SARATOGA SPRINGS — Salt & Char, the upscale steakhouse that opened to much fanfare last year on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, may have fizzled after the departure of its celebrity chef, but it’s radiant and prosperous-looking now, with faultless service and a sturdy steakhouse menu backed up with locally procured provisions.
You probably want to know about the steak, so let’s get to it. You can go low, as with the $29 husky hangar steak or small filet ($38), or all out with a tomahawk ribeye steak on a theatrically long frenched bone ($125).
Start with clams or oysters on the half-shell, or ahi tuna or beef tartare. There’s steakhouse standard salads like iceberg wedge and Caesar. In steakhouse style, it’s a la carte; sides are $8 and $10.
The dining rooms are luxurious and handsome, airy and smartly decorated, with a light-wood floor and built-in padded furniture, and funky light fixtures that give a modern feel to the classic space.
Accents like striped awnings, a worn butcher block table, subway tile and an oversized roll of brown paper charmingly suggest a butcher shop.
Stylish, and a little fun. Dress yourself up a bit.
The vibrant roasted baby beet salad ($13), piled high with frisee and arugula, accented with thin slices of yellow beet and topped with matchsticks of fresh red beets, was not short on beets. Hidden beneath the greens were lovely, pale cantaloupe-colored ones, along with chunks of their more familiar, and firmer, ruby-red cousins and a yellow wedge.
A colorful eyeful, the salad rested atop a gorgeous rich mayonnaise dressing base fortified with capers, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
Husband Eric started with a Caesar salad ($13), halves and quarters of grilled gem lettuce heads and crackling garlic croutons on a bed of anchovy-flavored dressing; cutting the pieces does the work of distributing the dressing.
Salt & Char’s 16-ounce Prime boneless ribeye steak ($48) comes from Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kansas, a purveyor of Black Angus premium beef. While Eric’s steak had impressive streaks and specks of fat, it could have been trimmed more, with extra fat at the edges that wasn’t doing any work flavoring the meat, and just a little bit of rubbery silverskin and gristle.
I may be splitting hairs, but at a premium steakhouse that can make it an 8 out of 10.
That said, it was delicious and perfectly cooked, and he would have finished it off if he thought he could still fit in dessert.
I enjoy a flavorful, heavily grained hangar steak, and Salt & Char’s Prime version ($29) is hefty and tender, with a characteristically stronger flavor than, say, tenderloin.
Their quick char brought out the best in the piece: It came out supple and juicy, highlighting the beefier flavor of the cut.
The only way to improve great steak is by adding a sauce, and their bourguignon ($5 extra) is transcendent, with the rich body that comes from long cooking of bones, and bits of bone marrow for an umami kick.
I could dunk everything in it, and did, and brought home the rest.
Steak & Char’s wine list is deep, pages of wines organized by their attributes — buttery, smoky, fruity and so on. An inky, earthy and smoky Cotes de Rhone ($9) stood up well to the robust hanger steak. Husband Eric nursed a splendid dry martini ($18) throughout the meal.
We shared a side of fingerling potatoes ($10) cooked in duck fat, or something better, more like onion confit. At the edges, where the sliced potatoes were crisped, they were enough to take our attention away from the meat.
I don’t usually order dessert, but if you’re going to pour Champagne over it, then I’m in.
In this case, it was a stemless wineglass of sweetened raspberries over a few spoonfuls of tangy creme fraiche, accompanied by a curvy, sugar-dusted fresh-baked almond tuile cookie ($15). As I leaned over to admire the petite, vibrantly colored berries, the neck of a bottle wrapped in foil and the word “Brut” came into view, and I watched as the server decanted a generous, bubbly pour over all. Now that’s dessert.
Eric had the warm chocolate dessert, delightfully more molten filling than cake ($12), with a scoop of vanilla ice milk, chocolate cookie and bitter, sugary honeycomb candy.
“Oh, boy,” he said, “This is good.”
The tab came with a small plate of sweets that took out bit of the steakhouse price sting: $145 for the food, before tax and tip.
As we walked down the porch steps, an almost-full moon coming up over the Granite Palace building across the street topped off a most pleasurable experience: a wonderful meal in an engaging, sophisticated setting.
Salt & Char
WHERE: 353 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 450-7500, saltandchar.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $145 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. Limited parking in small lot behind and on street. ADA complaint.