At the Table: Wheatfields in Clifton Park serves delicious food, pleasant surprises

I used the OpenTable Web site on my phone to make a reservation at Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar in

Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar

WHERE: 54 Crossing Boulevard, Clifton Park.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a. m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $75.50, including tax and tip

MORE INFO: 383-4444. or Children’s menu available. Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover. Reservations accepted, recommended on weekends. Large parking lot, wheelchair-accessible.

While riding the Blue Line to downtown Chicago a few weeks ago, husband Eric and I used the OpenTable Web site on my phone to view all of the Italian restaurants within walking distance of our hotel, and made a reservation at Frankie’s.

More recently, I used it to make a reservation at Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar in Clifton Park for me and Mom. Not too many restaurants in the Capital Region use it, but then not so many pay as much attention to details either.

Every step in the evolution of Wheatfields Bistro at The Crossings in Clifton Park is carefully thought out, and owners Tim and Colleen Holmes are always improving and tweaking things. “The opening was exciting,” said Tim Holmes. “But the challenge now is to settle in and build the business.”

The Bistro version is a little more adventuresome than the original Wheatfields restaurant, a fixture in Saratoga since 1988. I expected some Italian food and a variety of pasta dishes, which I found, along with some livelier menu items, supplemented by a little creative spark in the kitchen.

The restaurant has been busy, so I made an early reservation for Mom and me. We sat at a comfortable table in the front window that overlooks the expansive Crossings parking lot and thankfully, a tastefully landscaped outdoor seating area that will open when the weather warms up a bit.

Off to a nice start

Our server greeted us right away and brought menus and news of specials. We enjoyed slices of warm, just-cooked baguette, and butter with fresh basil. We started with a plate of bruschetta and arugula drizzled with reduced balsamic vinaigrette ($6.95). “These tomatoes are marinated,” said Mom, examining hers closely. The bread was cracker-crisp, and the bright bite of black pepper in the topping caught my attention. We’re coming into arugula season, and that bitter green is best tempered with something a little sweet — like the balsamic reduction here. Nicely done.

Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar is good for people-watching, too. Patrons were elbow to elbow at the bar, and the tall tables in that area were occupied as well. You can eat in either place, as well as at the low leather couches in front of the fireplace. I wish I’d worn something dressier than jeans.

The farmers’ market green salad ($3.95) is a mix of baby greens and daintily chopped tomato, cucumber and red onion. It was tossed with just the right amount of tasty house vinaigrette, and I liked the thick slivers of fresh carrot on top.

It’s hard to choose what to order for a review, and this menu varies widely, but I settled on shrimp scampi ($21.95). There are six hefty shrimp here atop a tangle of tender house-made angel hair pasta. The pan sauce is made to order, and I thought the garlic and lemon were overwhelmed by the liberal use of butter in mine. This sauce was much better the next day when the garlic and lemon flavors really flowered, but the heat from the red pepper came through nicely that night, and their fresh pasta is pleasantly soft and lovely. I think the serving size is appropriate: The well of the large white bowl is just filled with a generous portion for one. This food is not about volume.

‘Special’ is right word

We didn’t expect to find barbecued pork ($12.95) at Wheatfields Bistro, but it was a special that night, and it sounded so good that Mom ordered it. The dish actually created a small stir at our table. It’s an impressive presentation, and it’s also something different. The meat has a subtle smoky flavor, falls apart when you pick it up and is only just slightly sweet. Think barbecued pork plus trained chef, and this is what you get. The manager stopped by our table and so did the chef, who wanted to know just what Mom thought. She loved it.

The sides deserve some space: The pile of crisp pomme frites with sea salt that are made only for this dish were fantastic, and the apple slaw was out of this world. Apple slaw? Yes, and made from local red and yellow apples, with red pepper, carrot and cucumber, all uniformly shredded, lightly dressed with something tangy and seasoned with a hint of cilantro. Mom said the spice was just right for the slaw and really brought the flavors together.

So there was tender smoky pork, crisp salty potatoes, and tangy crunchy fresh slaw, all different textures and flavors together on the same plate. This dish made a good dinner a great one and it shows just what Wheatfields Bistro is capable of.

There are six desserts, all house-made and attractively priced. For $5.50, I had scoop of excellent milk chocolate mousse, and for the same price Mom had a tidy square of tiramisu. The mousse was not overly sweet — and they get points for using chocolate sauce with more flavor than sugar. It was dense, rich, and the chocolate flavor was definitely milk — not dark. At this point I was getting full, so I finished the heavenly whipped cream and left most of the mousse for husband Eric to enjoy later.

Tiramisu is made of layers, and in this serving they were distinct and picture-perfect. It’s a classic preparation, very well done, delicious, and a nice size for sharing.

Our capable and friendly server cleared the tables, wrapped the leftovers and brought the check. We had a dinner of thoughtfully prepared, very good food, with some very pleasant surprises in an attractive venue, for $75.50, with tax and tip. So when you go to Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar, you’ll enjoy good service and delicious food. Listen carefully when they read the specials; you’re likely to find something really special.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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