Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 226-6111. erving dinner Wed-Mon,
5-close. D, MC, V.
price range: $21 (vegetarian torte) to $29 (grilled
Chilean sea bass)
So I spent one day this summer baking in the sun at the Saratoga
Racetrack, strolling the grounds, sipping overpriced soda
and watching a couple of races at trackside. And performing
my ritual loss of two dollars by betting on a pathetic longshot.
Although nobody loves to piss away money more than I, gambling
has no appeal unless the odds are so much in my favor that
. . . well, that it’s no longer a gamble. And so I watch with
great puzzlement as so much money flows into coffers of those
who administer the games; a puzzlement touched with frustration
when I’m behind a Lotto-crazed lout slowly stocking up on
tickets while I wait to pre-pay for my costly gas at a convenience
But I enjoy the downtown Saratoga spirit, which seeks to pluck
leftover cash and those infrequent winnings from the pockets
of passers-by, offering all manner of gewgaws and comestibles.
Caroline Street is one of the most alluring byways, with so
many bars and restaurants clamoring for your attention. The
Artisan is set a few blocks down, and richly rewards your
perseverance. It’s one of the nicer, newer fine-dining highlights
in a city that still can’t make up its mind as to a culinary
Everything about this restaurant is handsome. Design consideration
obviously tilted in the direction of self-consciousness. That
is, it doesn’t offer the kind of transparent dining experience
in which the decor fades into the background; the background
is an essential part of the experience, not only in its own
appearance but also in the artwork that graces the walls,
a changing display highlighting the work of worthy talents.
A spacious bar sits to the right; a divider separates it from
the dining area but allows you to see over the top (and thus
eavesdrop, as I did, on amusing amorous machinations). There’s
also an attractive dining area outdoors, on a patio behind
Six appetizers and five entrées makes for a menu I like. Too
much choice puts the customer too much in charge. You’re paying
for a meal because you want to celebrate the skills of the
restaurateurs; otherwise, find the nearest discount buffet.
A menu in which one of the appetizers is “flash-fried calamari
tubes and tentacles with ancho chili powder and . . . wasabi
remoulade” is even more to my liking, even if the dish is
priced at 14 bucks.
But I was distracted from that dish by the fried eggplant
Napoleon, a $10 starter that wooed me with its promise of
a mix of veggies and cheese, including roasted red peppers
and brie. And then a house-smoked tomato sauce to tie it together,
and the whole thing worked; a delicate dance of flavors that
used the frying, the smoking, and the roasting to give complexity
to an otherwise retiring group of ingredients.
Also for the vegetable fan is a spring roll ($11) that offers
a more interesting, intricate array of components and component
flavors. Plenty of crunch between the flaky, deep-fried wrapper
and the veggies themselves, cooked quickly enough to prevent
them from going gooey. And the accompanying hoisin sauce has
the extra flavor of raspberry to sweeten it nicely.
While we’re on the subject of things vegetarian, the entrée
list, numbering but five, showcases one meatless item: a torte
($21) that will first arrest your eye with its layer of baby
asparagus delicately arrayed in a row. Like the aforementioned
appetizer, it features roasted red peppers and parmesan cheese,
but it adds a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, lots of artichoke
hearts and some tangy goat cheese, before wrapping it all
in phyllo pastry. The cream sauce is touched with white wine,
and it makes for a surprisingly formidable meal.
Back to the starters. There’s an ever-changing soup of the
day, and we sampled the yin-yang ginger soup ($10), which
mixes two different colors of creamy compotes, with a puree
of different-colored peppers adding color and the ginger,
of course, filling out the well-balanced flavors. As you may
have guessed, it’s presented in a large bowl with the different
colors forming the well-known yin-yang symbol.
House salads, which precede the entrées, feature a carefully
chosen array of young greens with a balsamic vinaigrette.
It’s pleasant to enjoy salads that aren’t an afterthought.
And a sorbet intermezzo adds a fancy touch to the proceedings.
It was all I could do to resist the coffee bean-encrusted
filet mignon served over brie ($28), but I veered over to
the Chilean sea bass ($29) because of the caramelized fennel
and leek that accompanies it. When the fish is cooked properly,
as the Artisan grilling allowed, it pairs well with such flavors.
The strawberry-mango salsa was an unnecessary luxury.
Seafood and pasta come together in a cream-rich mélange of
scallops and lobster meat ($28), with the secret influence
of bacon and chèvre rounding out a fantastic flavor. Unlike
so many of the day’s bettors, it’s rich, rich, rich.
Service is attentive and there’s always a server available
to help you.
We finished with an excellent crème brûlée and a nice, old-fashioned
éclair, and rejoined the outdoor throng with a contrasting
sense of calm well-being.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s fifth
annual benefit Lobster & Steak Fest takes
place from 5 to 8 PM Aug. 18 at the Picnic Pavilion
in Schenectady’s Central Park. The menu includes
a 20-ounce lobster or 14-ounce steak, potato,
corn, beverage and dessert for $35—which drops
to $30 if you buy your ticket in advance. A surf-and-turf
option with both lobster and steak is available
for $60 ($50 in advance). A children’s hot dog
meal is $5. Participants may eat in or take out.
Entertainment will be by DJ Dave Wilkinson, and
there will be a Paper Bag Raffle and door prize.
For info and tickets, call 377-3492, or buy advance
tickets at the Open Door Book Store, Salamack’s,
Marty’s True Value Hardware, or Lang’s Pharmacy.
. . . The Basement Bistro is celebrating
its 15th Anniversary with a special “Taste of
Summer” event on Thursdays in August. Chef-owner
Damon Baehrel is encouraging each patron to bring
an ingredient, perhaps from a personal garden
or farmer’s market, which the chef will incorporate
into the menu. A portion of the proceeds from
these evenings will be donated to the Wildwood
School, which serves children with developmental
disabilities. Cost per person is $39 (excluding
beverages, tax and tip), and reservations are
required. For more info, call 634-2338 or go to
www.sage crestcatering. com. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail:
want your feedback
you eaten at any
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.
very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..