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photo:B.A. Nilsson

And Culinary Arts Too
By B.A. Nilsson

the beekman street bistro

62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs, 581-1816. Serving dinner Tue-Sat 5-9. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: fresh American

Entrée price range: $15 (grilled polenta cakes) to $25 (grilled rabbit with black truffles)

Ambiance: intimate and artsy

Saratoga Springs’ Beekman Street is booming, transforming itself from a rundown residential neighborhood into an off-the-main-road arts center. The Beekman Street Bistro is in a building that, not too long ago, was condemned; its owner, a construction engineer, crafted its reconstruction with ideas and input from Tim Meaney and Dan Spitz, who decided to take a chance on this burgeoning neighborhood and commit to a fine-dining restaurant.

Owner Meaney and Chef Spitz met while working at the popular Flying Fish in Lake George, but that restaurant went away and left them considering their options. The partnership was a good one and Saratoga beckoned.

“We opened last July, on the 14th,” says Meaney. “I couldn’t open until the new sidewalks went in. They were poured on the 12th, so we were able to start serving two days later.” They did so with no fanfare, but were able to attract word-of-mouth attention during track season.

The building sits beside an art gallery, and is itself hung with a regularly changing artwork display, which may be the most striking aspect of the space when you enter; the dining room itself is a comfortable, calm, discreetly lighted space.

Service throughout the evening was easygoing and we had attention when it was needed, but we, as newcomers, were given far less attention than those who’d been there before. Both chef and owner took time to talk with others; neither stopped by our table. It’s a dangerous practice to pay too much attention to anyone in the room just for this reason, and the virtuoso restaurateurs know how to spread the table stops around.

Our server also succumbed, for too-lengthy periods, to the lure of conversation with an adjoining party.

What she bears to the table, however, makes up for a lot, because this certainly is virtuoso cookery. Dan Spitz has developed a coterie of farm-based purveyors of meat and produce, and builds his menu around what’s fresh. “When we get a pig, for example,” explains Meaney, “we put it all on the menu. Pork loin one day, then the shoulder, the ham, and so on.”

So it is with rabbit as well. They have a new supplier, which they celebrated by offering rabbit three ways—three different preparations on one plate. Previous offerings included rabbit hind quarters braised in olive oil with stewed artichokes and black truffles ($25), and the same meat braised in pork stock with leeks and cream, bacon and thyme ($20). I enjoyed a somewhat simpler preparation of braised rabbit over soft polenta ($19), scented with a piquant mixture of herbs.

Seasonings suit the ingredients well here: Potato and leek soup ($7) was not the traditionally creamy variety, and was livened with pepper; a starter of Prince Edward Island mussels, generously topping the bowl, sparkled with the flavors of chili and fennel ($9).

“I’m surprised at what we’re able to sell,” says Meaney, citing the sardines with bruschetta ($7) as an example. I sampled the dish, or rather, the fish—the dish itself was a long, handsome platter on which three large, fresh sardines awaited my attention as I easily scraped the meat off the bone. You’ll never go back to the canned stuff after this.

Oxtail is another often-neglected item, usually the basis of a soup. Here it was stuffed with tasty breading and served, lightly sauced, over polenta ($18)—very moist, and rich with delicious fat, tasty enough that my wife, who usually bitches about such things, finished it all.

Grilled quail has its own strong flavor, so if it’s going to be marinated, it needs the strength of balsamic vinegar to accomplish anything. This dish ($19) is served over creamy mashed potatoes and adds the fun of eating with your fingers.

With a vegetarian friend in tow, we sampled a pastry shell packed with porcini mushrooms and ricotta, among other savory ingredients ($15).

Desserts are made in-house, and a chocolate-and-figs tart ($6) was unusually enough flavored to give my daughter pause; even as she passed it around, though, she decided it was good enough to reclaim. A $10 fruit-and-cheese plate was a disappointment.

The menu and the servers here need to stress the local origins of the products: There’s no better place to preach the gospel of local harvests than where you can taste the stuff, and the philosophy of this restaurant is supported by an extraordinary kitchen.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Speaking of Beekman Street activity, the Yawning Duck Pasta Co. and Gotchya’s Trading Co. are combining forces to open Gotchya’s Trattoria, a fresh pasta market and espresso bar by day and neighborhood Italian restaurant by night, which means that the Yawning Duck will be moving to the current location of Gotchya’s, 68 Beekman St. The combined opening will be on March 31; Got chya’s Trattoria will be open Tuesday through Saturday at 11 AM for the fresh pasta market and espresso and pastry bar, and dinner service will begin at 5. They will begin to take dinner reservations next week. 584-5772 or . . . In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch makes several mentions of Miss Maudie’s Lane Cake. A version of this multilayer cake, with coconut, pecans, candied cherries and raisins in the filling, will be the centerpiece for a “Mission Society Dessert Table” at a reception on April 8 at 2 PM at Schenectady County Community College. The reception follows a lecture by Claudia Durst Johnson with the provocative title “Bela Lugosi, Rosa Parks, and Harper Lee: Social and Universal Issues Reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird.” The program is free. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore


Elaine Snowdon

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky

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