LAKE PLACID Chef Richard Brosseau could well be considered the Emeril Lagasse of Lake Placid.
Foodies around the region follow him the way they follow their favorite celebrity chef on the Food Network. But the difference is Richard Brosseau has his own restaurant, and hes right there in the kitchen cooking. When we heard that hed opened his own restaurant, Freestyle Cuisine, we knew a visit was a must.
We first discovered Richard and his cooking at the Wawbeek Resort outside Tupper Lake. In Lake Placid, we followed him to the Interlaken and, most recently, Alegria Garden Café.
Between creating and executing interesting and eclectic menus for these establishments, he took a stab at running his own restaurants, Patois and Richards Freestyle, which were short-lived.
This time, it looks like hes gotten it right. Theres a professionally designed website with photos, bios and menus that give you an accurate feel for the new restaurant.
The attractive sign out front is an attention-grabber, too. A catchy logo uses a knife for the l in Freestyle. Icons depict a martini glass, a knife and fork, a wine glass and a downhill skier, a nod to Richards other passion hes an avid skier and a ski instructor on Whiteface Mountain.
The restaurant is in the back of the building, in the space formerly occupied by the Caribbean Cowboy. That restaurant relocated just down the road.
The entrance is on the side, leading to a modest-size dining room designed to look like a living room, with couchlike seats along the walls. If we hadnt known there was a separate room to the right with the bar, open kitchen and bistro seating, we might not have gone any farther.
But we headed for the bistro side and grabbed a comfortable booth along the wall with a great view of the kitchen. Richard was there in his customary relaxed chef uniform and bandana, along with several assistants.
Unlike Richards menus in previous restaurants, theres more than just fancy foodie entrees. There are Freestyle Tastes (farm greens, pork cheek rillettes, lobster corn dogs, chicken-fried chicken livers); The Light Side (grilled baby lettuce, lump crab cakes, spaghetti squash griddle cakes); and Burgers & Sandwiches (burgers with all the fixings, foie gras burgers, tuna burger po boys, black bean burgers).
Entree choices are preceded by a First Course including beef carpaccio, baked ricotta beet and goat cheese terrine, Moroccan chickpea soup and hearts of palm avocado salad.
Entrees include Prince Edward Island mussels, grilled farm chicken, braised short ribs, sautéed flounder and dry aged steak.
We decided on a mix and match approach to ordering our food after, of course, a round of drinks.
A Brooklyn Lager was one of six microbrews on tap. Riesling was not available by the glass, but the staff was nice enough to open a bottle of lovely, fruity Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes for a single pour. Crown Royal was not in stock for a Crown and Coke, so a Captain and Coke was an acceptable substitute. San Pellegrino was the perfect sparkling water for the fourth in our quartet.
All were delivered by our handlebar-mustached bartender, who seemed to really know his stuff.
Bread for the table came in the form of baking powder biscuits from the bakery infront of Freestyle, Sourdough Bakery. They were flatter and bigger around than traditionalbiscuits, and oh so good. We could have made a meal out of these all by themselves!
We determined our starter course to be the spaghetti squash griddle cake ($12), the pork cheek rillettes ($9), the lump crab cakes ($19) and the lobster corn dog ($14).
We got the corn dog mostly out of curiosity. Instead of a hot dog covered with cornmeal and deep-fried, it was lobster meat formed in the shape of a hot dog, covered with cornmeal and fried, skewered and served over a handful of mixed greens and finished with a drizzle of spicy mustard sauce.
It was an interesting offering, but not one that particularly showcased the delicate flavor of the lobster. But it was quite a conversation piece nonetheless.
We chose the spaghetti squash griddle cake on the recommendation of our server (she said it was her favorite.)
The squash was pan-fried in the shape of a pancake and topped with a celeriac and apple slaw. This one really worked, a good hint of sweetness coming from the slaw topping almost good enough for dessert!
A rillette is a meat mixture resembling a smooth pate, and thats exactly what the pork cheek rillettes were.
Richard has long been able to take odd cuts of meat and turn them into something special. Pork cheeks (yep, the cheek of a pig) isnt something youll find in your supermarket meat case. Its an inexpensive pig part that has, in upscale restaurant food circles, become a delicacy of sorts.
The pate was very lightly spiced and nicely complemented by the cranberry/strawberry jam that we slathered onto a perfectly toasted baguette supplied with the dish.
In comparison to our other starters, the lump crab cakes were pretty routine but perhaps the best crab cakes weve had in awhile.
Two tall, good-sized cakes were placed to each side of a delicious fennel, red onion and orange salad. The cakes had a crunchy panko exterior and a totally tasty interior with what we thought was a touch of Dijon or perhaps horseradish.
We ordered a second course to share, hearts of palm-avocado salad ($9) and beet and goat cheese terrine ($9).
The salad consisted of mixed greens dressed with a subtle lemon-Parmesan vinaigrette. A heart of palm cut into rounds was tossed into the greens. Wedges of fresh avocado lined the edges of the salad.
The terrine was most interesting. Goat cheese was layered between slices of beets, and the beet color penetrated the goat cheese, resulting in dark red and light red layers throughout the thick wedge of terrine. The textures were complementary smooth goat cheese alternating with the crunchy beets.
Presentation included a honey-sherry vinegar reduction on the plate and a dusting of dehydrated beet powder.
For our main course, we chose sautéed flounder ($25), grilled farm chicken ($24), fire-roasted portobello ($15) and braised lamb shank ($20).
The flounder was lightly breaded and topped with a lemon-caper sauce. The sauce was good but overpowered the fish. Roasted purple fingerling potatoes were tasty and a nice touch.
The chicken dish consisted of a large, airline chicken breast (a boneless breast with the bone-in drumette attached) prepared with piri piri sauce, a Portuguese chili pepper sauce. This was a generous portion, cooked perfectly, with a sauce that was flavorful but not overly hot. The chicken was set atop a bed of french fries. Roasted root vegetables completed the plate.
The portobello mushroom was a great vegetarian dish consisting of two marinated, grilled portobellos set over rye toast and topped with roasted red peppers and a vegetable slaw. The lushness of the tangy portobellos was set off by the crisp slaw, all complemented by the grilled rye bread base. Great flavor combos.
The braised lamb shank was excellent, the meat falling off the bone. It was set over mashed potatoes and covered with a gravy made from the braising liquid that was bursting with flavor. Haricot green beans and julienned carrots accompanied. This entrée is made for a snowy winter night (which may not be too very far away in Lake Placid).
Richard was able to step from the kitchen to chat with diners and explain some of his food preparations. We were contemplating the coffee ice cream and doughnuts for dessert when he stopped by and explained a new dessert that he was perfecting.
It was an Ubu smore cake ($9), the batter made with the local brewerys iconic beer and graham crackers. It was set over a pool of molten chocolate and topped with a free-form homemade marshmallow. The plate was decorated with Ubu gastrique. You could actually taste the beer in the syrupy reduction!
Dinner for four came to $178.17 before tip and without figuring in our drinks.
Female servers were colorfully dressed freestyle with the addition of long, black server aprons. Our server did an adequate job but could have been better versed in the preparation of the dishes.
Overall, our experience was excellent. The place has an eclectic charm. The living room offers a relaxed yet formal atmosphere, while the bar/bistro side puts you in the center of activity.
Chef Brosseau has a winner here. The food is accessible and affordable. His menu is casual, if thats what youre after, but it also has a lot of attention-grabbers for foodies looking to push the envelope.
We were impressed and were sure you will be, too.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2126 Saranac Ave.
Lake Placid, NY
Chef Richard Brosseau has his own restaurant, showcasing his creative, inspired cuisine.
HOURS: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
OUR PICKS: Beet and goat cheese terrine, spaghetti squash griddle cake, lump crab cakes, grilled farm chicken, braised lamb shank, Ubu smore cake