LAKE PLACID Theres a new restaurant in downtown Lake Placid that youre going to want to check out.
Alegria Garden Café is located in the Summit Hotel (for many years the Ramada Inn). The hotel has been renovated from top to bottom, including the street-level restaurant with a panoramic view of downtown and the lake.
The restaurant operates independently of the hotel, and thats a good thing. The employee behind the front desk was less than helpful guiding us to the restaurant. He didnt even look up to greet us not what youd expect at a lakefront hotel in the heart of this tourist town.
We noticed a sign that directed us to the restaurant down a flight of stairs. Everything changed as we entered Alegria, where we were warmly greeted by owner Andrea Faurot.
Its a comfortable, open space with seating for about 50 guests. Wraparound windows reveal an outdoor patio for additional seating in the summertime and a view of the lake to uplift and entertain. Several egg carton containers with herb and greens seedlings lined the window sills.
Theres a fully stocked 10-seat bar on one wall, which is where we began our evening. A thoughtful, manageable wine list included a gem in each category. It was nice to have the owner also be our bartender to give us first-hand information on the restaurant.
But its the food that drew us to Alegria. The menu is designed and executed by executive chef Richard Brosseau. In Lake Placid and the Adirondacks, Richard is somewhat of a celebrity chef. He has left his mark on a number of restaurants over the years: Patois, The Wawbeek, Richards Freestyle, The Interlaken and now, Alegria Garden Café.
One of his trademarks is that every menu item is preceded by The The Crab Cakes, The Mixed Greens, The Steak ...
Something new, though his menu is divided numerically into four categories: ONE containing lighter, smaller-portioned appetizers (The Cayenne Onion Rings, The Moroccan Chick Peas); TWO, slightly larger appetizers (The Crab Cakes, The Buffalo Shrimp). THREE could be categorized as lighter dinners or maybe even pub food (The Black Truffle Pizza, The Burger, The Scallop) and FOUR, full-fledged entrees (The Venison, The Fish of the Day, The Steak).
There are two dozen choices in all. Prices generally progress as you journey from one category to the next.
Its an interesting concept, and knowing Richards reputation for creating interesting, upscale food offerings, we were ready to go to our table and get the eating portion of our evening under way.
We sampled from each category.
■ The Artichoke Gratin ($5): A play on the classic artichoke dip, a smooth blend of artichoke was served in a shallow, fluted ramekin with toasted slices of baguette for dipping. Parmesan on top was the gratin. A hint of lemon came through, but otherwise this dish was big on artichoke flavor.
■ The Whipped Ricotta ($5): A very unusual appetizer served in a smallish rectangular ramekin. The ricotta was whipped to the consistency of marshmallow fluff (for lack of a better description), topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of fresh thyme and sea salt. The concept was great simple and elegant.
It was served with crunchy baguette crostini. Our server, Sarah, suggested we try it with softer, chewy grilled bread, which she brought from the kitchen. She was right! The softer bread was great with the dip and really allowed the flavors of the cheese, olive oil and the thyme to shine.
■ The Tomato Crumble ($6): This was our favorite tomato confit (slow-roasted tomatoes) with garlic and basil, topped with goat cheese crumbles and baked in a fluted ramekin. It had great flavor and texture.
The crumble part tasted like crumbled pie crust baked on top. Tasty and unique, it was perfectly complemented by the crunchy and soft crostini.
nThe Beet Carpaccio ($9): A bit of a play on words beet instead of the usual beef this was salad of paper-thin slices of raw beet topped with arugula tossed with a delicious citrus vinaigrette, surrounded with several almond-encrusted balls of goat cheese.
They really nailed this one. Beautiful presentation and flavor, a wonderful springtime dish. This is the kind of preparation weve come to expect from Richard Brosseau over the years.
■ The Fondue ($18): OK, maybe we should have asked some questions first. We were astounded by the size of this number two dish that could have stood alone as an entrée easily enough for four or more.
It was classic cheese fondue, with molten Gruyere and Emmentaler and white wine served in a classic fondue pot with lighted Sterno underneath. A basket filled with bread cubes accompanied, as well as the traditional fondue forks.
The strong alcohol taste of the wine was a bit harsh, detracting from the flavor of the cheeses. Perhaps the wine should have simmered briefly to eliminate the alcohol.
But what a great concept. Bring your friends along for this one after a day on the slopes its a great dish to share and theres a lot of it.
■ The Duck Confit Pizza ($15): A 10-inch pizza shell topped with duck confit, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, ginger and hoisin sauce. Nice homemade dough and a wonderful compilation of flavors. A Richard Brosseau signature dish from his Wawbeek Resort days in the 90s.
■ The Scallop ($15): Two colossal pan-seared scallops perched on a bed of creamy chorizo sausage and potato hash, drizzled with saffron aioli. The smoky sausage contributed to a nice Spanish-style dish.
The scallops were cooked toward the medium-rare side, so you may want to ask for yours cooked more if youre not comfortable with that. Portion size was perfect; on a larger plate, it could easily pass as one of the entrees.
■ The Pork Cheeks ($25): Another one of the chefs signature dishes. Pork cheeks are considered a delicacy, truly the cheeks of a pig. Slow braising tenderizes the generally tough cut of meat and produces a robust and complex sauce.
The tender, bite-sized pork pieces were set on a bed of polenta and had great flavor and an appealing rustic look. Even the vegetables were superb, a nice selection of roasted brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and fennel).
■ The Piri Piri Chicken ($24): Piri piri is Portuguese chili. In this preparation, the chicken is marinated in chili sauce, grilled and served over ranch fries. The sauce was nicely spiced and full of flavor without being overly hot.
The portion was grand two plump, skin-on breasts served with an ample amount of roasted broccoli and cauliflower along with the ranch fries.
■ The Wild Boar ($30): The Venison was unavailable the night we were there, so sous chef Thomas Morris offered his special preparation of this bone-in, fist-sized pig chop a tribute to how a sous chef can step in on a Monday night and shine.
It was an impressive-looking dish with flawless execution. The chop was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful, accompanied by ancient grain farro cooked risotto style, and accented with array of roasted/caramelized vegetables and a super-tasty demi-glace. Wispy, flash-fried fresh herbs on top were the crowning touch.
■ Lemon-olive oil gelato with hazelnut meringue cookies ($9): Outstanding! Scoops of delicate,homemade lemon gelato shingled between thin hazelnut meringue cookies, drizzled with olive oil. Yummy. Light and satisfying. One of those unforgettable desserts that Richard is famous for.
■ Almond cake with buttermilk ice cream ($9): A warm, moist and rich almond cake with creamy buttermilk ice cream. Another amazing dessert simple, elegant and well-prepared.
We thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of crisp Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc ($30) from New Zealand and a chewy Altano Douro red blend ($27) from Portugal.
Dinner for four came to $185.11 including tax, exclusive of wine and tip. Credit card transactions are done tableside on an iPad.
Our luxuriously long, leisurely meal included an abundance of stellar food. Our enthusiastic server, Sarah, lavished her spirited attention on the four of us and sent us on our way with several compostable take-home containers.
Owner Andrea Faurots vision is to provide an experience of joy. Alegria means joy in Portuguese. She has the right location, the right chefs and the right attitude.
And for us, we experienced an evening of joy at Alegria Garden Café.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alegria Garden Café
in the Summit Hotel
2375 Saranac Ave.
Lake Placid, N.Y.
1 (518) 523-0342
Lake Placids newest fine dining restaurant
HOURS: Serving dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday
OUR PICKS: The Tomato Crumble, The Beet Carpaccio, The Scallop, The Pork Cheeks, The Wild Boar, The Gelato