Williston Park, (516) 877-2343
The beat goes on at 38 Hillside Avenue in Williston Park. Joseph Lester, the excellent chef/owner of the warm, cozy Ivy Cottage had a successful 14-year run there before selling to two talented partners (he now runs The FarmHouse Kitchen in Rockville Centre). They have changed the restaurant’s name, menu and approach while maintaining a high level of quality.
Now called Madison’s, the reconfigured operation began a shakedown cruise under its new owners last May, manager Kevin Madison and chef Jeffery Slade, closed in July for renovations and reopened as a New American eating place toward the end of the summer. Both partners are experienced restaurateurs. Mr. Madison saw previous service in a management capacity at Lola’s in Long Beach, Peppercorns in Hicksville and Hemingway’s in Wantagh. Chef Slade has worked in the renowned kitchens of Le Bernardin and Le Cirque in the city and The French Laundry in Yountville, California, as well as Farmhouse in Greenport.
Together they have turned the earthy Ivy Cottage into a sleek, modern, black and white venue with a fireplace, wall of mirrors, white tablecloths, a very loud bar scene and most importantly, an ever-changing seasonal menu.
Although there were a few rough patches (noise and service flaws) in the early going at Madison’s, all the signs pointed to it being a serious eating place. Diners are quickly offered four varieties of bread, all of them interesting and good. Also appreciated was a welcome tidbit designed to prime the appetite. Unfortunately the raw Little Neck clam on the half shell topped with a bloody mary gelée was a tad sandy and less than a universal hit (I ate all four because the three other diners at the table had no interest).
Happily, a starter of four pristine, chilled Blue Point oysters ($9) did not suffer the same fate. Even better were three jumbo-sized, slightly-spicy curry, seared, blackened scallops ($15), each on a base of refreshing, seedless watermelon with a touch of feta enhanced by a dressing of aged balsamic. There’s not a thing wrong with the so-called baby spinach “Caesar” salad ($12) though I couldn’t decide whether it was a spinach salad or an unorthodox Caesar with spinach and bacon. The hands-down numero uno starter was the square stack of tender, tasty, boneless ribs ($15) with mashed potatoes.
A number of entrées are given a big boost by their outstanding accompaniments. Included among them are Long Island duck breast ($32) with a smattering of rich plum sauce, super fresh spinach and great grilled endive, and the mellow roasted pork tenderloin ($27) escorted by a big, ripe local peach. The grilled American lamb chops ($32) were beautifully seasoned and very tasty though not buttery tender. Fish lovers can’t do better than the moist, gleaming, ivory-hued halibut ($33).
Although the menu states “all desserts are made in house,” the sorbet ($7) and cheeses ($12) are, of course, made elsewhere. The rich cheesecake mousse ($8), densely flavored flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($9) and the caramel crème brûlée ($9) are all winners.
The well-intentioned service doesn’t quite make it to the winner’s circle—the waitstaff only rarely knew who ordered the dishes they were delivering and there were sometimes lengthy gaps between courses. After waiting a long time to get dessert menus, we gave up and had to flag down a waitress.
Photos by Stephen Lang