Four years after new owners spent more than $26 million modernizing the Garden City Hotel, the kitchen has gotten another makeover. Ari Nieminen, a veteran of fine-dining restaurants and luxury hotels, is refreshing and refining the menu. But don’t worry, Nieminen has no plans to tamper with the hotel’s $75 per person, belly-busting Sunday brunch buffet, which includes sushi, carved meats, pasta, waffles, omelets, cold shellfish, pastries and much more.
The Finnish-born chef, who lives in Manhasset, cooked under renowned LI chef Guy Reuge at Mirabelle (then in St. James) before embarking on a career in New York City that included opening the restaurant at the The Four Seasons Hotel, Firebird, Café des Artistes, the Water’s Edge) and, most recently, Sea Fire Grill.
His focus in Garden City is on Polo Steakhouse, located just off the main lobby and outfitted with red leather seating and club-like details. The steaks are still either USDA prime or Certified Angus and are aged in house for 28 days, but Nieminen has expanded the nonsteak items
“I love steak, but not everyone eats it,” he said. “I didn’t want steak to be the only thing driving this restaurant.”
And so he has added a number of “composed dishes,” where the vegetables are just as important as the protein. Nieminen partially bones out a baby chicken, pan sears it and serves it with a risotto of sorghum and freekeh (roasted green wheat) and lots of fresh herbs. He pairs crisp-skinned roast whole branzino with a salad of frisee, watercress, herbs, radishes, grapes, mango and jicama, finishing it with balsamic and chive oil.
Nieminen acknowledged the challenges that a hotel restaurant faces. “Because it’s inside a hotel lobby, it doesn’t draw people in,” he said. “But I am determined to make this an appealing, attractive place for locals — at the same time, I want to compete with the other restaurants in town for our hotel guests.”
At Polo Steakhouse, steaks and chops range from $40 to $56; chicken and fish mains, $28 to $40; starters, $12 to $22. There is a $35 early-bird fixed-price dinner Monday to Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 6 to 7 p.m.
At the hotel’s more casual Polo Lounge, small plates, served from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., include Caesar salad ($12), caramelized onion soup ($12) and Mediterranean dips with olives and grilled pita ($14). Large plates, available only until 4 p.m., include turkey club ($16), the GCH burger (with bacon, Cheddar and fries, $18); French dip sandwich with caramelized onion, Gruyere and garlic mayo ($18) and New England lobster roll ($24).
The Garden City Hotel is at 45 Seventh St., Garden City, 516-877-9385, gardencityhotel.com