Italian, two ways:
I took the opportunity provided by Restaurant Week to try this place, which I had passed by many times. The RW bargain is a prix fixe 3-course meal, and this is what I had:
Polenta Napoletana – A slice of grilled polenta, topped with a ragout of eggplant, ham, and a generous amount of small bay scallops. I really enjoyed this dish. Part of it was the simple, physical heat of this dish coming from the icy weather outside. Too many places serve food lukewarm, my mother would approve here. Although she would not approve of the lighting level – the dish visually appeared as a chunky dark mess, with only the scallops being visibly identifiable. But the flavors were very nice, the diced eggplant sponging up the port wine sauce; the textures (scallop, eggplant, polenta) were all slightly different and interesting together. A good way of starting the meal, and promising.
Pollo al Basilico – Again, clever use of flavors and excellent saucework. This was a stuffed chicken breast served on a plate of a tasty cream sauce with sides of mashed potatoes and green beans. The only flaw I could find with this dish is in the stuffing technique, which left most of the chicken with no or very little stuffing. Which is a shame, because the chicken with cream sauce was ok, but the bites with sufficient stuffing were worth bragging about. And the sauce was also quite good with the mashed potatoes and green beans, which was fortunate because of the way it was plated left you no choice about the matter.
Torta al Cioccolato – a descent chocolate cake, good texture, but uninspired compared to the first two dishes. Also the major service misstep in the fact that the waitron sent the order to the kitchen in such a way that resulted in it being charged additionally. It was taken off, however.
Regarding the service/dining experience, it reminded me of Max London’s – a bit aggressive with a slight undertone of condensation. I don’t know if it’s because as a solo diner, I’m a drag on the PPA of the individual server, and possibly if that effect is increased by ordering the Restaurant Week special menu. Still, though that was a bit offputting, it’s not sufficient to keep me from coming back, especially if I have a date. However, being an Italian restaurant in Saratoga Springs can be quite a challenge considering the competition…
I was not planning on eating here during Restaurant Week, since I try to use RW as chance to try new places, and especially since I had eaten Italian the night before. But the restaurant I was planning wasn’t where I thought it was, and it was cold and raining, and Wheatfields had a nice glow, and it was getting late… It turned out to be a good choice, since the RW menu was different from their regular one, letting me try some new things. Same format as earlier, 3-course prix fixe.
Spiced Butternut Squash Arancini – If you read my earlier commentary on Wheatfields, you know that I think their regular menu arancini are the possibly the best things to come out of a deep fryer. So when I saw they had a variant dish on the RW menu I had to try it, although with some trepidation that it wouldn’t match the original. I wasn’t disappointed. The arancini were slightly smaller than their regular ones, with butternut squash inside, and topped with additional minced, cinnamon spiced squash. The sauce that accompanies their regular ones was replaced with a cream sauce that emphasized the sweetness in the fall-type spice mix. I know it’s supposedly still fall, but to me, when the weather doesn’t get above freezing for more than a day at a time it’s winter. These were delicious, though more of a seasonal novelty item like pumpkin-spice coffee. I just happen to rather like pumpkin spice coffee. Hopefully these will be on the menu next fall.
Chicken Saltimbocca – this is a good place to draw a contrast between the two restaurants. The appetizer course at both was a base of hot grain cake topped mainly with finely diced seasoned vegetables. Limoncello’s offering was much more complicated and energetic than at Wheatfields. The entrée course made that divide even greater. In contrast with the multicomponent plate at Limoncello, Wheatfields brought out a bowl of linguini in a light tangy pomodoro sauce with a prosciutto-fused chicken breast tucked in alongside. Much simpler, more basic, less ambitious, but still very good. The linguini in particular was nicely chewy. Actually, the bowl might have been a little too simple, I could have gone for some broccoli next to the chicken. But it was good and homey, as opposed to the definitely-cooked-by-a-professional stylings down the street. Whichever style is better depends entirely on your personal preferences at that time. That night, walking in out of the rain, I liked the homey. Going out prior to dancing, I’d go for the professional.
Chocolate mousse – this suffers greatly by comparison with the chocolate mousse at The Wine Bar across the street. This one is very light and fluffy, with the faux smoothness of foam. And this is my one big gripe about Wheatfields. Their whipped cream resembles Cool Whip precisely. I’m not saying that they use Cool Whip (it seems highly unlikely that they would) but if they don’t, they’ve transformed whipped cream via the addition of sweeteners and emulsifiers into something that might as well be Cool Whip. And that is a sin.