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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Life in the Village

lake ridge

35 Burlington Ave., Round Lake, 899-6000. Serving lunch Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30, dinner Tue-Sat 4:30-8:45, Sun 3-8. AE, MC, V.

Cuisine: classy continental

Entrée price range: $19 (Tuscan chicken) to $33 (filet mignon and lobster)

Ambiance: Round Lake elegance

 

By B.A. Nilsson

The village began life in the 1860s as a Methodist retreat, holding camp meetings that attracted thousands. The pine woods, the yucky mineral water, the nearby train service made it a kind of mini-Saratoga, and folks flocked to become summer residents, a few staying on through the winter as well. Houses sprang up; the auditorium was built, and the clean-living Methodists made sure that educational and cultural resources were available.

Round Lake prospered as a fin de siècle curiosity, but declined through the middle of the 20th century. Nevertheless, dedicated residents voted to become a village in 1969, and not long thereafter the hamlet’s uniqueness inspired restoration efforts, boosted by a hefty HUD grant in 1980.

In 1985, a small dessert business called Sweet Nothings opened in the village; when its building became available in 2000, chef-owner Scott Ringwood and his business partner Bob McKenna purchased it with a goal of improving the place and putting in a fine-dining restaurant.

Something of that doughty Methodistishness bubbled up, and a year later Ringwood and McKenna were facing off against the village’s zoning board of appeals. A state Supreme Court judge had to wrist-slap the board so that the restaurant, originally to be called Lake Ridge Tavern, could open for dinner service. And even then it was given the goofy restriction of serving only until 8:45!

Now that the place has been open for nearly five years, I hope that the worried neighbors who pursued the restrictions have been mollified. The place is anything but a drinker’s hangout, and I can’t imagine that a dinner of herb-crusted swordfish ($22) and a glass of Chardonnay is going to inspire much post-prandial parking-lot revelry.

I paid a visit on a recent weeknight, getting in under the wire at 8:30. With the recent enclosure of a porch, there are now three dining rooms to choose among, the porch being the nicest on a late spring night. We sat amid a scattering of physicians and their families, reminding me once again that it’s time for a checkup. I figure that every dollar I send my doctor’s way helps keep my favorite eateries alive.

We last dined here shortly after Lake Ridge opened, and I’m im pressed to see that the same high standards of service and food persevere. Ringwood credits his new manager, Diana Murphy, with bringing fresh life to the place.

Servers are young, but ours knew the menu well enough to credibly recommend items, and everything was delivered with a minimum of fuss and no sense of neglect.

A new table d’hôte menu gives a choice of starter (soup or salad), entrée (choose from three) and dessert for $23. American diners dislike this kind of package, wanting to attach a price tag to every component of the meal—hence the grumpiness over that little surprise at the end, the gratuity—but I dine in search of a complete experience, dinner as a three-act play, so table d’hôte suits me fine.

The day’s salad featured gorgonzola-filled tortellini with sautéed Swiss chard, but my wife, who opted for this feast, enjoyed a cup of corn chowder thickened with a touch of sour cream, a refreshing variation.

Two of the entrée options were sautéed veal cutlet or grilled chicken breast, but tilapia won, sold by its preparation: a dusting of corn meal and a quick sauté. And the flavors of lemon and dill, good complements to this light-flavored fish. I enjoyed the textural strangeness of the cornmeal and fish combo, giving a crunchy crust to a creamy-soft meat, but Susan, ever in fear of anything breadlike, removed the crust from her portion.

I threw myself on the meal-design mercy of our server, who suggested artichoke soufflé ($8) as a starter. It’s the familiar dip with spinach, but Ringwood blends an array of cheeses into it, sweetens it with roasted garlic and supplies the right bread companion: slices from a crusty French loaf.

Eggplant Napoleon ($8) and southwestern ravioli (filled with black beans and roasted corn, $8.25) also were contenders; crab cakes ($9), escargot ($8.50) and Bostonian shrimp (wrapped in bacon with a horseradish stuffing) ($9) were also starter candidates.

A trio of combo dinners starts off that portion of the menu. A $24 Brazilian seafood stew combines a bunch of favorite fish with tomatoes, peppers, coconut milk and cilantro, and it’s served over rice; the filet and crab cake combo ($29) should satisfy the surf-and-turf fiends, unless you want the $33 filet and lobster plate.

The dozen entrées that remain hew closely to continental-menu expectations, but with creative reimaginings. Some dishes Ringwood presents simply. Salmon, for instance, is roasted and finished with goat cheese and a curried vinaigrette ($21). All right: For him it’s simple. There’s Tuscan chicken, roasted with garlic and rosemary, served with Swiss chard over couscous ($19); rack of lamb ($27.50), presenting all eight chops with a cabernet demi-glaze; and an eight-ounce filet mignon ($25) that’s grilled and served with a roasted garlic purée.

Others he crusts, like my recommended dish, the pecan pork chop ($21). It’s a mammoth piece of meat, a 14-ounce chop invisible behind its nuts, the flavor radically enhanced by a sweet-and-sour cherry compote.

You can’t eat other than mashed potatoes with this dish, and the crisp, fat string beans glistening alongside were likewise appropriate. Everything served here was as tasteful as it looked.

Tour the village and enjoy its antique architecture, then settle in at the restaurant for similarly appealing meal.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Spend Father’s Day with the Chairman at John Bove’s My Way Café (Routes 9 and 67E, Malta), which celebrates June 18 with two dinner shows (4:30 and 7) featuring the restaurant’s original Italian-inspired cooking, including complete three-course dinners for $18. And you’ll be entertained by Sinatra stylist Brian D., who salutes his own father as well with favored numbers. Reservations are required; call 899-4196. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com)


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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* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

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
Castleton

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
Schenectady

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
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

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
Albany

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
Guilderland



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