9819 Graphite Mountain Rd. (Rte 8) Hague, NY 12836
Open Seasonally for Dinner ~ Tuesday through Saturday
Reservations: 518.543.6202 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We were most fortunate to find out about the Uptown Restaurant last summer in a blog post on DocSconz.com. I am embarrassed to say that I had not heard of this Adirondack gem, even though they had been open for years. After reading the post, and realizing that they were about to close for the season, we immediately made a reservation for dinner.
The Uptown bills itself as a “greenmarket restaurant” a reference to New York City’s farmers markets. I am immediately suspicious of such marketing terms, because too many restaurant operators use “farm to table” to describe their Sysco delivery. My fears were unfounded. What we did find was a passionate focus on local and natural products, prepared with a reverence for those ingredients. (We were also treated to one of the best meals we have ever eaten in the Adirondacks.)
The Uptown is the creation of one Lauren Parlin who owns the restaurant with her husband Ken. Her daughter Liz was working the dining room when we stopped in for dinner. We asked if we could dine at the bar. The restaurant does not serve liquor, but offers a good selection of beers, and a small but well chosen wine list focusing on European varietals.
The menu is tightly focused and changes daily to reflect the season’s garden schedule. Our first meal was in August, and since August is for tomatoes, I started with a crostini topped with chevre and tomato on slices of toasted baguette ($4). Simple, seasonal, classic, fantastic. A glass of Macon was the perfect accompaniment and I was lucky enough to have one in front of me. Mary tried the second crostini offering – a house made ricotta blended with Mexican style sweet corn – elote. A dish of “cheese puffs” ($5) sounded simple enough, but as the first one was melting in my mouth I was compelled to ask Liz – Who is in the kitchen and where did you find them?
The answer provided more insight into just how well thought out the Uptown’s business plan was, (and just how difficult it is to run a seasonal restaurant in the Adirondacks). The “season” in the Adirondacks lasts exactly two months – July 4th until Labor Day. Most seasonal restaurants run menus consisting of easy to prepare pre-packaged offerings that their home-for-the-summer-from-college staff can handle. If you want to run a truly upscale seasonal establishment, you need to find the appropriate professional staff – for nine weeks. That’s very hard to do.
The Parlin’s tackled this predicament by offering lodging to restaurant professionals that they knew from New York City who wanted to spend the summer in Lake George. (Duh, where do I sign?) The CV’s in the kitchen read like the credits on the TV Food Network. They included stints at Eataly, Esca, and Mas Farmhouse. Build it and they will come. And they did.
The potential problem as I saw it, was that this rotating band of imported talent, as amazing as they all are, would perhaps produce a menu that was not consistent from one summer to the next. The answer of course is how the proprietor directs the play. Lauren’s vision is that the food – fresh, local, and natural – should speak for itself. The offerings are simple and classically prepared. No molecular gastronomy practiced here. No little dollops of marshmallow foam that amazingly taste just like real corn chowder. Here you get the actual corn chowder – in a bowl – made with corn picked this morning.
The Uptown Dining Room ~ casual, elegant, 40 seats.
The green beans that we shared with our entrees were a case in point. Simply sauteed, with just an essence of garlic. I vividly remember two servings of green beans that I have had in my life. One was as a very small child at the Graymoor friary on the Hudson in Garrison. The beans had obviously been picked that morning. They were, I believe, the first green beans that I had tasted picked fresh from a garden. It was my culinary awakening. The second was thirty years ago at (the long shuttered) Harrald’s in Stormville, NY. Up until this dish those beans were the best that I had ever tasted. This dish was that good.
We shared two entrees. Three sweet sea scallops were perfectly seared to a golden crisp exterior, still briny and moist inside. They were perched on a ragout of sweet corn and tomato, and one of my favorites – razor clams ($28). Mary’s dish was just as good – filet of wild fresh striped bass, similarly pan seared to perfection and plated with a mix of warm cucumber, mascarpone and mint ($26).
We paired the entrees with a dish of summer squash risotto ($12) that was a perfect blend of flavors and texture and creaminess that eludes most kitchens. Wonderful stuff.
We are certainly adding the Uptown to our list of Adirondack favorites. We were most upset that it had taken so long to find this little treasure, but we intend to make up for lost time this summer with frequent visits for dinner.
If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.