The $26 million makeover of the Garden City Hotel takes in the new Polo Steakhouse, home of the $60 filet mignon.
Polo is a player in Long Island's high-steaks competition. This is an opulent, clubby affair, from the felled mahogany forest turned herringbone floor to the cushy, Italianate red leather chairs and black sofas. Stylized, steer-skull accent pieces suggest a metallic nod to either stockyards or Georgia O'Keeffe, each gone slightly awry. But it's the closest Polo gets to whimsy.
About 120 diners fit in very comfortably; 50 more, if you count the private Wine Room within Polo. Service is attentive and accommodating, earnest and ever present. Basically, it's all you'd expect in a serious, well-run, hotel dining room.
That goes for the food, too.
Polo is the most notable restaurant on the property since 1997's Polo Grill. There is a Ralph Lauren quality to the establishment, though not as pronounced as before. And chef Michael Mandato does make you forget about any experiences you may have had at its predecessor, Rein. The Rein space now hosts the Polo Lounge.
Actually, the small-plate menu at the lounge seems more fun than the staid stuff that dominates the steakhouse carte. But the iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon starter is fine. So are the meaty crabcakes with toasted corn, celeriac and chipotle aioli; and the apropos oysters Rockefeller.
The "GC lobster salad," however, is routine; and creamy lobster bisque lacks deepness. The "aged prime beef tartare" is dense and refrigerator cold, accompanied by a slick of hot mustard with capers, microgreens and pickled onion. You're better off with the seafood raw bar.
Grilled, 28-day aged prime steaks and chops are the main attractions. The flavorful porterhouse for two is easy to recommend, along with that 16-ounce "signature," tender, bone-in filet mignon. The 16-ounce strip steak comes in third. Steak Diane curiously materializes as two cuts of filet mignon, blandly sauced. The peppercorn, Béarnaise and house-made steak sauce also add little.
The smoked Berkshire pork chop veers toward dry. Almost as overcooked is the tempting but finally disappointing morel risotto with roast scallops and asparagus. Grilled swordfish is perfectly moist. Top side dishes: hash browns, steak fries, roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions.
An individual lemon meringue pie is the tastiest and prettiest dessert. Seven-layer chocolate cake has height but not depth. Caramel bananas Foster bread pudding: boozy, dreary. The cheesecake may not be "Mammoth NY Style," but it's risk-averse and very respectable.
So's Polo Steakhouse.