River Cafe

Just across the Brooklyn Bridge, a short cab ride from Manhattan, is the magical River Café and the best view of any restaurant in New York. Go an hour before sunset and watch the skyline transform itself from daylight to evening. Sun splashed buildings give way to a twinkling light tableau. It is quite spectacular.

You arrive at the River Café entrance and drive down a narrow cobblestone road leading to a circular driveway lined with lush foliage, ivy covered walls and gardens. Tiny lights sparkle from the trees. The entry way is filled with giant bouquets of flowers and you are led down a hallway to the dining room. The first look of the Bridge above the restaurant and the buildings of lower Manhattan across the river is stunning.

This is everything you would expect of a sophisticated New York restaurant.; a lively bar, elegant surroundings, piano music, attentive waiters and oh, so good food. The outside Terrace is the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail and even serves a light menu.

The menu is superb. I started with a warm pear salad with a braised beef shortrib croquette, blue cheese fondue, baby bibb lettuce and a red wine vinaigrette. Sweet, tart and rich all at the same time. Brent had a wonderful Buffalo tartare with quail egg, cognac gelee, capers and onion on toast points. One Jenn had the spring asparagus soup with chanterelle mushrooms, herbs and a black truffle cream and the other Jen had an amazing sautéed foie gras with carmelized ruby grapefruit, cracked pistachios and a natural pan sauce.

As an entrée I had a red snapper fillet with chanterelle mushrooms, root vegetables and a fresh herb sauce. It was delicate, light and perfectly seasoned. Brent had a crispy duck breast with light pink meat, served with a delicious proscuitto and duck Bolognese sauce. Rich and very satisfying. One Jen had a king salmon with ginger tempura bay scallops and sake and soy glazed shitake mushrooms. The other had a lobster special, small tails out of the shell with a delicate shrimp sauce.

For dessert I opted for the cheese plate with a tasting of two dessert wines. It was wonderful. Jen had a raspberry linzer torte with glazed raspberries, vanilla bean ice cream and surprisingly a delicious basil syrup. The other Jen and Brent split the double chocolate tart with caramel ice cream paired with salted Spanish peanuts. An interesting combination.

The wine list is small by some standards, 500 bottles, but well constructed and thankfully, fairly priced. The restaurant has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for over a decade, was recently inducted into Wine & Spirit magazine’s Wine List Hall of fame. In 2001, The River Café wine list also won the prestigious Diamond Wine List Award from the International Restaurant and Hospitality Bureau.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High on the Terrace, less so inside due to the noise, but this view is magical.

Wine Spectator Award
“Is there a more beautiful setting in NYC?” swoon fans of this Dumbo waterfront “classic” whose “romantic” dining room offers “unbeatable” views of Manhattan, as well as a fairy-lit “Garden of Eden” just outside; “elegant” prix fixe–only American cuisine and “exceptional” service complete the “high-end” experience – for which an “expensive” price tag is “to be expected.” ZAGAT