by: Ellen Descsiciolo
Bateau de la Mère
Saratoga Lake Bistro
Route 9P, Saratoga Springs, 587-8280. Serving daily 11 AM-9
PM (later as necessary). AE, MC, V.
price range: $17 (chicken à la moutarde) to $29 (duck breast
and lamb rack combo)
charming and busy
say the escargot just about crawled out of their container
still doesn’t do justice to the juicy tenderness of the snails;
that each swam in a thoroughly unhealthy bath of herb-and-garlic
butter was a frustrating fillip for a guy trying to cut out
the fat in his diet. But they were delicious, an old-world
recipe still able to assert itself in modern times.
Then there was the surf-and- turf combo of duck breast and
rack of lamb . . .
Too often, the lake view is enough. You know how it is: An
attractive destination persuades you to settle for second-rate
tourist grub. At Saratoga Lake, we’ve been luckier, with fine
restaurants like Panza’s and Cliff’s; add to that the newly
refurbished and re-cheffed Saratoga Lake Bistro, giving the
unlikely combo of a beautiful lakeside view and some of the
finest French fare in the area.
That’s because it’s the new home of Eric Masson, former chef-owner
of Ferrandi’s in Amsterdam. The Brittany-born Masson established
a considerable reputation for himself at a location not very
conducive to the kind of business needed to support fine dining.
The new location offers a more attractive setting, with outdoor
tables during the summer months. And that’s where my party
sat during two nice-weather visits, my only complaint being
the resin chairs that wobble under my outsized butt.
Before examining the dinner menu, let me remind you that you
can get a burger or a panini for around $7 for lunch, the
menu for which also features luncheonized versions of some
of the dinner specialties like chicken moutarde ($8)
and haddock meunière ($9). But I’d go for a crêpe ($7-$8.50),
which is offered with vegetables, chicken, or seafood as a
Dinner gets more elaborate, of course, but stays in a reasonable
price range—if you think $26 for a filet mignon is reasonable.
I do, especially when it’s an excellent cut that’s been coated
with peppercorns and served with a classic Cognac sauce. It’s
not flamed at tableside, which used to be a feature of the
classic “au poivre” presentation, but it’s got everything
else going for it.
Masson and his wife, Kim Hoffer, met in Paris and carried
on a correspondence courtship for several months before she
persuaded him to join her in her native Amsterdam. They developed
a number of shrewd marketing approaches at Ferrandi’s, and
you’ll see them here, too: celebrations of French and American
holidays, tasting dinners, and a three-course prix fixe menu
in addition to the regular à la carte fare.
According to that plan, your entire meal (excluding tax and
tip) is $28; add the chef’s wine selections and it’s $39.
And you’re choosing among starters like shrimp bisque, the
aforementioned escargot and a goat-cheese salad that features
cheese-enhanced croutons, fresh mesclun and tomatoes, warm
bacon and homemade vinaigrette—a salad we were able to order
for a non-meat-eating friend without the lardons.
A second-course feature is chicken forestière, another
classical recipe that pairs the bird with mushrooms, lardons
and sautéed potatoes. The skillful realization placed sliced
breast meat in a pretty pattern in and around the garnish,
and all of the plates echoed this presentation. Of course,
it’s the flavor that underpins sauces like these, and they
set a very high standard, continuing to delight the palate
long after the first few sensations have shimmered away. The
kind of eating you’d want to do daily if it weren’t for all
that butter that’s part of the mix.
Steak au poivre and salmon with tarragon sauce are the other
prix fixe entrées, available also as à la carte items ($19
for the latter). Salmon also features in the appetizer list,
with a duo ($12) of salmon rillette (cubed, pounded
and potted) and smoked salmon served with a horseradish crème
fouettée and plenty of breadstuffs.
A raw bar operated to one side of the outdoor deck, and that
was the source of the oysters and littleneck clams that go
into a broiled appetizer ($12) with a garlicky Pernod-laced
Pernod shows up again in a shrimp entrée ($22) in which the
seafood is sautéed with fennel and then flamed in the licorice-like
liqueur. A delicate cream sauce smooths the flavors, and the
texture of the shrimp was surprisingly tender. Another star
of the entrée list, as hinted above, is the pairing of duck
breast and lamb rack as a land-and-sea combo ($29), with sauces
that raise this to the extraordinary: a not-too-sweet raspberry
concoction for the duck, a cabernet reduction for the lamb,
which managed to be both crusty and rare, as I like it.
We even threw Masson a curve ball with a fussy vegetarian
friend who worried about this meat-rich menu. I phoned ahead,
and we were promised and served a vegetable crêpe ($7) that
pulled together the flavors of the seasonal filling with a
perfect, restrained sauce.
As if we needed more convincing, the back of the menu features
photos of the dessert items. They’re homemade, and they’re
fantastic. Crêpes Suzette are listed ($7), although we tried
only the strawberry-filled variety ($6) with an appropriate
side of ice cream. Cheesecake, chocolate raspberry cake, crême
brulée—you’ll be able to finish your meal in glorious style.
During both visits we were blessed with a whirlwind named
Natalie who made sure we were never without all we needed.
The staff is youthful and still learning the ropes, but look
to be in good shape as the season explodes around them.
Classical French cuisine has been getting overshadowed by
all the nouvelle American fusion that swirls around us—here’s
a chance to visit the culinary mother ship.
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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..