For Mike’s birthday we went to the Plumed Horse in Saratoga. It recently re-opened after a lengthy remodel. The lodge like decor has disapeared and has become ultra modern. The dining area is fairly small. There are ~17 tables packed into a single room. It looks like there will be more areas to dine but they are not ready yet. Pretty unbelievable, but Mike and I were probably the youngest couple in the place. Those that were younger where having dinner with family members. The restaurants clientele is probably older because of the hefty price tags on the menu. Come to think of it, I think I even saw a couple coats and ties on some of the men. Who wears a suit to dinner in California anymore?
Let’s move on to the food…the evening started off with a complimentary Amuse-bouche from the head chef. We received a tiny mug that contained an artichoke and prawn soup. A single roll and butter was then served to each of us by one of the many assistant servers. (I’ll go into more detail about that later). Mike ordered our wine from the extensive wine list. You will see the new 1,800 bottle wine cellar as it is a prominent design element. Then we sat and waited for our first course to arrive. I don’t know if they were really busy or if they don’t like to rush things but there was a slight time lapse between courses. It also could of been that we were REALLY hungry. We had a 8pm reservation, which we never do, but because of things planned during the day this time fit our schedule. For the first course I chose the crab and asparagus bisque and Mike had the butter lettuce with radish and pine nut vinaigrette. My crab and asparagus bisques came in separate pouring vessels and were presented table-side. When poured into my bowl it looked like a yin/yang sign…very artistic display. The soup was good, nothing spectacular.
Next, our main courses were brought out. I had the Hawaiian Swordfish with prawns, squid ink risotto and pickled tomato vinaigrette. As mentioned in the past I never order risotto in a restaurant because it’s never as good as when made at home but I wanted the fish and the risotto came along with it. Like expected it was not the star of the dish. It did have good texture and didn’t seem like it had been sitting around and reheated but it didn’t have much taste. I thought the black ink would add some kind of flavor but it just tasted like buttered rice. The swordfish was delicious with the vinaigrette, a bit bland on its own. Mike ordered the Venison with piquillo pepper, candied yams and almond-shallot vinaigrette. He will give you his take on things later.
In-between the main and dessert courses we received a complimentary “pre-dessert” from the pastry chef. It was a huckleberry sorbet with a raspberry foam. Nice cleanser. We decided to go with the three “thyme” lemon dessert which is lemon thyme olive oil cake, lemon parfait and Meyers lemon curd. This was delightful. You would think it would be lemon overkill but it wasn’t. It was sweet and not too tart. When we received the bill it was accompanied by a couple mini almond macaroons which melted in your mouth (I loved all the little gratis bites along the way). Great way to end the evening.
My only complaints were that when courses were served everyone at the table had their own waiter which is fine when you are a table of 2 but when you have 4 or more the dining room becomes very congested because of the small space between tables. Every time a table was served you’d see a swarm of people flowing from the kitchen. I felt that was disturbing. Another thing I found unusual was that most dishes came with a sauce that was poured table-side which is cool if you have the soup I ordered but you don’t need to spoon my salsa on my fish or ladle the jus on a steak –that can be done in the kitchen. Maybe it’s just me…
In conclusion, it was nice to try a new establishment. The food was good, but nothing to crave, so I would return, but not in the near future.
Tip: For those of you who just want to stop by for a drink and check out the new digs the cozy bar still exists with a roaring fireplace and new outdoor seating.
Some additional thoughts from Guest blogger Mike:
Ok, I’ll start with the food. It was great. The venison was cooked just right and was exceptionally tender – not at all gamy. The dessert, as Nicole mentioned, was very tasty as well. The old Plumed Horse Restaurant had an amazing wine list and the new owners have done them one better. The wine list remains incredible (Wine Spectator Magazine gives it high marks) but the display case and bar add an element of elegance that was sorely missing from the old place. While the wine by the bottle was very expensive, overly so in my opinion, I was pleased to find the wine-by-the-glass reasonable. We had a wonderful Super Tuscan for only $16/glass — not too bad for a restaurant where I had a tough time finding a bottle for under $75. The other flaw was the service. A bit too slow and too much “show” when they did show up. We had to beg for a second roll and for some reason it took about 15 minutes for our wine to show up after we ordered it. The waiter did mention they were short-handed that night, but with all the servers flying around it didn’t seem like it. I just felt that since we weren’t spending as much money as some of the other tables around us we got less attention. Not so bad as to not return, but enough to bother me. In the end I really enjoyed the food and wine, and had a wonderful 41st birthday.
Wine cellar photo copyright 4GEMEDIA