Posted by Tegan O'Neill
The Wine Bar has the opulence of Saratoga Springs stamped all over it. Diners sip from glistening globes of wine in a dark and warmly lit dining room. A strand of lights twinkles like fireflies in the large bay window overlooking Broadway. It feels like the town of horses and money that the postcards of Saratoga purport it to be.
All three sections of the Wine Bar's menu - earth, land, sea - offer intriguing selections. The option to order either a small or large portion of many of the entrées exists, and, in the interest of saving money, it is wise to take advantage of this choice.
From the earth, we chose the pizza with Gruyere, onion confit and roasted pumpkin. The Gruyere strung beautifully from the pizza as we divided its slices. A thick layer of succulently sweet onions glazed the crust. The pumpkin was wonderful and autumnal – its rich, orange pigmentation bestowed a beautiful color to the pizza. The crust, however, was no match for the toppings. It lacked both structure and flavor and came off tasting rather flat.
Ordering the wild boar bolognese with fresh pasta rags was an opportunity too tempting to pass up, but unfortunately upon trying it my hopes came crashing down. I expected a dish that would snarl back at me. I envisioned a snout covered in coarse bristles of fur. Instead, the plate of wild boar bolognese was disappointingly tame. I would not have guessed that the mild meat sauce was something other than beef.
The oil poached halibut with squid ink risotto and fennel purée blew the other two dishes out of the water. Each bite was a thrill - the halibut was light and fresh. Equally refreshing was the fennel purée pooled upon the plate. It tasted like it came out of a spring garden. The squid ink risotto did nothing to enhance the dish other than to provide visual contrast. Albeit appealing to the eye, it had little flavor and no memorable taste.
The rich, juicy duck was utterly superb. The brussels sprouts, turnips and carrots served with the confit leg seemed superfluous. How can you care about eating carrots when the succulent meat of duck awaits your palate? Additionally, the drizzling of apple mustard gastrique also seemed nonessential. The duck was the shining star of the dish and it did not need any backup dancers. I wish the chef had just left the duck to steal the show.
Speaking of stealing the show, the chocolate cake deserves some time in the limelight. The Wine Bar's chocolate cake was the best chocolate dessert I have had in a very long time. It was rich without being too rich and sweet without being too sweet. The texture of the token-shaped dessert was hard to pin point; it was almost chalky yet also almost moist. A simple scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream atop was a perfect compliment to the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate cake.
The portions at the Wine Bar leave you wanting just one bite more. Not because they are too small, but because they are too good. I wouldn't mind having just one more gnaw at the duck or another nibble of chocolate cake. I guess that means I'll have to go back.
Read More of Tegan O'Neill's outings at her Blog