A small building on Scarsdale Ave. contains a big secret.
But Chef Sal Cucullo is the kind of secret best spread far and wide. He's the man personally responsible for lighting up this quiet-for-too-long part of town. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, and the son of the owner of Fratelli's in New Rochelle, Chef Sal brings knowledge, experience, and personality to the table.
I brought Dr. Girlfriend out for the meal, who has been complaining for the last five years that I need to take her out on a date ("NO, Jeremy, an ACTUAL DATE!) So we went, armed with little more than last minute reservations and a vague location at the corner of Scarsdale and Lee avenues.
The standalone building is located on the edge of a quiet neighborhood, right next to the train tracks. While the outside is classic metropolitan New York, the inside is more modern, with metallic accents and electric blue lights on the tables. Dress is casual, but more of a button-down shirt and slacks than a t-shirt-and-shorts kind of place. I instantly realized this place is high-end even for Scarsdale.
We were seated promptly, and I took a look at the drinks menu, amazed by the large number of original cocktails – all produced by the bartender – including a strawberry-basil martini and a drink called the Route 22.
Dr. Girlfriend, being a creature of habit, ordered a Midori sour, and I, being an underpaid food critic, ordered a diet Coke.
For an appetizer we shared the garlic bread tower, garlic bread made from ciabatta stacked high, and topped with fresh thyme and a gorgonzola cheese sauce.
At this point I realized this was going to be more than just a way to get Dr. Girlfriend off my back. We decided to be polite with this new delicacy, and she offered me the last piece. (I realized I was paying, so I took it.)
Our entrees were delicious and as the good Doctor wasn't going to overtly "order the lobster," she instead ordered the soft shell crab, which is not only hard to keep in stock without resorting to putting "market price" on the menu, but is hard to serve altogether. It came out perfectly tender, with a slight cornmeal crust, atop a deliciously creamy vegetable risotto.
I had the duck duck, a duck l'Orange breast, with a duck confit leg.At this point I would like to say something about duck confit.
Duck confit (kon-fee) is not a made-to-order item. In fact, it takes at least 36 hours to make, and can only be done in large batches, and with great care. This being said, having this as a permanent menu item is beyond tough, but Chef Sal made it happen perfectly; the dry leg with a salty flavor was perfectly balanced by the best duck l'Orange I have ever tasted. (Duck l'Orange is a crispy duck breast with a glaze made from sweet citrus liqueur: The skin is usually crisp and the meat is tender but not overcooked.)
Chef Sal came by to see if people were enjoying themselves, and the staff was friendly and fast.
In fact, the only thing I didn't like about this restaurant is the prices, but hey, for what we had, they were most acceptable. An extravagant dinner for two came to $71.
I'd give 808 Bistro a 9 out of 10 for food quality, and culinary skill and organization. Parking is abundant on the street, and the 808 is a reservation-only restaurant. The only thing that caught my eye that I didn't try was the 808 apple strudel which is placed under the appetizer section of the menu because they are made from scratch per order, and take almost half an hour to prepare.
Maybe next time.