Monday, August 15, 2005

Review: Polo

Polo is the fine-dining option located inside the opulent Garden City Hotel. It comes in at #2 this year for food in Zagat's. (Kotobuki is #1.) And, while I might hesitate to place it so highly, the meal was quite good.

There were two amuses offered. The first was a petite filet mignon, on a small crouton, topped with a bearnaise sauce. This was not offered on a plate. Rather, the waiter was carrying them, and we were invited to take the them directly from his tray. It was cute and tasty. The bearnaise, however, overpowered the meat a bit.

The other amuse was braised (I think) duck lug with a corn salsa. The salsa was all right, but the duck was lovely--tender and flavorful. My only protest was that it was served in a very deep bowl with a recessed, square bottom, so it was difficult to pick up all the goodies with a fork.

For an appetizer I had the potato gnocchi with fava beans, shaved black truffle, and foie gras. This was quite good, though it smacks of the old trick of just throwing luxurious ingredients like truffle and foie gras together to fool people into thinking it's something extraordinary. They were quite generous with the truffle, I must say, which was great. I couldn't quite place the flavors in the sauce, but it was wonderful, and I soaked up the last bit with a piece of bread when the waiters weren't looking.

And about the bread--the waiters come around with a basket of, on that day, four different breads: sour dough, seven-grain, black olive, and a rosemary foccacia. We only tried the black olive and foccacia. They were both quite good, though they used dried rosemary leaves on the foccacia, instead of fresh.

The wife had the "Arugula and Sheep's Milk Ricotta Ravioli, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus and Crispy Artichokes." I quote this in full from the menu because, looking at this before our meal, I kept wondering how the arugula played into it. I had guessed it was wilted down, drained, then maybe placed on top of the cheese. As you can see, the description doesn't really give you any clues. It turns out the arugula was in the pasta itself. This dish was also lovely.

For my entree I had duck, three ways. The first was duck breast in a light sauce. This was perfectly cooked (medium rare, as ordered), and the breast was fairly large--clearly not from a Pekin duck; probably from a Mulard. The second way was duck sausage, supposedly with foie gras somewhere in it. I've had duck sausage three times in my life--twice at Louis XVI, once here. Each time it has turned my stomach. Just what happens to the duck in the sausage-making process that makes the flavor so revolting (and strongly revolting), I'm not sure. (I have to wonder if the only part they use is the rectal cavity?) The third way was confit of the leg and thigh. This was fine, not terribly tender, but, oddly, it looked as if the whole thing had been deep-fried. That's a new one to me. Also on the plate were more yet more fava beans with slivered almonds and a sweet pea puree.

The wife had a chicken breast and a cranberry-stuffing stuffed chicken leg with a walnut jus, and glazed root vegetables. She hated the vegetables, but the breast and stuffed leg were quite good, as was the sauce.

The dessert menu is a bit odd. I think every offering, or thereabouts, involved curious combinations of sweet and savory. For instance, I recall something involving a banana with candied basil leaves. WTF? Anyway, nothing really caught my eye, so I settled for a trio of sorbets. They turned out to be raspberry, coconut, and either passion fruit or mango. I hated the third/undetermined sorbet. I normally hate coconut anything, but the coconut sorbet was pretty mild on, so it was palatable. The raspberry sorbet was delicious. And underneath each one they hid a small sugar cookie for a bit of crispy texture.

My wife had a pyramid chocolate mousse with some godawful, hideous, bizarre goat-cheese monstrocity. The mousse was fine in terms of flavor, but fairly dense. (What's going on--first, Chachama Grill, now Polo?) But the goat-cheese thing, my god. That was an unmitigated disaster. Take it off the menu and bury every remaining one in the kitchen. Yuck.

After dessert they served a fairly large assortment of complimentary cakes, cookies, and truffles. These were fine, but I really don't care about such things.

With tax and tip the meal came to $170, really quite reasonable. The decor itself, for those who care about it (I don't), is nice, almost up there with Louis XVI. Food-wise, I would probably not place Polo ahead of Louis XVI or Mirabelle, or maybe even Panama Hatties. However, you will certainly have a good meal there.

4 out of 5 stars.

5 Comments:

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