May 12, 1995   By M. H. REED

PIERMONT - ALTHOUGH the steep descent from Route 9W into the middle of Piermont can daunt the faint-of-heart driver, this miniature town of considerable charm makes a vivifying destination. An afternoon of walking along the Hudson and ducking into the shops, an early dinner and a concert at the Turning Point can seem like a vacation. With its screened porch, woodstove, bright quilts, wainscoting and gleaming wood floors, the restaurant is full of old-fashioned charm. Down a few steps, the cafe and ample bar is crowded four or five times a week for performances. Recent appearances included names like the Persuasions, Junior Wells, the Holmes Brothers, the Bobs and Freddie Hubbard, and coming up soon are Tommy Makem, Odetta and Fairport Convention, among others. Although sandwiches and salads can be ordered in the cafe, we opted for a full dinner served in the main dining room upstairs. A new chef has come on board recently and most diners will be pleased with his inventiveness and light-handed approach that put the rating at the high end. Appetizers made an impressive course. Fresh tuna tart arrived in two thin rounds of pastry topped with the fish mixture flanked by roasted fennel and onion - delectable - as was a timbale of diced potatoes, the cake form spread with goat cheese, warmed and served on a bed of lovely greens. Artfully arranged, as are all dishes here, two crab cakes, with the seafood very much in evidence, went nicely with a garnish of tomato coulis, snips of fresh sweet basil adding counterpoint. And wafers of excellent lean prosciutto were treated to shavings of Parmesan. Judging from the success of a vital, fresh-tasting vegetable beef soup, we'd try others here. All the salads - green, Greek, spinach - employed fresh young greens, and dressings were nicely balanced. A couple of pasta dishes are usually on hand, and two we sampled were satisfying: penne with a woodsy wild mushroom sauce and, more assertive, fusilli studded with slices of lamb and rosemary sausage, onions and sweet peppers. Generously portioned entrees also received care in preparation and presentation. Grilled tuna steak - arriving medium-rare as requested - was cut in two on the bias to show the sushi-like pinkness of the center, a pretty contrast to the basmati rice formed to fit just under the fish. Gingered mango puree made an inspired accompaniment. Red snapper prepared in a similar way arrived a tad dry at the edges, but salmon was moist enough, the thick slab draped over chunky ratatouille (no mushy stew here).  This kitchen employs the genuine article when it mashes potatoes, and the result is full of flavor and a bit of cream. These potatoes, shaped into a cake in the center of the plate, were stuck through with shrimp crisped under the broiler and wreathed with gorgeous seared scallops. Birds were cooked to the juicy moment as well. Beautifully bronzed, quarters of baby chicken surrounding a generous dollop of mashed potatoes. And dark, gamey pieces of duck, not at all greasy, paired perfectly with a mixture of wild rice that included a fine dice of fresh orange. Easy to take desserts weren't overly sweet. Opulent Obscene Brownie brought the cake topped with good vanilla ice cream; bourbon pecan pie was fragrant with that liquor; and New York cheesecake arrived as expected: smooth and creamy. Chewy lemon tart had all the tartness of the citrus. Only carrot cake missed because of dryness

A three-course dinner averages $24 without drinks, tax and tip. Tickets for shows range from $10 to $25. Piermont is about two miles south of Nyack and Route 287.

Copyright 1995 The New York Times

The Turning Point

RATING: ----->Good

468 Piermont Avenue, Piermont. 359-1089.

Atmosphere: Main dining room and porch upstairs and cafe downstairs in a charming 1835 clapboard. Good service. Moderately priced entertainment almost nightly. Send for schedule.

Recommended dishes: Warm potato salad and goat cheese timbale, fresh tuna tart, penne with wild mushroom sauce, grilled tuna, scallops and shrimp, fusilli with lamb sausage, bourbon pecan pie, Obscene Brownie.

Prices: Lunch, main dishes $9. Dinner, main dishes, $12.50 to $16.50. Light dishes in the cafe, $4.25 to $7. Brunch, $4 to $10.

Credit cards: Major cards accepted.

Hours: Lunch, Mondays through Saturdays, 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. Dinner, Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays, from 6 P.M.; Saturdays, from 5:30 P.M.; Sundays, from 4 P.M. Brunch, Sundays, 11:30 to 3 P.M.

Reservations: Well in advance for a show.

Wheelchair accessibility: Limited but possible.

Copyright 1995 The New York Times

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