Rabbit & Turtle Pub | Restaurant
302 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Closed Mondays | Dinner from 5 PM | Lunch from 12 PM | Saturday – Sunday Brunch
We were sitting at the bar, perusing the menu, sipping a glass of wine. A gentleman diner sat two stools down the bar from where we were seated. “You have to try this!” he said. I looked at his plate, the contents of which were not immediately apparent. Perhaps a roasted plantain, I thought. The waitress told us it was a parsnip. A parsnip? Since we had no idea who this person was, and we were the only people in the restaurant, his unsolicited suggestion was a bit of surprise. Not the unsolicited part, the parsnip part. I looked at the menu. “Parsnip, served with parsnip puree, and apple cider caviar.”
I have to admit, a parsnip is not the type of dish that I would normally be inclined to order, unless of course there was a guy sitting two seats down, and the guy was pushing 250, dressed all in black with lots of leather and a shaved head, eating a parsnip and telling us to order one. So we did. It was delicious, and prepared like no other parsnip that I had ever tasted. The cored parsnip was “stuffed” with tiny beads of candied apple cider “caviar”, and perched on a puddle of parsnip puree. We enjoyed it so much that when friends came later on in the evening to have dinner, we strongly suggested that they try it.
On an earlier visit, one of the owners, Pascal Graff, suggested that we try the crispy pork shoulder. The picnic shoulder, or paradoxically, the pork butt which sits next to the picnic on the hog, are my favorite cuts. They are the least expensive, but the tastiest cuts, but also requiring hours of “low and slow” cooking to render a result that is tender. Eight or ten hours of cook time is not unusual for a shoulder cut, at which time it is “fall off the bone tender”, and ready to be “pulled” apart. That is what the kitchen does here, but then they take it one step further. Chef John Holm then presses the pulled pork into a mold, crisps the meat, and serves it with chunks of caramelized apples in an applejack sauce. Both dishes are a playful adaptation of the expected, in the case of the parsnip stuffed with apple cider caviar, playing perilously close to the pit of molecular gastronomy. But it works.
On or last visit Pascal asked if we liked razor clams. I love razor clams. Just pop them under the broiler for all of ten seconds, brush them with a little EVOO, pour me a glass of Galician Albariño to wash them down and color me happy. Here again, the kitchen likes to play. Some fresh sweet peas were frothed into a foam and blended with slices of clam, then all of it put back into the shell for service. The offering, someplace between a tapas and an amuse-bouche, was a playful riff on the traditional, and expected presentation, and very nicely done.
In addition to the pub menu that we have sampled a few times, Rabbit and Turtle offers a full dining room menu that can be selected as a prixe fixe multi-course offering, or ala carte. You can view that complete menu here. The owners have already earned their spurs running other successful restaurants – Bouchon In Cold Spring and Brasserie de Paris in Hoboken. This is their first venture in the Queen City. In addition to a very talented kitchen, the restaurant has a comfortable bar and lounge area, with a second “whiskey bar” planned for the lower level. The bar sports eight craft beers on tap, with more by the bottle. You can also see the restaurant’s wine list here.
It seems that Poughkeepsie has, in short order, added quite a few restaurants to our list of dining choices. Rabbit and Turtle is within a hundred feet of two of our favorites – the Artist’s Palate, and Brasserie 292, which is now also owned and operated by the folks at Artist’s Palate. In addition, Mill House Brewery is only one block north. When I saw another restaurant opening on the same corner, I wondered if there would be enough traffic to support them all.
The good news is that they are all very good restaurants and that the menus are completely different. Diners can choose from a classic French bistro menu at Brasserie, an American bistro with a local focus at Artist’s Palate, a fantastic gastro pub menu at Mill House, and now a “modernist” kitchen and bar to complement everyone else. Not only is Rabbit and Turtle unique when compared to their neighbors, I think that they are unique when compared to any other restaurant in the area. You should go give it a try. And do have the parsnip!