CLIFTON PARK — Seven An American Bistro, the restaurant in the Park Manor Hotel, really wants you to notice them. It’s visible but not accessible from Route 146; it’s two turns off the main road. Some of what they offer is worth noticing.
Campaign-style signs line Northside Drive in both directions to let you know if you’re headed the wrong way. Number seven, The Park Manor, formerly Comfort Suites, has been fully renovated in a handsome understated gray and white decor, with a wow-factor double-height lobby and brand new restaurant space that includes patio dining.
You can’t shake a stick in Clifton Park without hitting a new hotel but it’s all for the good since these spaces beget independent restaurants and more choice for all. Remember when Clifton Park seemed like such a dining outpost?
Seven An American Bistro
WHERE: 7 Northside Drive, Clifton Park, 371-1777, www.sevenamericanbistro.com
WHEN: Noon to 10 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $59 for food, before tax
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Wheelchair accessible. Parking available.
To say the floor is the restaurant’s best feature sounds trite, but the retro black and white tile that also spells out the name of the restaurant at the entrance is snappy and smart enough to be used in the logo. We liked the coffered ceiling, the oversized Paris bistro photos, the wooden louvers and the proper little brass lamps along the bar. “It smells brand-new,” observed Mom.
The bar is separated by a wood paneled divider, though its televisions are visible throughout the dining room. An upholstered banquette opposite and its line of tables for two give the room a metropolitan feel.
Seven touts its wide variety of comfort food created and presented in an elegant fashion. The house soup is something different, crawfish gumbo, and they get points for offering a Cubano, a thick sliced pork sandwich that has the potential for wide appeal. The printed menu we saw at dinner appeared to be a mashup of offerings from the online lunch and dinner menus: sandwiches, appetizers, salads and entrees.
Our server was as nice as could be but either very forgetful or untrained. We had to ask for cutlery and napkins, and waited ages for our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc even though the restaurant was virtually empty. All the tables were bare, one was covered in crumbs.
Seven serves fresh warm sourdough-type bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. It was very tangy but I didn’t like it enough to have a second piece.
Mom started with an excellent garden salad ($6) made of bite-sized greens, lots of black olives, shredded carrots, slices of cucumber and grape tomatoes. “This is excellent,” she said of the homemade dressing. We both liked the thin slice of toasted cheesy bread.
They were out of basil but I went ahead with the Caprese salad ($7) anyway. I missed its tang and freshness but their mixed greens and homemade balsamic dressing were outstanding. Less so, the whole unripe tomato and its clunky presentation, with sliced of fresh mozzarella cheese stuffed into slits around the outside.
Ready to dine
Mom was already on board even before her entree arrived, perfectly prepared red snapper ($20). It’s elegant and so simple, lightly coated and seasoned and precision pan fried, juicy and glistening, prepared with exactness and skill. Mom subbed fluffy whipped potatoes for quinoa, but either way it’s a gorgeous plate, with glistening buttery, garlicky spinach and hoops of purple pickled onion garnish. “It was every bit as good as it looked,” she said.
The chicken piccata ($18) was juicy and soft with the right kind of eggy crisp batter and pan sauce made with lemon, butter and capers. The risotto was textbook-perfect, with bits of onion and a little cheese added to the creamy sauce made by the rice. If the sliced bulky boneless breast were fashioned into smaller, flattened cutlets they would pick up more sauce and negate messy slicing. It has all the flavor, it just needs more effort.
A pastry chef makes desserts and on offer were several types of cheesecake, tiramisu, an obligatory chocolate dessert, and lemon cake. We shared a slice of wonderful lemon layer cake with a buttercream-style icing. “That’s a good homemade cake,” observed Mom. The layers were moist, with lots of lemon flavor and it was topped with a tangy fresh raspberry sauce that cut some of the sweetness. It was worth the calories.
Restaurants are always works in progress, especially nascent ones. I saw some very good things at Seven, and encourage them to firm up the menu and focus on what they do best. That will get them noticed.