Restaurant review: New Hudson 29 prepares familiar fare with some flair

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From the May 1, 2014 edition

Hudson 29 Kitchen & Drink won’t win any awards for “menu imagination,” but it might cop top honors in customer satisfaction. Cameron Mitchell’s newest creation — call it “M’s little brother”— offers provocatively unambitious dishes, but the generous portions and on-target execution at this new place in UA (Mitchell’s longtime neighborhood) is packing in eager diners by the ’burb-ful.

Hudson 29 — its name conflates New York’s Hudson Valley, where Mitchell attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, with Route 29, which winds through Northern California wine country — is snazzy, not fancy. Situated in The Lane (an upstart upscale apartment complex), darkly lit Hudson features dark wood, multiple distinct spaces and sorta resembles an old-school steakhouse.

There are private rooms, a wait-for-your-table lounge with stone walls and a hearth (reservations are strongly recommended), a neat semi-enclosed patio, several booth-equipped areas, an open kitchen and a good-sized bar. Like other CMR restaurants, which tend to encourage buzz and hubbub, Hudson can flirt with being “try texting me” loud. Also like other CMRs, Hudson’s above-and-beyond professional service — there’s a huge and supremely courteous team here — is exemplary.

Though claiming “the focus is on wine,” Hudson’s large vino selection is hardly adventurous — but its prices are (e.g. glasses of “The Prisoner” are $19). There are also six beers on tap — none from Ohio — and carefully made cocktails ($10). The latter range from heavy and classic (a citrus-leavened El Presidente) to light and trendy (borrowed-from-M, bottled-in-house Bourbon Cola).

Hudson borrows from M (Mitchell’s crown jewel) food-wise too. This is particularly evident in Hudson’s not-so-raw sushi section, anchored by M’s signature Surf & Turf roll ($14).

From the user-friendly short menu’s other sections, I tried the Dip Trio appetizer ($10). Somewhat characterizing Hudson’s appeal, it’s routine-sounding items (warm tortilla chips, dense hummus, creamy guacamole, plus a lean and scene-stealing smoked trout spread) that un-routinely flaunt clear, clean and fresh flavors and are attractively presented.

Hudson’s tangy Tortilla Soup du jour ($6) displayed panache. Its handsome, poured-tableside tawny tomato broth offered deeply meaty and oniony accents effectively contrasted by last-second garnishes of crispy tortilla strips and sour cream.

Also getting all the little things right was the deceptively simple House Salad ($7), a minor triumph of ingredients and execution. English cucumbers, pristine greens, good bacon, crispy fried dough bits and flavorful-enough “Campari tomatoes” were perfectly dressed in a perky, sweet-tart vinaigrette.

Though the entree-sized Roasted Chicken salad sported a subtler dressing (my “mustard vinaigrette” tasted mostly of oil), it was nonetheless a lively assemblage of tender pulled chicken healthily tricked out with kale, quinoa, beets, roasted peppers and more. Bonus: At $13, it’s one of Hudson’s better deals.

A $17 reuben sandwich better be good, right? Well Hudson’s homemade-briny-brisket version is (though $13 would be more reasonable). Plus it comes in three stacked-high wedges, and with a side, like shoestring fries.

My surprisingly light-tinted Wood Grilled King Salmon ($26) was so simple-yet-flawless, it was almost brilliant. The skinned, lucidly seasoned, crusted-yet-moist-and-tender fish came with nifty couscous jazzed-up with greens, nuts and raisins.

Hudson also offers set-in-stone daily specials, like Monday’s outrageously tender and delicious Braised Short Rib ($28). Outfitted with shiitakes, demiglace-like “au jus,” excellent horseradish-kissed mashers, glazed carrots and shaved Brussels sprouts, this delectable comfort-bomb dinner might seem simplistic — until you try making it yourself.