meat, the lightly browned cakes were fresh-tasting,
flavorful and, above all, crabby. Pan-seared sea scallops
($10) were served in a lovely ginger-lime beurre blanc
and accompanied by a black bean and corn salsa.
endive, radicchio, pear, Stilton cheese and candied
walnut salad was perfectly balanced. Truffled mushroom
ravioli with wild mushroom cream ($9/$18) drew three
wows from my wife, who's parsimonious with praise.
These swoon-worthy ravioli would give cafe Meze's
artichoke ravioli with Parmesan and white truffle
oil a serious run for their money.
matter how much Peter Pratt's Inn changes with the
times or draws inspiration from overseas, I'm still
programmed to think of it as a great place to go for
game. And it still is. Grilled New Zealand venison
loin ($26) with a fava bean ragout and red onion marmalade
satisfied my yearning (or should I say yen?) for game,
as did pan-seared french Pekin duck ($24) with a morel
polenta, caramelized onion and orange-infused duck
glace. How thrilling it was to receive several bone-in
pieces of duck instead of the usual prissy slices
of breast meat!
we turned to a dessert ($8) which was house-made.
A banana and coconut cream pie.
casual passerby might not fully appreciate the
balance of East and West that makes dining at Ümami
Caféand Peter Pratt's Inn so exciting. But
if he took one bite of the food served at either restaurant,
I guarantee he would be a casual passerby no longer.
Indeed, he will most certainly visit again, and again.
Café is located at 325 S. Riverside Ave., Croton-on0Hudson.
Telephone is 271-5555. Peter Pratt's Inn is located
at 673 Croton Heights Rd., Yorktown Heights. Telephone