WILTON — “I love that we got this table,” said my friend Lisa, glancing over at the fireplace. We arrived at The Wishing Well when it opened at 5 p.m., and the hostess led us through the fireside piano bar and cozy, low-ceilinged dining room into this snug room, to the best table in the house.
A warm, gracious atmosphere permeates the restaurant. The decor focuses on horse racing, but it’s cozy. There’s luxe without gloss, cream-colored linens instead of white. The rambling, farmhouse-style white building still feels like someone’s home, someone you want to be friends with.
Our server brought black cloth napkins and menus, and I examined the wine list. The Wishing Well has won the Wine Spectator of Excellence Award every year since 2010. Aside from the comprehensive list, they focus on small, family-owned, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon producers in California.
There are no surprises to the menu, except that it’s a classic one you don’t see much anymore, with quality steaks and fresh seafood, chops, duck, calve’s liver with bacon and onions. They offer indulgences such as fresh oysters, frog’s legs, escargot.
The chicken Parm, at $25, looks out of place here, but someone is going to ask for it.
The server brought homemade ciabatta bread, buttered and seasoned with herbs, and sweet corn sticks, the kind shaped like ears you make in that cast-iron pan. There was a bowl of seasoned, sliced small tomatoes, which Lisa said, “taste like summer.”
Wishing Well has a $29 three-course prix fixe menu advertised as “slightly smaller portions of Wishing Well favorites”. I think it’s a wonderful deal and also thought the portions were plenty big.
Lisa started with a colorful bowl of creamy New England lobster bisque ($10) with walnut-sized chunks of meat. “It looks like they put the tail on the top,” she said, and added that she could eat the whole pot.
I had a bowl of excellent French onion soup as part of the prix fixe menu ($29) topped with a thick layer of melted cheese. It was steaming hot, but before I knew it, the croutons were gone and I was scraping out the last of the cheese. It was a classic iteration, perfectly executed.
Lisa ordered the chicken special ($27), two boneless breast pieces stuffed with goat cheese and hazelnuts, served on one sauce and garnished with another. A small bunch of greens topped it off, and along with the red cherry sauce and the browned, sautéed chicken meat it made a beautiful presentation. “The whole thing is super creamy and delicious,” Lisa observed as she finished the last bite.
I ordered the grilled New York strip steak, a lovely, 10-ounce specimen, a smaller portion that works for me, cooked medium rare with a crust on the outside from cooking. It was excellent, but the best part was the Bordelaise sauce I ordered extra ($5).
A truly fine restaurant makes its own sauces, and that tells you all you need to know about the Wishing Well. Bordelaise takes time, but the finished product was silky and rich, and it enhanced the flavor of the meat without dominating. This alone was worth the trip.
Wishing Well gets points for using a variety of colors and textures in their side of vegetables, so often an afterthought. They gave me two kinds of beets, carrots, parsnips, green beans and sauteed greens, made with the same effort as the rest of the meal.
For dessert, I had a lemon creme brûlée with a thick layer of caramelized sugar. It was creamy and rich, not overly sweet.
Lisa enjoyed the raspberry pie ($7) and said it was the best she’s had. It was warmed, homemade at Smith’s Orchard and Bake Shop in Charlton, and tasted delicious, she said. I liked that the filling didn’t have too many seeds and was just sweet enough.
Everything tasted exceptionally good, and the server was remarkably competent, working in concert with the rest of the staff so that our meal went smoothly and the overall experience was pleasing.
The tab for the food came to $78 and was worth every penny.
Lisa summed it up: “There really aren’t any corners that they cut.”
I’m looking forward to another dinner at The Wishing Well soon. “This is the best dinner we’ve had together,” said Lisa.
The Wishing Well
WHERE: 756 Saratoga Road, Wilton, 518-584-7640, wishingwellrestaurant.com
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m Sunday and Tuesday to Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Open Mondays during racing season.
HOW MUCH: $78 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Reservations suggested. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu.