Restaurant review: Artisans

Artisans restaurant is located within Lake Placid Lodge, an uber-luxurious lodge built on the shores of Lake Placid. Rooms start around $750. A night. Gotta admit, it was an impressive place, but I can think of loooots of other things I’d spend that kind of money on first. In any event, the restaurant was, as expected, pretty high-end. Not black-tie, but fairly upscale. Not that I was wearing a tie of any color…

They also had an extensive wine list, and, like Friend’s Lake, we got kind of a funny look when we declined a glass to go with dinner. I guess establishments at this level expect everyone to have wine with dinner? However, in this case, our server was very friendly, a welcome change from the night before. Like the other places we dined, they are also very into the local foods, farm-to-table thing (notice a trend?), and we had plenty of local goodness. I’ll get right to the point – this was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had.

The first course we selected was a local heirloom tomato and melon salad, with Saratoga County Truffle Falls cheese (white cheddar base, I think), 25 year old balsamic, basil, arugula, and Venta del Baron olive oil (not that I could tell the difference between this and Trader Joe’s oil). The presentation was very cool, and there was so much that our server had to explain everything. First, there were the large slices of tomato. Easy. A few cubes of different melons. Okay. Tomato water jello – now we’re getting interesting. I’m guessing this was a combo of strained tomato water (the juice that ends up all over the cutting board) and gelatin. It did taste like tomato. Kind of different, but not an unpleasant addition. Next, tomato caviar. No idea how this was made, but it’s basically what it sounds like – caviar-size pearls, I’m guessing made with tomato water again. These were really hard to pick up with a fork, and we didn’t have spoons! And finally, the cheese. Oh, the cheese. One of the best cheeses I’ve had the pleasure of eating. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it available for sale to the public (and I’ve tried).

So after that doozy of an appetizer, what was next? Well, S opted for a fresh pappardelle pasta, with roasted squash puree, cloth-bound cheddar, and white truffle oil. And though the menu didn’t say so, it also included fresh apple chunks, which were a perfect counterpoint for the saltiness of the cheese. The ingredients were all fresh, and it showed.

I went with the Kurobuta pork belly, which was served with apple butter, local wild mushrooms, sweet potato puree, and a saffron orange gastrique. Divine. The pork was fall-apart tender, and mixed expertly with the apples and sweet potato.

To cap the evening, as we were getting ready to head out, our server informed us that there was a bonfire down by the lake, and we were welcome to go check it out. Even though we weren’t guests staying at the lodge, they provided us with a “s’more kit,” and invited us to use it 🙂 Turns out, we were the only ones down there (it was cold and windy, but at least the rain had stopped), so we sat in real Adirondack chairs (I call them “real” because we were in the Adirondacks – they may have been made in China, though at this place, I doubt it), got blankets from the blanket shed, and roasted our marshmallows. Good night for a fire.

The Verdict: Artisans, is, so far, the closest to a seven out of seven that we’ve had. I don’t think any restaurants can achieve absolute perfection, so I don’t think anyone will ever actually reach a seven on my entirely arbitrary and mostly useless rating scale, but this was about as close as you’ll get. The food was outstanding, our server was knowledgable, helpful, and very friendly, and the prices, while again on the high side (between $24 and $50), were well worth what we received. And we got free s’mores. And homemade truffles with our check. Case closed.

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