After I heard that Christel and Colin MacLean pulled out of their share of Sperry’s and the vacant restaurant next door to The Circus Cafe had been purchased, I knew it was only a matter of time before the announcement was made that the MacLean’s would be opening a second restaurant, right next door to their very successful current restaurant. The buzz was pretty intense before the grand opening, and before I knew it, the time was here.
I will admit, I never dined at Russo’s, but I had been in this space previously when it was Brindisi’s, and I must say that I never remember it looking as great as it does now. The decor inside is sleek and comfortable, with a few touches of The Circus’s flare but with a sophisticated and mature twist. Here’s a look at the dining room:
As you can see, the space just keeps going back and back… and then further back. As I looked around, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had turned the far back room into another, more private dining area with doors that could be used during private parties. After speaking with Christel, she mentioned that the room was inspired by her frequent trips to the City and various stores that really influenced her. The far wall to the left you’ll even find a tribute to the Saratoga 150, with a beautiful picture of the paddock.
But enough with the atmosphere, let’s talk food!
Our first appetizer was the Vietnamese Summer Rolls: Julienned vegetables, fresh mint, rice noodles and sweet chili sauce ($7)
Sliced to appear similar to the size of a sushi roll, these summer rolls were light and fresh. I really enjoyed the clean flavors I got from this appetizer, and it was a nice start to a big meal. I would have loved to have chopsticks with these rolls though because it almost felt unnatural to pick them up with a fork.
The flavors from the montaditos were all very unique. For me, I really enjoyed the brie, caramelized peach and grilled red onion. While I liked the flavors in the other two, the combination of flavors from brie and onions totally won me over.
Our last appetizer was the crab cake, accompanied by a lemon pepper aioli ($12)
The crab cake itself was meaty and thick, with larger chunks of crab as opposed to shredded pieces, showing the crab meat was carefully prepared. If I could offer any bit of suggestion for this dish, it would just be to add just a little squirt of fresh lemon right before serving. I did enjoy the compliment of the lemon pepper aioli, but there’s something about fresh lemon juice on a crab cake that I prefer over anything else.
Finally, onto my entree! I chose to order the Sesame Ginger Tuna: Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna, Ginger Plum Sauce, Rice, Fresh Vegetables ($28)
Once I ordered the tuna, the waitress asked if the medium rare preparation of the tuna was appropriate for me. Like I mentioned in my article from Javier’s, this is something I’m really not used to since most restaurants don’t ask how you’d like your fish prepared, and unfortunately it generally results in it being dry or overcooked. As you can see in the photo, the tuna was definitely medium rare. As I ate through, there were spots that were a little more medium than rare, but overall it was cooked well (to my liking, that is!) The sesame crust and ginger plum sauce was sweet and salty, and the rice dipped in the plum sauce was very tasty.
Finally, I want to talk about the real highlight of my dining experience at The Crown Grill, The Creme Brulee ($8)
Okay so creme brulee is a tough thing to photograph, but it doesn’t even matter. As soon as my spoon broke through that delicate layer of torched sugar and into the custard, my heart melted. Before even knowing the background story of this dessert, I decided that it was without a doubt the BEST creme brulee I’ve ever tasted. Not only have I tried over a dozen different creme brulee’s in my lifetime, but I’ve always been on a quest to find ANY dessert that would make me feel the way this one did. The custard was lighter than most I’ve tried, but had the perfect balance of sweetness that made it way too easy to consume, and finish. If you were wondering about the background story, this is the personal recipe of Thomas Keller of French Laundry, a landmark restaurant in California. While I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting French Laundry, it was a true pleasure to taste something that he makes personally for family and friends.
The Crown Grill is full of great options for lunch, dinner and drinks, but when it comes down to it, you HAVE to come here for the creme brulee. If you have a sweet tooth and like to indulge every so often, get a glass of wine and get the creme brulee.
I’m looking forward to going back again and sampling some other menu items and as always, will report back to you, my loyal followers! Have a great weekend!