The Wine Bar – Saratoga, NY
Occasionally in the fall, we enjoy taking the short trip to Saratoga for some dinner. After track season winds down, the crowds become a lot more relaxed.
For a while, I’ve been facebook friends with Chef Dominic Colose, executive chef at The Wine Bar in Saratoga (417 Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866). His recent posting with the fall menu items really lit a fire under me to stop by and sample his cooking.
I made a reservation for around 6pm on a Saturday evening. As we were seated, Chef Colose came by to introduce himself and to say hello. It was definitely a pleasure finally meeting him in person, and knowing he was going to be in the kitchen during service was reassuring.
The menu (which hasn’t been updated online to reflect the new fall menu, for that, see this facebook post) contains a bunch of pages, only two of which show the food options, the rest having the various wines offered; this should come as no surprise since the place is called “The Wine Bar.”
There are about a handful of starters and maybe ten main courses, most available in half portions. The dishes provide a very minimal description of the ingredients in the dish. Aside from the one dish based around cauliflower, I was interested in trying everything. Because half portions were available, I almost went with two starters and two entrees!
Our waitress spoke very highly of the greens (pears, cranberries, grapes, granny smith vinaigrette – $9), and I’ve been keen on having some greens with my meals lately. Everything about this salad was fresh and bright. The greens spanned from sweet to bitter, offering a wide spectrum of tastes, and the slices of apple and the vinaigrette brought acidity and additional sweetness. The grapes added a little pop, and the dried cranberries accented the bitterness in some of the greens. I loved the addition of candied pecans.
The starter I chose was the eggplant (honey, mint, and yogurt – $9). The slices of eggplant were pan sauteed to a good balance between tender and soft. There was a drizzle of honey over the eggplant, which was served atop spiced and seasoned yogurt. The mint was torn over top everything. The flavors of everything were very clean; all of the components played nicely off each other, especially the mixture of spices and chiles dressing the eggplant. This dish is a very rare case where I can close my eyes and remember exactly how it tastes.
Before our main courses came out, Chef sent us each a tasting portion of the diver scallops (lemon-parsley risotto, celery root purée, chorizo oil) [he must have been reading my mind because I was on the fence between ordering this and my main course.]. In serving me this dish, he taught me something that night: risotto doesn’t have to be finished with cheese. The scallop was deftly cooked, but it played in the background with the risotto. By incorporating lemon and parsley into the accompaniment to the scallop, it was a clever way of bringing those classic flavors into the dish, and the risotto was cooked perfectly. This dish was unexpected and a complete delight.
For my main course, I went with what sounded like the richest item on the menu. Ironically, it also sounded like it would be the most traditionally prepared. I ordered the beef tenderloin (roasted marrow bone, chanterelles, bordelaise sauce, popover – $32 full portion). [From some of the comments on facebook when I posted a picture of this dish, I think Chef may have been having a little fun with the placement of that carrot.]
It was definitely a rich dish, and I ate it by trying my best to get a little of everything in every bite; that alone made this very fun. The star on the plate was the marrow bone, which was split and roasted, leaving the tender marrow to be distributed at will. The tenderloin was grilled with good seasoning, but came out just a little past medium rare. The bordelaise sauce was aggressively seasoned, but played great off of the perfectly cooked mushrooms. My least favorite thing on the dish was the popover (half was a little tough, and the other half had soaked up a little too much of the bordelaise sauce).
I was absolutely stuffed after dinner, so I didn’t even think about ordering dessert. Our bill came out under $90 before tip (we skipped the wine that night). Considering the level of skill reflected in the dishes and the ambiance, I would argue that their food is very reasonably priced. I’ve been to dinners at restaurants in very close proximity, and they’ve been pricier and much less inspired.
Walking out, there was a neon light with The Wine Bar’s logo projected onto the sidewalk. I thought that was a cool touch and fun way to draw people in, since there can be quite a bit of foot traffic on Broadway.