I first dined at the space located on 390 Broadway WAY back when Brindisi's originally opened. And...while I enjoyed it for the first couple of years, it ended up alienating me with constant menu changes and inattentive waitstaff. After the space sold and became Russo's...i"ve got to be honest..it never captured. my attention...and I never tried it. Obviously, I was not alone.
When I learned that Christel and Colin MacLean were planning on taking the space over and transforming it into an "extension" of their popular Circus Cafe, albeit with a far different spin, I was thrilled. Knowing their penchant for flawless execution, both in the back of the house and the front, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for them and a perfect fit as well. Last weekend, for birthday dinner #3 (hey, i'm an only child...sue me.), I wanted to try The Crown Grill. I hadn't dined there yet, and I had just received their email newsletter highlighting some menu additions and cocktail specials. PLus...I did feel rather guilty that Hubster and I hadn't visited yet...especially after the superb treatment we always received from Christel and Colin in the past. Trying a new restaurant is one of my great joys in life and this experience did not disappoint.
The atmosphere of The Crown grill is one of ABSOLUTE warmth. The bar literally glows...you feel as if you are dining by firelight...and we ALL know how gorgeous firelight makes us, don't we. The rich, what I will call "polo blue" backdrop demonstrates how VERY important the proper color scheme and decor is to a restaurant. You want the atmosphere to absolutely be reflective of the menu and the philosophy. Had I not peeked at the menu here beforehand, I STILL would have known what type of cuisine to expect...just from the atmosphere. Restauranteurs take note...match stellar food with stellar ambience and you should be successful for years.
And..the piece de resistance? The back room has a wall treatment behind glass doors that is a view of the Saratoga Race Course paddock area in black and white. SO cool, seriously. LOVE it.
We were happy to see that Melissa F. was still involved in the MacLean's operations, as we remember her fondly from the Sperry's days.
After a quick tour of the new digs, we were escorted to our table. We often like to begin our meal with a cocktail, and then order our wine with the meal. Being a card-carrying cosmo snob, I needed to sample one here. Happy to report that it was the perfect shade of PINK...NOT red with too heavy on the cranberry...NOT PALE pink...too heavy on the vodka or orange liqueur. No--this was the Goldilock's version...perfect shade of pink and had a delicious balance of tart and sweet.
We were served a starter of Duck Cigars with the most glorious dipping sauce...the perfect balance of salty, sweet and spicy. I detected a hint of mint in the sauce. Other starters that I can't wait to sample include Crispy Asparagus and the Savory Profiteroles...next time for sure.
We were equally happy with our entree selections...although hubster ALWAYS seems to prefer what I order...which was a delightful Skirt Steak Oscar. I LOVE Oscar preparations...so old school and delicious. My steak was cooked to my specifications...the crabmeat was succulent and fresh...the asparagus had the right snap...and the bearnaise nage was luxurious and had just the right amount of tarragon. Speaking of which--the pervasive theme throughout our meal was this: PROPER SEASONING. I CANNOT emphasize this enough. I've had plenty a meal where the first thing I reached for was the salt. Seasoning while building each layer of a dish is CRITICAL. Ever watch Top Chef? What's the most common complaint from the judges? Lack of seasoning. And..it's really so fundamental. On this...and many other points..Crown Grill is a winner, in this winechick's book. We look forward to returning very soon.
Winners: Skirt Steak Oscar and Perfectly Pink Cosmo
Scratches: None to report.