Old, Something Nouveau
Saratoga Polo Club
Field, Bloomfield Road, Saratoga Springs, 581-1085. Serving
dinner Fri and Sun 5-10 through Sept. 7. AE, D, MC, V.
Entrée price range: $18 (vegetable Napoleon)
to $24 (filet mignon)
Ambience: Old and nouveau elegance
Clientele: Old and nouveau money
Your best entertainment value in Saratoga Springs for the
next six weeks is polo. Pay five bucks and park with the proles
and enjoy a tailgate snack as you watch two hours of championship
polo, a beautiful blending of horsemanship and playing skill.
Then splurge on dinner at the exceptional restaurant in the
clubhouse. It’s open two evenings a week and is a rare chance
to enjoy the inventive cooking of Kim Klopstock without having
to find one of the parties she caters as “The Lily and the
Klopstock doesn’t want to pin herself down to a full-time
restaurant, she explains. And even when she caters for one
of her high-profile clients like David Letterman, she shies
away from the limelight. Her contract stipulates no on-camera
You have the choice of dining indoors or out, but an extra
$10 per person fee applies to the latter. We opted for interior
Attractive chandeliers hang in the high-ceilinged main room
of the polo clubhouses, over white-linen draped tables set
with elegant dinnerware.
The menu is brief, and two things about it immediately annoyed
me: The entrée list is two items long, and one of the items
is filet mignon, the flavor-reticent crowd-pleaser of meatstuffs.
And there’s an appetizer named “olive you tapenade,” and I’ve
gotten weary of olive-based pâté that passes for tapenade
without any understanding of this magical Mediterranean dish.
As it turns out, Klopstock understands tapenade. In fact,
she understands it enough to bend the recipe in a way I never
would have thought possible, leaving out the anchovies and
capers and still achieving a flavor and consistency that forced
me greedily to devour the oversized martini-glass serving
of the stuff, slathering it on crackers and croutons and finally
just discreetly licking it off the knife. At $6, it’s the
cheapest of the appetizers, but that’s a list that tops off
at $10 with a martini-glass serving of shrimp.
That glass proves a handy vehicle for enhancing the plates,
and it later appeared as the bearer of ketchup for the youngster
in our party who ordered a hamburger.
But while we’re still on the subject of appetizers, may I
recommend the crab cake? It also shows up as an entrée, but
I’d go with the $9 starter, which gives you a cake twice as
big as typically is presented and loaded with eight times
the crabmeat, with Panko instead of bread crumbs in the mix.
The caper remoulade on which it’s served blows away any tartar
sauce you may have known.
The shrimp martini ($9)—there’s that glass again—gets the
ceviche treatment with lime juice and cilantro, while
steamed baby clams ($8) are a straightforward serving with
Pears and gorgonzola are artfully paired on a salad that otherwise
features local organic greens ($7), and the champagne vinaigrette
is zesty and discreet. A baby spinach salad with shiitake
mushrooms, roasted peppers and shaved parmesan cheese ($8)
also is available.
That entrée list, it turns out, is enhanced by specials, which
can include a tapenade sauté, some manner of salmon or a rack
of baby lamb—and I tried that last one, a $25 dish that features
a split rack of nicely frenched succulent New Zealand lamb,
with a port-wine reduction that was almost unnecessary but,
hey, I didn’t mind at all having it, what with the nice effect
of mixing the sauce with the roasted-garlic-enhanced mashed
potatoes on which the meat was presented. Bok choy and sweet
peppers got sautéed into a side dish, too.
It’s very easy to solve your vegetarian entrée problems with
cheese. It’s kind of a old Moosewood (before the lowfat cookbook
emerged) tradition. Chief among those entrée problems is a
lack of any boldness of flavor, but this was hardly the case
with the vegetable Napoleon ($18). Yes, it sported a topping
of melted cheese, but the mixture of Portobello mushroom,
zucchini and yellow squash, onions, roasted red pepper and
still more cheese was enhanced by grilling those veggies and
not stinting on the butter. And it looked impressive, too,
atop its own hillock of those mashed potatoes, with sautéed
snow pea pods an extra.
My daughter learned there was a brownie sundae ($6) and would
settle for nothing else in the dessert department. The vanilla
ice cream that topped the brownie was chopped into brownie-sized
slices and stacked on top, so it towered under its drizzle
of syrup and cloud of whipped cream. And we actually sampled
the rice crispie tower ($6) because I figured Klopstock had
to do something interesting with that wretched excuse for
a treat, and she certainly did, stacking it with coffee ice
cream slices and a drizzle of caramel sauce. My wife thinks
that anything involving fresh fruit isn’t fattening, and continued
this dietary denial while making short work of strawberries
and blueberries served on a meringue shell, under whipped
Service was thoughtful and attentive, and I was impressed
at how deftly the well-trained crew accommodate requests,
both indoors and out. Some of the staff spent the evening
plugged into headsets, which is a bad habit to pursue. It
makes the person appear robotic, and callers instantly get
priority over live human contact. Polo and fine dining both
tie us to gentler old-fashioned ways; let’s not let too much
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.