‘Kid Foodies’ offer their opinions on Uptown Kingston’s Wilde Beest restaurant

Charlie Grenadier and Olivia Reeder.

Editor’s note: Michelle Mayans of Kid Scoop Media organized the following, which is two reviews of what would normally be thought of as a “grown-up restaurant” by Kingstonians Olivia Reeder, 14, and Charlie Grenadier, 12. It’s always interesting to get the perspectives of young people on stuff, as they’re far less inhibited and far more likely to point out things that might not occur to adults.

Charlie: On a Thursday in August, I was invited to be a food reviewer on behalf of Kid Scoop Media. We covered Wilde Beest, a new restaurant that opened in Uptown Kingston this year. It replaced “Elephant,” a popular Spanish tapas hangout that was open for 10 years and that I had gone to since I was very young.

When I walked into Wilde Beest, the music was what I noticed first. It was a mix of rock ’n’ roll and ’80s bands on vinyl. The art on the walls is very fitting with the name, with stuffed birds and animals on canvas that remind you of being out of doors. The service is welcoming, and the servers speak to you as if you were an old friend.

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Chris, the owner and chef, is originally from Chicago. He now lives in Newburgh with his family. He’s a very nice, funny guy who takes his food very seriously. Sometimes, he comes out to meet his customers. I know this because I have been going to Wilde Beest since it opened and have watched him come out of the kitchen on many occasions.

The menu is well organized and creative, and the kitchen is bright and clean. The tables, chairs and bathroom are very sanitary.

They first quenched my thirst with a refreshing artisanal blueberry soda that was made in Pennsylvania. It is my new favorite drink at Wilde Beest. My appetizer was called “Deli Delight,” a whipped smoked trout and goat cheese and “Everything” tart. It was flavorful and had great texture and taste.  My entrée, “A Bird in the Hand,” was the smoked duck, which is my favorite dish that Chris makes. The carrot caramel-mustard sauce took it to another level of deliciousness. The temperature was medium rare, and so tender! My father, Larry, was with me and ordered the Grilled Askahusi Strip, “A Little Strip of Sunshine” which I got a chance to taste. It was the best steak I have ever had in my life.

My dessert was named “Not Bad for a Dollar” and trust me, you will want to try this dish. It is a sundae with caramel, marshmallow and Spanish peanuts that is a little charred on the top.

My experience at Wilde Beest was excellent.  If you want great food and service, eat there! The prices are reasonable for the quality of food served. I have two suggestions, however. 1) Bring back the Octopus with Squid Ink! 2) Entree sizes could be larger only because they are sooooooo good.

The chef took the time to answer our questions after dinner:

What inspired you to cook? My girlfriend’s parents owned several restaurants. I worked in one of the kitchens, and never looked back.

Who’s your hero? My food hero? Right now my hero is probably Amy Hepworth at Hepworth Farms in Milton. She changes how I look at the table. She’s the hero of the day.

What made you want to open a restaurant in Kingston? I have been to a lot of different places. When I came to Kingston, I could sense an emerging creative culture. Kingston represents a crossroads. It’s close to Woodstock, Rhinebeck and New Paltz. It has a regional draw. We wanted to be some place that had access to many places.

Who helped you to create Wilde Beest? My uncle is a master carpenter and cabinet maker who helped to put the finishing touches on the space. Our families helped to financially put it all together.

Olivia: When Kid Scoop Media recruited me to conduct a food review for the Wilde Beest in Uptown Kingston, I was ecstatic and ready to try all the food on their menu. Upon first walking into the restaurant, I immediately noticed the upscale decor. At first, I was intimidated by the vibe and wondered if this place is fit for children like me. But after I was greeted and seated by my server, I immediately felt comfortable because they were so warm and accommodating. The room was nicely lit and every seat had an excellent view of the open kitchen. After being seated, I was given a list of the vinyl music playing — this was certainly exciting and the music was never overpowering our conversation.

There were many drink options at the restaurants, alcoholic and nonalcoholic alike. But, I soon narrowed down my options and chose the artisanal elderberry soda. The soda was amazing! I couldn’t help but drink the entire thing.

For an appetizer I got the “Coral-ations” which contained fried coral mushrooms, onions, celery, smoked butter, and aged soy. The dish was delicious, but what was even more interesting is that the Wilde Beest has their own foragers who bring fresh produce every day — so everything I was eating was just picked fresh!

Between every dish, the old silverware was taken away and replaced with a new clean set. I was mesmerized watching the kitchen. The chefs are constantly working to create an individual masterpiece with each dish. The culinary skills were certainly a work of art. Every bite contained beautifully presented scallops, fried cauliflower, carbonated grape, root jus, caper and sage. It was heaven.

I absolutely adore the desserts at Wilde Beest and as a person who has a giant sweet tooth like myself, you can be assured the desserts were complete perfection. The “Not Bad for a Dollar” is absolutely gorgeous. It had a scoop of mascarpone ice cream with a flambé marshmallow shell on a bed of Spanish peanuts and salted caramel.

I am not a giant fan of coffee in most places, but here at Wilde Beest, the coffee is astounding. A beautiful French press is placed at the table with a cute little pot of sugar lumps and a cup of cream. The cream lowered the bitterness of the coffee and made it a delight to drink — don’t tell my parents I drank a little too much coffee that day.

Wilde Beest was a delight to go to and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this restaurant. Every meal was beautifully prepared and every person working there brought nothing but warmth to their customers.

For more information on your child becoming a Kid Foodie for Kid Scoop Media, please check out www.kidscoopmedia.org.

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