234 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park
(516) 746-1243, copperhillny.com
What was once La Marmite is now Copperhill. The 125-year-old farmhouse now has new owners, a new concept and a new atmosphere. What was a slowly fading, old-fashioned continental restaurant now serves modern American and international cuisine in a cool, spacious interior that gives it a contemporary farmhouse feel.
It’s a bright, light, white tablecloth place of candles, mirrors, large windows, bare wooden floors and a fireplace. The sophisticated, reasonably priced, three-section menu (snacks, appetizers, main courses) ranges from a hamburger to au-currant dishes like octopus, foie gras, veal cheeks and golden tilefish, but its obscenely priced wine list starts at $46 a bottle.
While the food is uniformly good and quite interesting, portions are mostly on the small side and service, while earnest and well intentioned, is a bit rough at the edges.
The night’s best buy by far came from the bargain priced $5 snack list. The devils on horseback—three figs with cheese and nuts wrapped in bacon—was one of the tastiest treats of the night. The three starters that followed were a generous and affordable ring of foie gras torchon and maple with three crisp seeded crackers ($13); a soft, warm buratta that found good buddies in acorn squash, pumpkin seeds and speck ($12); and a tender, satisfying octopus made a bit more exotic by its accompanying, tiny Anson Mills fired peas and lively chorizo ($13).
Three of four entrées ordered were very similar to the portions served in small plate establishments. The exception was a hefty, monster-size barbeque short rib with a creative sprinkling of celery root and pretzel spaetzle ($25). It and beer braised cheeks escorted by Anson Mills grits and a carrot ($28) were tasty and tender, but fatty. A small black sea bass was fresh and fine and accompanied by fig, speck and sweet fingerlings ($23). Our fourth main course on Copperhill’s ever-evolving, seasonal menu was a pleasing mix of perfectly cooked ricotta cavatelli, braised lamb, chard and pecorino ($24).
Desserts ($10) are in flux. A new array appears virtually every night. Our waitress was nice enough to write out the four that were available (coconut, butterscotch, pumpkin and chocolate). But detailed descriptions are useless here since the dessert list will probably be different when you visit.
Copperhill is an ambitious venture with an occasional bump in the road. In our case we ordered white wine and got red, bread did not arrive when we were seated (it came with our appetizers) and servers had no idea who ordered what dish, resulting in everyone not getting what they ordered.