By B. A. Nilsson
Route 9 (Northway Exit 20), Lake George, 793-6601. Serving
lunch daily 11:45-2:30, dinner Mon-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 9:30,
Sun 2-9. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
Food: * * * *
is an excellent example of a restaurant that promises a specific
kind of dining experience and then delivers just what you
expect—and delivers it efficiently, with a friendly flair,
so that you hardly notice that you’re in the midst of a large,
busy room. Lobster and steak (prime rib a specialty) are the
dominant menu items in this old-fashioned type of fine-dining
setting. “We have a commercial kind of menu,” says Dean Beckos,
“because we know our clientele and know that this is what
Located on Route 9 south of Lake George Village, Montcalm
is a year-round, seven-days-a-week operation. Summer business
can be tourist-crazy, of course, but this place knows how
to handle the crowds. We stopped in last week, post-summer
season, pre-foliage, and the place still was hopping.
First a little history. The restaurant’s name is taken from
the 18th-century French general who besieged Fort William
Henry in Lake George, ultimately routing the English and destroying
the fort. The original restaurant building, opened in 1956
by Gus and Jo Beckos, was not far from the fort’s site in
downtown Lake George. In 1971, the Beckos family expanded
the business by putting up a new building just north of Queensbury,
in an area now dominated by shopping plazas. This now is the
only Montcalm—the old building gave way to Water Slide World—and
their son, Dean, is now very much involved in the business.
The Beckos family evolved a menu that offers a mix of classic
American fare. Seafood items include sautéed sole ($22), broiled
scrod ($19) or salmon ($20) and scampi ($20); veal, pork,
lamb—it’s a wide range, conservatively prepared, priced from
$18 to $32, with pasta entrées and a selection of “café specialties”
in the $13 to $16 range. The family supervises the kitchen
using a team of line cooks trained to keep the food consistent.
Our threesome was steered to a table in the middle of one
of two large, high-ceilinged dining rooms, and as I watched
my daughter settle in to her place at the table, I realized
that I might as well be 5 years old myself, enjoying the rare
treat of dinner out with my parents at someplace other than
We planned a dinner for the three of us by ordering as we
normally do for two. It began, on the other side of the table,
with the soup of the day—New England clam chowder ($3.50),
which is the only form of clam chowder my daughter will accept,
siding with that Maine legislator who in 1939 proposed a law
that would have outlawed mixing tomatoes into clam chowder.
Here’s good reason for keeping the chowder white: It boasted
a generous complement of clams and potatoes and other components,
yet wasn’t too salty or thick.
An appetizer of oysters Rockefeller ($7), usually offered
as a menu item, is often highlighted as a special as well.
Introduced in 1899 in New Orleans by chef Jules Alciatore,
the recipe was deemed so rich that it needed to be named for
someone similarly wealthy. Oysters on the half shell are presented
on a bed of rock salt—that much is consistent from recipe
to recipe—then baked with a creamy topping that may or may
not include spinach, watercress and/or fennel.
The Montcalm recipe goes the most traditional route, with
a flavor of spinach and lots of butter oozing over three large
mollusks. Oyster-loving purists can argue that it obscures
too much of the bivalve’s flavor; I like to think that it’s
a worthy enhancement to sample from time to time, and this
is as good a place as any.
A variety of salads are available as tableside preparations—Caesar,
Greek, chèvre and spinach are offered ($4 for one)—but house
salads are included with entrées, and they’re a nice mix of
fresh greens. We both chose an unknown dressing, creamy avocado,
that was quite good (if rather rich). A shaker of sesame seeds
is provided along with a pepper mill.
Susan and Lily plunged into the New England shore dinner ($33),
which emerges as a steaming copper pot in which lobster, clams
and shrimp nestle with chunks of corn on the cob. And that’s
it. No fancy sauces or seasoning, save for the dish of clarified
butter that simmers over a candle flame.
Sliced tenderloin Bordelaise ($29), on the other hand, gets
a classic French sauce based on a red wine reduction (classically,
with bone marrow and demiglace; hard to tell in this
case). Fear not: It’s not bite-sized sliced, but rather presented
as two inch-thick filet sections, generously dolloped with
sauce, served with sides of sautéed zucchini and roasted potatoes.
We finished with two made-in-house desserts: a large profiterole
with ice cream within and fudge sauce without, and a nice
dish of crème brûlée. Coffee and tea arrived quickly, but
so did everything. This is one of the best-run floors I’ve
seen. There’s a sense of familiarity and family—some of the
staff has been here for over a decade—and an obvious eagerness
to please the customers. Which isn’t as common as it used
Dinner for two, with tax and tip, desserts and a couple of
glasses of wine, was $120.
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