by Linda Viertel –
If any chef can enliven old-school British gastronomy, it would be David DiBari whose Dobbs Ferry mainstays, The Cookery and The Parlor, are beloved destination restaurants. Partnering with Scott Broccoli, a well-known Dobbs native, DiBari has expanded his mini food empire in the village to include another lively spot also featuring specialty cocktails and multiple draft beers – The Rare Bit, a British Gastropub, which opened on December 15th.
How these two restaurauteurs connected is a story unto itself. When DiBari was strolling the streets of San Francisco a few years ago, he came across a restaurant called Dobbs Ferry. Intrigued, he left a note about The Cookery on a bar napkin for the manager– that would be Broccoli – who happened to notice it on his desk. So when Broccoli visited his family in Dobbs (his parents still live in the home he grew up in), he dined at The Cookery and sought out DiBari. Over multiple dinners at The Cookery DiBari and Broccoli created a fast friendship based on their mutual love of the restaurant business. And, when the former Cedar Street Bar and Grill space became available, Broccoli and his wife thought it was time to move their young family back “home.”
Now, the young Broccoli children go to the same school Scott went to; as he said, “I feel like I’ve never left.” And, with Broccoli’s return to his old hometown, he has brought his front of house expertise to another lively DiBari eatery. Together they felt the space lent itself to a pub atmosphere, but they wanted to present “…British food done really well,” Broccoli explained. And they have. Welsh Rarebit (linguistically altered long ago from the dish, Welsh rabbit) – a cheesy sourdough toast made with Guiness, Worcestershire, and Welsh cheddar, is a rich, creamy, delectable version of that tired British Isles staple. Scotch Eggs bear no resemblance to the over-cooked, massively breaded versions that graced pub menus long ago. DiBari’s is a soft- boiled egg covered with in-house sausage, breaded and fried. Warm potted shrimp, served with shrimp mayo, fresh herbs and grilled bread has become a popular appetizer, and with good reason. Another signature would be the soft-boiled eggs served with warm curry mayo, grilled bread and a showering of cilantro.
Stilton cheese sparks a cabbage, smoked bacon and apple salad. Shaved cauliflower enhanced by in-house pickled potatoes, fresh herbs, fried capers and egg yolk meld into a divine, hearty salad popping with a variety of tastes and textures.
Indian food is ubiquitous throughout the British Isles, and DiBari tips his hat to Britain’s former colony. His Peas & Potatoes salad, with crispy chickpeas gets the full Raj treatment with yogurt, tamarind and mint. And fast becoming a signature dish is his moist Chicken Tikka “with really good rice,” a pizza naan, yogurt and mint.
Fish and Chips has never been better than at The Rare Bit; lightly battered hake retains moistness and flake, thanks to a chef who knows how to deep-fry with perfect timing. Chunky chips, mushy peas (a brilliant take on the standard version), and house-made tartar sauce make fish and chips a new dish. Steak & Stout Pie, Bangers & Mash, Bubble & Squeak a hefty bacon chop (smoked in-house) all sound like familiar Brit mainstays, but each dish surprises. DiBari’s culinary skill, whether making pizza pies in a wood-burning oven or creating traditional Italian dishes, has now morphed to British cookery. Who knew that bangers, redolent of sage and cured pork, or the stout pie with its suet crust, filled with mushrooms and other fresh veggies – accompanied by sides of creamy mashed potatoes and a fresh parsley salad, could be that delicious?
DiBari is proudest of his airy Yorkshire Pudding, made from a friend’s family recipe. “To get it right,” he says, “You need a crispy crust and lifted sides; it becomes a vessel for anything that’s good.” And, with the experienced assistance of Chef John Poiarkoff, who has helped DiBari open all his restaurants, a friend diBari calls “the director of all tasty things,” they have taken British food up more than several notches.
But let’s not forget Broccoli’s domain, graciously greeting guests at the front of house and making sure his bar is well-stocked. And, what a bar it is! Eight specialty cocktails are on draft alongside eight draft beers, all drawn from a massive brass drafting system specially crafted for The Rare Bit. Broccoli explains that his cocktails are all chef-driven, made in batches and placed in kegs for consistency. No matter who the mixologist is behind the bar, the tasty balance of sweet and sour will be maintained. And, if the Saturday night scene at his bar is any indication of the success of Broccoli’s method, his draft cocktails are a hit.
Broccoli’s “gin program” is unequaled; he serves ten variously flavored gin and tonics, made with ten different gins, everything from Beefeater to the rare Drumshambo. And, he is proud of his commanding bar with its massive mirror surrounded by a carpet of greenery that greets customers with traditional British Isles style.
The Rare Bit’s interior was designed by local resident and Brrzaar café owner Michelle Leddy, who scoured flea markets and antique stores to fill the restaurant’s walls with landscape paintings and portraits in ornate guilded frames. Her choice of red banquettes, rich woods, and patterned wallpaper all give the place a homey, hodge-podgy feel, just right for a pub atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.
If You Go:
The Rare Bit
23 Cedar Street, Dobbs Ferry
914-693-8000 | therarebitdf.com
Valet parking coming soon.
Hours: T. W. Th. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
F: 12:30-3, 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
S.: 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m., 5 p.m.- 11 p.m.
Sun.: 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m., 5 p.m.- 9 p.m.