At the Table: Prime at Saratoga National is exquisite on every level

If Angelo Mazzone has a mission statement, it must go something like this: Pull out all the stops an
PHOTOGRAPHER:

If Angelo Mazzone has a mission statement, it must go something like this: Pull out all the stops and give the customer the best meal ever. This philosophy is in evidence at his newest restaurant, Prime at Saratoga National Golf Course in Saratoga Springs.

Prime at Saratoga National Golf Course

WHERE: 458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. Phone 583-4653.

WHEN: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Dinner, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Sunday brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Light menu available on veranda and in lounge. Expanded hours during racing season.

HOW MUCH: $175.95

MORE INFO: MasterCard, Visa, American Express. Children’s menu available. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations accepted.

In May, Mazzone Management took over the operations at Sargo’s Restaurant and opened Prime at Saratoga National. His firm also owns Glen Sanders Mansion Restaurant Inn in Scotia, The Hall of Springs in Saratoga Spa State Park, Mansion Catering, Events at Erlowest in Lake George and Aperitivo Bistro in Schenectady.

Our evening started with a glitch. At the hostess stand, we were told that although we were on time for our reservation, they weren’t serving dinner for another half-hour.

So Mom, who was my dining companion, and I settled in for some serious people-watching. Gentlemen in fedoras and two-tone shoes with somber expressions mingled with cheerful golfers lined up along the bar, while the small army of staff polished glasses and moved briskly and purposefully about the place, conjuring up an air of anticipation.

Prime is situated within the clubhouse at Saratoga National Golf Course, deep within the property and well away from Route 9P. The massive building is relatively new but tastefully designed, with stone and wood-paneled walls, sturdy, handsome furniture, dramatic pendant lights and sparkling high windows that frame the golf course and woods.

Sunlight cooperates

Even the sunlight is eventful. Whether by design or accident, as the sun goes down a shaft of light knifes through the atrium lobby, throwing the already dramatic floral arrangement into red-tinged relief.

The dining room is long and high, with one end near the lounge and the other a sort of atrium that can be closed off with pocket doors. There are heavy drapes that can be pulled, presumably for privacy that would further absorb sound.

Our server treated us like visiting dignitaries. He outlined the specials and explained how to order steaks using their doneness chart. Once we placed our order, out came the bread basket and this is where we slipped into Prime-time.

The shirts on the servers might be a different color, the logo on the butter is different, and there is a golf course, not a highway on-ramp out the window, but all of the things that make dining at 677 Prime in Albany a remarkable experience are here in Saratoga.

The two servers and busboy attending to us made clear it was their mission to make us absolutely, completely, delighted. Someone brought me a black napkin to match my dress, our cutlery was silently inventoried and replaced between courses, and the table swept of crumbs as needed.

We approved of the bread basket with its variety, and the sweet butter, and it kept us happily occupied until the first course arrived. Mom had ordered the seven-hour cherry pepper pork ($9), a sculpted pile of pulled pork, ingeniously seasoned and layered with fresh potato chips. The modest heat of the peppers crept up only after the full impact of the pork flavor settled in. And then there was the surprising crunch of the chips. It’s not diet food in any way, shape or form; it’s fat in one of its finest moments.

My chop salad ($9), composed of iceberg and Romaine with regimented rows of minced red onion, cucumber and tomato, was topped with blue cheese crumbles and a fully ripe half avocado and garnished with a frizzle of buttermilk fried onions. The white balsamic vinaigrette had an unobtrusive presence. Everything was at its ripest, especially the luxurious and creamy avocado, and presented for the delight of the diner. This is a nice way to start the meal. You get your vegetables and leave plenty of room for the steak.

It’s about steak

And the steak is why we were there. Our server had double-checked Mom’s order to make sure it was exactly what she wanted: USDA prime New York strip au poivre, no brandy cream sauce but 677 signature steak sauce on the side, medium rare ($47). It came exactly as ordered, and it was as good as steak can be. It was 14 ounces, an inch thick and incredibly juicy because of the evenly distributed fat throughout the meat that characterizes the prime label.

My filet mignon ($36 for 10 ounces) was a chubby hunk of beef heaven, balanced out on the plate by a roasted garlic bulb garnished with a dainty tomato and sprig of rosemary. There are four steaks on the menu that qualify as prime, and although the filet is not one of them, it’s tender as anything, and you can almost pull it apart with your fingers. There were no hard edges and if it ever saw a heat lamp, I couldn’t tell. No sinew, no tough connective tissue, just 10 ounces of tender, soft, delicious beef.

The sautéed spinach with garlic and butter ($6) was exactly right, but the truffle Parmesan steak fries ($8) could have used a bit more cooking. We liked the fresh potato flavor and crisp coating.

If you want something other than beef, whatever you choose, I suspect, would be top-notch as well. Prime offers twin lobster tails, diver scallops, ahi tuna, sea bass and salmon, and also a lamb rack and organic free-range chicken, all of them complete dinners.

Room for dessert

We saved room for dessert, and you should, too. I had the freshly made strawberry ice cream in a small, sugar-topped brioche ($10). It was supremely fresh, and the top of the sweet bread crackled when I broke it with my fork. A small glass of strawberry nectar, and fresh strawberry compote completed the plate.

While strawberries are past peak, peaches are here. The peach melba dessert ($10) Mom had showcased them. We liked how the peach was peeled and pitted, then filled with whole fresh raspberries and served on a shortbread cookie with sweet sauce. Prime’s pastry chef makes these delightful desserts.

The piano player tinkled the last notes of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the table was cleared and the magical meal had come to an end. The tab for dinner, including tax and tip, was $175.95.

Imagine a perfect meal in beautiful surroundings, with multiple servers attending to every need, the best quality, most exquisitely prepared food available, and in abundance. That’s Prime, and you’ll pay for it, but oh, what a meal.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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