Written by Hulda Lawrence
Hudson Cafeteria located in the Hudson Hotel at 356 West 58th Street, (212) 554-6500, is a brand new concept in restaurants based on an older and gentler time. Remember how we all loved Horn & Hardart's? Well, Jeffrey Chordorow has taken all the good things about that beloved place and created his own up-to-this-century spot. Set within the confines of Ian Schrager's very modern hotel, it provides guests with food from 6:30 a.m. to very late at night. Hotel guests, of course, have room service.
As you enter via elevator or escalator, you will pass areas for bar service then proceed to the main dining space. The whole idea in this 21st century spot is that diners can be surrounded by the good they want to eat. The soaring 40-foot height presents huge glass-fronted shelves filled with all kinds of fresh foods. The long wooden tables for parties of many evoke Harry Potter's dining room at Hogwarts. In the center of this enchanting room there is a working kitchen where much of the food is prepared. Diners can sit at tables which encircle the kitchen or dine a deux at tables near windows which look out over bustling 57th Street.
After all this fascinating décor, what about the food? There is a tremendous variety of almost everything you would want to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. At luncheon recently we were ushered to a table for two windowside by our waiter, Anthony from San Antonio, Texas, who could not have been more helpful. People dine leisurely, and Anthony took his time in answering all our questions about ingredients and preparation.
From the menu for lunch, we opted for two appetizers: Vietnamese Rock Shrimp and Lettuce Wraps as one and Thai Style Beef Carpaccio for the other. The shrimp were accompanied by bean sprouts, sweet pepper and toasted peanuts with three sauces: soy, spicy pepper, and peanut. The beef was served with Asian greens, crispy won ton, toasted coconut, pineapple, peanut sauce and chili oil. The contrast between the two made each taste just right.
We could not resist selecting a very special dish from the "Comfort Food" section of the menu. Macaroni Gratin was listed with such accompaniments as grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, grilled Portobello mushrooms and the one we selected - seared foie gras. First of all, the macaroni was baked in a luscious Parmesan and Gruyere sauce and the foie gras was excellent. We decided to share another dish from the entree list: Baked Red Snapper with asparagus, roasted potatoes and tomato puree. With these entrees we had glasses of wine. The wine list is divided into whites grouped as "Enlightened," "Diverse and Distinct," "Enticing and Esteemed." My companion chose Langlois-Chateau, Sancerre, Loire from the "Enlightened" group. My choice was from the reds' group, "Dramatic and Esteemed." I could not resist trying the Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot Coonawara 2000 from the "Brazen" list. It was a wine new to me, but equally as good as its namesake! There is a very extensive wine list with thirteen by the glass, including a non-vintage champagne Laurent Perrier for $14 a glass. Other wines by the glass range from $8 to $12.
Could we pass up the dessert course? Of course we could not, and so we enjoyed Lemon Mousse with Gingerbread Shortbread, and Cheesecake with a peanut cookie crust topped with berries. Other desserts include Banana Splits, Malted Milks and Shakes, Sorbet Cup, Flourless Chocolate Pudding "Cake" served on a meringue with chocolate sauce and whipped cream; Warm Apple Almond Cake with honey-cinnamon ice cream, blueberry compote and malted vanilla sauce; Chocolate Frosted Banana Layer Cake and Cappuccino Mousse served with biscotti. Desserts are $6 and $7.
The menu is so multinational that it is impossible to list every delight for you. However, there are a plethora of burgers with such accompaniments as caramelized onions, mushrooms, bacon or several kinds of cheese. Salads include a Hudson Caesar with or without grilled chicken. There are such soups as Double Lobster done with cognac and beignets or Hudson Gumbo with andouille sausage, okra and chicken.
Of the appetizers we did not taste this time are BBQ Baby Back Ribs done with bourbon; Duck and Shitake Mushroom Spring Roll; Moroccan Cigars and Pistachio Coated Goat Cheese. Entrees we shall have to return to sample are Madras Chicken Curry, Rotisserie Duck, Braised Short Ribs, Pot Roast Pork, Grilled Salmon, Grilled Spiced Tuna Steak, Lamb Tagine, Vegetable Tagine and Lemon Saffron Risotto. Each day there are "specials" in appetizers and entrees.
Appetizers are $7 to $14 for both lunch and dinner and entrees are $7 to $28.50 for both meals. There is an a la carte brunch with many of the appetizers from the regular menu. In addition, there is an "Eggs and Things" section with Salmon Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Poached Eggs with chicken and sweet pepper hash, Scrambled Eggs with either lox and onions, Eggs Italiano and Grilled New York Steak and Eggs.
The décor is great and the food is very good. It is a marvelous place to visit. In addition to the main dining hall with its high ceilings, there is a friendly bar area, a library room and when the weather improves there is a private park.
Hours: Breakfast daily 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.