Yes, Town House Is in Westchester. Yes, You Should Still Go.
Chef Chris dos Reis' bistro just made the Michelin guide, so get in while you still can.
“This is stupid. You’re stupid.”
Maybe that’s not the nicest way to speak to a man who has created one of the best meals I’ve eaten in the last five years, but Chris dos Reis knows I mean it with love. He laughs.
I don’t normally have an occasion to go to Westchester, but now I have a reason to willingly thrust myself into the suburbs headfirst. That’s where Town House is located, where dos Reis is the head chef. The restaurant opened in October 2022 in New Rochelle, a 30-minute train ride from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station. By January 2023, they had been added to the Michelin Guide, which also means they’ll be considered for a Michelin star this year.
The menu is inspired by “a blend of Portuguese roots with just like, whatever the fuck I wanted to eat afterwards,” dos Reis says. Some of it’s inspired by the Portuguese dishes he made with his grandmother on visits to her town of Batalha in Portugal. He also draws from his extensive background in international Michelin star restaurants like Momofuku Ko, Lyle’s, Kadeau, Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Town House bartender Julio Enriquez is also a Blue Hill alum), Aska and the former Fäviken. Some dishes call back to New Rochelle’s past as “the Queen City of the Sound,” a luxurious seaside playground. And others were inspired by dos Reis’ love of what he jokingly calls “dirty” food, the food chefs eat when they’re done for the night, whether it’s deep-fried or between a bun. He describes it as “rustic, but with intention.”
And when I say “stupid,” I mean “stupid good.” There are multiple times throughout the course of my meal at the restaurant — which is decorated with welcoming light wooden furniture, modernist light fixtures and navy walls — that I simply clutch my forehead, close my eyes and wonder, “what is happening in my face?” The answer is a combination of things. For starters, it’s the crispy crunch of julienned winter root vegetables and Lady Rose apples hugging a dollop of burrata. It’s tempura kimchi green beans with wasabi, togarashi and horseradish (tempura was invented in Portugal but perfected by the Japanese). It’s warm, homemade sourdough bread and a creamy peekytoe crab and parsnip cavatelli carbonara. “You should have seen your face when the waiter said he was going to take it away,” my boyfriend says of the latter. “You looked like you were going to cry.”
And then there’s the entree: seafood rice with lobster, uni and scallops, so perfect I wonder if it’s weird to be turned on. A pig ear salad with frisee, yuzu coulis and furikake is bolstered by the sweet and spicy friskiness of gochujang. Warm pickled heirloom carrots served with romesco, complement a burger with caramelized onions, bacon, cheddar and a demi-glace swirling under its brioche bun. A good meal turns the conversation toward the food in front of you, and as soon as it arrives, that is indeed all we can talk about.
There’s a sense of freedom and fun to dos Reis’ dishes, one that comes across when he visits our table with a smile and genuine laughter that’s also present when we chat on the phone. In creating the menu, he was really just doing what he wanted to do, finding and creating his voice as a chef. In being himself, he’s been able to garner recognition from sources he didn’t expect. That’s to say, he wasn’t gunning for the Michelin guide or thinking he’d be considered for a star — he was just “cooking yummy food,” and that’s what he and his team continue to do.
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Chef partly attributes the zest of the menu to Town House’s Westchester location. It’s removed from what he calls the “cutthroat” nature of Manhattan restaurants, where you must turn a profit in the first three months or accept defeat. Westchester’s fine dining options exist, yes, but they’re more limited. Many people dos Reis spoke to from the county are excited about visiting restaurants in the five boroughs. “Once I realized that, and I was like, well, there’s obviously a population who knows how to eat and enjoys eating out, right?,” he says. “That exists in Westchester. And that population is almost forced, if not obligated, to go to New York City. And I thought, well, what if I just catch them before they get to the city?”
Now, people are coming up from the city to try Town House. “The more I’d go out and eat, the more I’d see what we’re doing is maybe a little more unique,” dos Reis says. He even found some restaurants with the same accolades had a lot of similarities, but there was and remains nothing quite like Town House.
Town House believes that good food can be accessible and doesn’t have to be something you save up for for years or that puts a hole in your bank account. It can be a place you return to multiple times in a year, or even in a month if you so desire. “That was our biggest driving force,” dos Reis says. “I want to shake the hands and kiss the babies. You want to come out [of the kitchen] and just know people.” It’s an idea he says likely arose during the pandemic.
“You can have a beautiful environment,” he adds. “You can have the attention to customers and guests. And you can have the attention to a wine list and the attention to food and everything. But you can also make it approachable.” For those in the five boroughs, getting there will cost you a $23 round trip Metro-North ticket, but, at least in my experience, it becomes an adventure to meet at Grand Central, take the train and walk the short distance to Town House. Avowedly anti-suburbs though I may be, I cannot wait to go back.
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