|Kanu Dining Room, Whiteface Lodge|
Kanu Dining Room
Whiteface Inn Lane
Lake Placid, New York
Reservations: 518 523 2544
Lake Placid suffers no shortage of dining opportunities, but unfortunately there are but a handful that I would call really special – worthy of a special trip just for the meal. We have a few favorites that I put in that special category, and the Whiteface Lodge Kanu dining room is near the top of the list. It is becoming our “go to” destination for times when we are entertaining visitors to the Adirondacks, and we are looking for a special setting with an Adirondack theme, and to show off a little without breaking the bank. You can probably break a small bank if you spend a week in one of the lodge’s larger guest rooms with a view, which are also the rooms with a comma, but the dining room welcomes walk-ins who are not hotel guests. Best of all, they still treat you like you are. The service staff is first rate – courteous and professional but still very friendly. This is the Adirondacks.
The Lodge is just outside the village of Lake Placid, heading northwest towards Saranac Lake on Route 86. The Whiteface Lodge entrance is just off the main road, at the same turn as the entrance for the Lake Placid Lodge. There is valet parking if you choose to use it, or ample guest self parking to the right of the entrance. The lodge is a multimillion dollar effort to recreate the look and feel of the “great camps” of the Adirondacks. Actually, I think it is much larger than most old Adirondack great camps, which were actually clusters of smaller buildings. To me the Whiteface Lodge is more reminiscent of a Montana or Colorado great camp, complete with lodge-pole pine beams, vaulted forty foot ceilings and fireplaces big enough to throw small trees in. The dining room is certainly one of the most spectacular rooms I have ever been in, and the setting alone is enough of a reason to stop in. We did exactly that this afternoon.
The lodge parking lot was as busy as we have ever seen it, which must be welcome news to the new owners. The ski lifts at Whiteface were opening this weekend, and the lodge lobby was bustling with lots of smiling faces enjoying the first snow of the season. Happily, the dining room was not full, and we were offered a table immediately, even though I had not called for a reservation.
The lunch menu offers a good selection of salads, home made wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, and a few special entrees. We started with a bottle of Decero Malbec ($45) from Argentina, which was also offered by the glass. The charcuterie pizza tempted me. We were sitting in sight of the wood fired pizza oven, which is usually more than enough to tempt me into ordering one. I had never tasted a pizza with home made hams and cured sausage, unless you count pepperoni. Unfortunately our server suggested it was a large portion for one person, so I kept looking. She suggested I try a special plate – a sliced roast prime rib sandwich ($15), served with crème fraiche and a side of some of the best french fries I’ve had in a long time. Little things like great french fries make me take notice. They are so easy to make but you do have to pay attention. To cook fries properly, they need to be cooked twice – once at a lower temp to cook the potato all the way through, and then a second time at a higher temp to crisp the exterior. If the fry is crisp enough to snap it in two, and still moist in the center, that’s the perfect twice cooked french fry. These were perfect. So was the prime rib. Obviously left over from dinner and sliced thin for sandwiches, it was still tender, flavorful, and a wonderful dish.
The hamburger was also black angus beef, from Kilcoyne Farm in Brasher Falls, St Lawrence County. It was served with a side of fresh lettuce and tomato, and your own personal way-too-cute tiny little bottle of ketchup. And those same wonderful french fries. A caesar salad was served with whole leaf crisp romaine lettuce, shaved parmigiano cheese, and a sliced grilled chicken breast ($17). Very nicely done.
The dinner menu offers a selection of small plates as tapas or appetizer portions, along with salads, wood fired oven pizza, and traditional entrees. The tapas menu includes some of my favorites. The penne and “many cheeses” will not be limited to a mere “quattro” fromage. Many artisan cheeses are blended with parsley, shallots, bacon, and truffle oil and tossed with the pasta. I’ve had this dish before as a lunch special and highly recommend it. A Kilkoyne Farm beef carpaccio ($8) is served with a sourdough baguette, leeks and shitake mushrooms. Another nice dish is a seared sesami crusted tuna ($10), topped with a wasabi crème fraiche. A side of warm smoked rainbow trout ($11) is plated with arugula salad, capers and tomatoes. Menus like this make me want to dine on just appetizers.
The entree choices are a a collection of continental classics, also offered as small plates if you prefer. Beef tenderloin ($29/38) with grilled vegetables and polenta. Crab cakes ($27/38) are served with a roast corn and pepper salad, and mashed potatoes freshly dug at Tucker Farms, a mere twenty miles from the lodge. The smaller portion of beef tenderloin and crab cakes can also be combined as a surf and turf ($36). My favorite is the kitchen’s rack of lamb ($26/34), served medium pink, with a sweet potato puree. There is something about sitting in a massive log accented dining room, surrounded by mounted caribou and lots of wrought iron, that makes a rack of something – anything – seem appropriate (with a bottle of red). Other choices include grilled salmon ($21/28), duck breast ($26/34), and chicken saltimbocca ($28), wrapped in prosciutto and basil.
The Kanu dining room at Whiteface Lodge is no bastion of haute cuisine. There is nothing fancy about it. The kitchen serves wonderfully prepared traditional fare sourced from local farms and purveyors, in spectacular surroundings. The waitstaff is a pleasure, and the prices – for the quality of the product, and the surrounding real estate – are most reasonable. We highly recommend you try it. And do order some french fries.