by: Ellen Descsiciolo
Chameleon on the Lake
County Route 67, Saratoga Springs, 581-3928. Serving dinner
daily during track season 5:30-9:30, lunch Sat-Sun noon-2,
pig roast every Tuesday night. AE, MC. V
price range: $12 (pasta filleto di pomodoro) to $24 (Black
Angus Delmonico steak)
lively and festive
subdued but still slightly festive
a quality to any body of water that’s soothing on a pleasant
enough day. Ocean, lake, river, rill: They all invite relaxation.
Which opens the door to waterside dining.
When Richard Rodriguez sold his interest in the Springwater
Bistro late last year, he intended to shift his career to
consulting and spend more time with his family. A couple of
months later, he was shown a property on the north inlet of
Saratoga Lake that lured him right back into the business.
It had seen better days; the rowboat carcass on the building’s
top was emblematic of its struggle. Rodriguez set about reviving
He’s been in the business since his early teens and understands
the intangibles that make a restaurant work. While the food
is a major component, you also need a personality to drive
the place. Rodriguez hosts his restaurant with a flair that
compels you to return.
And it might not even be for a fancy dinner. There’s a delightful
cocktail lounge that soon will sport a “liquid menu” encouraging
you to taste some of the more outré concoctions, and an outdoor
pavilion around which dozens of doctors were clustered when
we first visited.
A combination of table heights in the dining room adds an
informal feel, and pleased my young daughter, who likes to
let her legs dangle. Don’t let the appearance of informality
fool you, though. Servers here pay the kind of attention to
detail that should be the norm but turns out to be all too
rare. Flatware is reset; wine glasses are appropriate to the
Chef Dominic Colose ran his own restaurant in Scotia for a
while before moving to such places as Café Capriccio and Chez
Sophie Bistro. “I interviewed a lot of chefs,” Rodriguez says,
“but when I talked to him I knew he’d be perfect for the place.”
is an all-purpose catch-all, but I don’t see the designation
being abused. It supports experimentation, which can be healthy—or
at least surprising. Not long ago, Rodriguez decided to swap
the lounge and the dining room. Returning customers were puzzled
at first, he said, but soon fell into the spirit of it. And
then he swapped the rooms back.
No surprise, then, to find a changing menu. Here’s a snapshot
from our first visit: Soups and salads range from $5 for a
house salad to $12 for a salade à la niçoise featuring
grilled tuna. Gazpacho ($5) is served in an oversized martini
glass, chunky vegetables floating in a tomato purée with appropriately
lively seasonings and a touch of lime.
Our server waxed enthusiastically about various menu items—always
a good sign, and why don’t more restaurants let the servers,
which is the sales staff, actually taste what’s offered for
sale?—and named the mussels appetizer ($7) as a favorite.
It couldn’t have been nicer. The beasts themselves were popped
in the mouth with no chewiness; the spicy tomato-based broth
was filled out with bits of feta.
A glass of excellent Gewürztraminer, chosen by Rodriguez,
complemented the dish wonderfully.
Mixing turkey with mint into meatballs is an improbable premise,
but the $7 appetizer, finished with a tomato sauce rich with
capers and olives, was surprisingly pleasing.
How does tagliatelle with wild boar strike you? Or
in a puttanesca? Or topped with mussels and hot sausage? Priced
at $12-$17, the pasta dishes range wide, yet we were compelled
to go to the next page for our entrées.
That’s where my wife spotted the curried lamb shanks and wrested
it out from under me. It’s a $17 dish worth twice the price,
the meat falling off the bone and into a bed of spicy lentils.
Several seafood dishes present the most popular fishes, roasted,
seared, grilled, baked—there’s all manner of variety, and
if you want that variety in one dish, try the paella alla
Valenciana ($21), in which chicken, chorizo, clams, mussels,
shrimp and more and cooked in rice.
A special of sliced filet of bison caught my eye; cooked rare,
seasoned with lime and served over a pungent, salty sauté
of bok choy, it was a masterful preparation.
Honestly, we weren’t even going to have dessert that visit,
but when they sent out a round of homemade chocolate gelato
topped with raspberries, we were goners. And so we decided
to return with somewhat more fanfare and celebrate our wedding
anniversary (19 years!) at the restaurant.
about a tasting menu?” Rodriguez asked. “We’ll leave it up
And so we sat on the deck on another pleasant evening, studying
the lake as we enjoyed champagne and an amuse-gueule
of mini crab cakes. We moved inside to one of the tall tables
for the first course, a serving of Thai hot-and-sour soup
with sea bass and escolar, two contrastingly textured fish,
and shiitake mushrooms. The trick with this kind of dish is
to infuse the broth with a suitable range of flavor so that
the hot seasonings make sense, and it was excellently done.
Our salad featured shaved Black Angus tenderloin, cooked rare
and melting right into the arugula on which it was served,
the beef supporting the Ironstone Cabernet Franc selected
to accompany that course.
And just as the menu seemed to be getting a little too fussy,
out came an entrée that was pure fun: a grilled pork loin
chop with lively seasonings, served over a sweet potato hash
with swirls of mango-rum ketchup and slices of apples to set
off the flavor. Again, a superb wine pairing was offered,
with a Chilean Malbec that picked up the sweetness of the
meat and its accompaniments.
Mellowed by the anniversary bash, I can’t say enough good
about the place. A fun spirit and such attention to detail
don’t usually combine in a place that also serves excellent
food, and the promise of the Chameleon is that it will continue
to change to please us.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
want your feedback
you eaten at Chameleon
on the Lakeor
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
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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..