The Whitney is a fairly swanky place that replaced a favorite very casual taqueria (Una Mas), so I was ready not to like it. Instead of spicy pork burritos and blackened salmon tacos, the new menu features the upscale likes of shrimp scampi, three-cheese ravioli, and chicken piccata. Not that there’s anything wrong with shrimp scampi, three-cheese ravioli, and chicken piccata, but as a rule, Roadfood is casual rather than upscale.
For The Whitney, I am happy to bend that rule. Its meals are lovely, as beguilingly nuanced as the superior tacos I once loved in this location. You know why? The staff up front and in the kitchen are the very same family who ran Una Mas, their culinary skills and hospitality every bit as beguiling.
Dinner begins with a modest bowl of miniature oyster crackers that are immodestly blanketed with a hail of pepper and spice. With drinks, they’re impossible to stop munching. Available appetizers include Florentine flatbread, scampi-sauced sauteed shrimp, and mussels in white wine, butter, and garlic. A handsome Caesar salad ribboned with shaved Parmesan can be upgraded with white anchovies.
Other than such fine-dining favorites as shrimp scampi, chicken piccata, three-cheese ravioli, and lump crab cakes, beef is the starring entree. The Whitney Burger is a handsome half-pound porcini-dry-rubbed patty presented on a glossy toasted bun. Roast beef – “The Queen’s Roast” – is graced with bordelaise sauce and accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes. A top-of-the-line filet mignon is ridiculously tender, its inherently quiet flavor amplified by green peppercorn sauce.
Lunch, served Tuesday through Friday, offers a limited menu of sandwiches, salad, and a soup of the day. Of that last item, I highly recommend chicken-rice soup brightened with a sharp citrus shot of lemon. Among sandwiches is the winning combo of hot ham and Swiss, which normally comes on rye, but is even more tender and easy to eat on a croissant (which costs $2 extra). A certain dryness of thin-sliced Italian beef is well compensated for when it is sandwiched with melty smoked provolone, gilded with zesty shredded peppers, and served with a cup of au jus for dipping.
Note that the name of the place is The Whitney Restaurant and Bar. There is a short bar where a person can sit and sip (and eat), and dinner can be heralded by such clever house-specialty cocktails as a blackberry cosmo and a Whitney Manhattan that includes a serious Maraschino cherry. Oenophile friends tell me that the wine list, while not vast, is interesting and high-quality.