Garden City Hotel , 45 Seventh St. Garden City, NY 11530-2807
For decades, the hotel hosted at least one destination restaurant, from New American Polo, the wall-free lobby showcase; to haute Euro Giorgio, in an elegant hideaway.
Clubby, wood-paneled Rein never quite continued the tradition. Now, it's even more reined-in.
Chef Michael Mandato prepares some very good food here. And his special-events dinners seem ambitious and inviting. It's the day-to-day fare at Rein that, while mostly satisfying, remains risk-averse, general-interest and notable mainly if you're staying at the hotel.
The dining room itself is beginning to show wear, from the chairs onward. The decor, with polished wood framing insistently colorful artwork, seems tired. But the bar is suitable and the staff is attentive.
Mandato, from Oceanside, comes to this hotel after stints at several other major ones, as well as La Cote Basque, the grand French restaurant in Manhattan that now belongs to memory.
Here, he prepares a tasty corn chowder with a dollop of bacon crème fraîche; and a meaty, jumbo lump crabcake with a scoop of avocado salsa, oven-roasted tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and herbaceous sauce rémoulade.
But the East Coast oysters Rockefeller arrive pretty dry. Tuna tartare, with avocado and fingerling potato chips, makes you concentrate more on the chips. "Walnut crusted" seared scallops, nutty and sweet, improve the choices. The frisee-and-arugula salad doesn't, despite welcome Jasper Hill blue cheese.
Overdone, roasted wild striped bass benefits from a bed of French lentils, but not from either leeks or herb cream sauce. Pan-seared king salmon sinks into anonymity, even with a lobster reduction. You're better off with fettuccine, with shrimp, chard, sun-dried tomatoes and a modest amount of cream.
The top main course at Rein currently is the juicy, five-spice duck breast, with braised red cabbage and chestnut puree, and jus sparked by star anise and sage. The seared chicken breast politely joins the competition, boosted by truffle mashed potatoes. Cipollini onions and crisp, buttery potato chips, as well as broccoli rabe don't rescue the bland, seared shell steak.
"Black Forest" baked Alaska lightens up dessert, ignited tableside. The chocolate-berry dome also is recommended, for the look and the flavor. No need to linger over the glazed doughnut holes with raspberry and Nutella sauces; or the pineapple upside-down cake, drier than a muffin.
But Rein is open for breakfast.