Not far from the easternmost reaches of New York City (and less than 20 miles from midtown Manhattan), the Long Island town of Garden City is a calm and quiet refuge from urban stress. I got to see one of the town's landmarks recently when I checked out the Garden City Hotel's new restaurant, the Polo Steakhouse. The eatery, overseen by Executive Chef Michael Mandato, officially opens tonight, and it a great pick for a suburban evening out.
First, the decor: As would be expected from a steakhouse, wood and leather are dominant in the walls, tables and seats. The lights are balanced to keep the atmosphere relaxing and just a little mysterious, but not so dark that you can't see what you're eating. (A personal pet peeve of mine—food should appeal to all five sense, and if I can't see the meal, I feel a bit cheated. Just a bit.) The reception room (a small space off to the side, good for a small gathering) is blocked off from the main dining room by glass walls covered by floor-to-ceiling racks of wine bottles on display. (A nice way to let in light while providing privacy.) As such, the room is officially called the Wine Room.
When we arrived, we were presented with a choice of wines or cocktails to begin the meal, and I opted for a combination of the two: a signature champagne cocktail (apparently called "Gardening at Night") with a fruit puree added that was neither too dry or too sweet. (It would be an especially good pick for warmer summer evenings.) Moving into the main restaurant for dinner, we began with an amuse-bouche of French onion soup (a specialty of the chef, we hear) and a wedge salad with very crisp bacon and a homemade blue cheese dressing. (Nice touch: Toasted corn was sprinkled in the lettuce leaves, offering a nice contrast of flavor and texture.)
For the main course, we had our choice of three types of steak: a Kansas City strip, a bone-in ribeye and a bone-in filet mignon. Since none of the guests at my table could choose, we decided to each order one and then split them three ways so we could each try some of everything. All of the steaks were very flavorful, and the chef paid attention to our requests (the medium rare was served medium rare) but I had a slight preference for the filet mignon. We also had a choice of three sauces: a green peppercorn, a béarnaise and a signature steak sauce. All were quite good, but having all three available allowed for a range of experiments (the filet mignon went especially well with the peppercorn, for example, while the Kansas City strip paired nicely with the steak sauce). Good to know: All of the steaks on the menu are aged 28 days.
Dessert became an over-the-top production, with a choice of a seven-layer chocolate cake served with hot fudge sauce and freshly whipped cream (nothing from a can here), a lemon meringue pie served with a blueberry compote (several people later quipped that the peaks of the meringue looked like Guy Fieri's hair—an unfortunate association, but certainly evocative) and a New York cheesecake with marinated strawberries. (I only had room to try a little bit of the pie and the seven-later chocolate cake, both of which were lovely. I'll have to go back for the cheesecake...and for more of the port and cappuccino that accompanied the dessert...and for more of the filet mignon.)
The Polo Steakhouse is definitely worth a drive (or train ride) out to Long Island, and the hotel itself would also make for a good stopping point for those driving back to the city from Montauk or the Hamptons. A member of Preferred Hotels, the hotel's public spaces just underwent a renovation, and the guestrooms are next on the list.
The Garden City Hotel is located at 45 Seventh Street, Garden City on Long Island, NY. To get there by car from Manhattan, take the Long Island Expressway to Exit 34. To get there by train, take the Long Island Railroad to the Garden City stop. The hotel (and the restaurant) are just across the street from the station.
Room photo courtesy Sandra Moreno