Restaurant review

The service diminishes the experience at the Benelux Brewery

Pull up a chair. We need to talk about what opening a restaurant looks like in the event of a pandemic. What does responding to customer and staff concerns look like? What it means to provide COVID-19 services and protocols. Why is it difficult, but doable. Why sending the bill in a hot-glued, gem-adorned cigar box requiring two hands to open is the antithesis of contactless service. Why sitting people absurdly close to each other in the reopening phase of a pandemic makes them nervous. Why blame cleaners or waiters for moving tables after “using a tape measure” to space them properly is a cop. Why anything less than a quick and courteous remedy is a misread of the play.

We could also discuss the difference between adding an operating supplement, as many restaurants have done, to compensate for remediation measures or to pay staff a real living wage versus $ 10 for a side of spinach or $ 6.50 for a small side of spatzle to accompany a $ 26 schnitzel plate.

But I won’t dwell on the simple cuisine of the new Benelux Brewery in Saratoga Springs. I have a lot more to say about the disappointing service – and not for lack of waiters but for lack of grace. So let me make it easy for you with a solid endorsement of the absolutely smashing Amsterdam Bitterballen. These crispy-shelled croquettes are a popular dutch bass snack filled with sirloin and bechamel sauce. At the Benelux Brewery, an order has about six to share, but you’ll want to dip them in the spicy mustard and bite into them one by one. While you’re at it, order the Belgian mussels with plump, orange flesh, clean shells, and a light garlic wine broth. Who doesn’t fancy a Stella Artois afterwork with mussels and French fries?

Benelux, a Be-Ne-Lux coat rack, brings together Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, so it’s no surprise that the brewery menu takes an Alpine road trip around beer-centric dishes you Every Swiss, German, Austrian, Polish, Czech or Alsatian chalet will find wooden skis hanging on the wall. What you won’t find is anything Nordic new other than tangy lingonberry jam – so don’t look for pickled herring, kardemummabullar, or that Scandinavian-hygge vibe.

The menu is fun in that it nests less famous dishes among “famous” or “awarded” dishes that more closely match its name. Sure, you could have a bowl of farmer’s market veg, wild mushroom pappardelle, or a finger lakes salad, but why when you can order what is said to be a “world famous” jagerschnitzel, meatballs? award-winning Swedish dishes, a plate of Munich beer wurst or a Baltic-style sauerkraut?

We spotted the imported giant Bavarian pretzel dangling from a hook on its way to another table and wondered if this was a clothespin bacon drop from celebrity chef David Burke at the Adelphi across the street. But why imported? Why not make the homemade pretzel?

I would have ordered prime rib with Carbonnade des Flamandes, a traditional Flemish slow coals with dark beer from Leffe, if there hadn’t been any out of stock before 6 p.m. on the first service of the week. Fortunately, these award-winning meatballs are available as a dinner platter sprinkled with a mountain of mash-up mash with sour cream sauce and a Swedish paper flag. It is not known if the “secret homemade recipe” comes from Copenhagen or Sweden or if the “Copenhagen-Swedish meatballs” are a thing. These plain meatballs are a mix of sirloin; I prefer the bounce of chicken meatballs at Ikea. Still, breaded jagerschnitzel is a perfectly tender, finely pounded loin with mushroom sauce and sweet red cabbage, even though the spatzle is a small bunch of tough, chewy rope.

The Benelux Brewery is run by its partner and chef Armand Vanderstigchel, an imposing, bearded Dutch-American who spent 17 years in the Netherlands. From the restaurant’s website to the front walls adorned with magazine covers, we know that Vanderstigchel has written two books, “Adirondack Cuisine” and “Wings Across America,” and hosted a regional PBS show. What is less clear is how to make a reservation or the steps the restaurant is taking, or expects from its customers, to comply with COVID-19 protocols. I don’t care if it’s a soft or hard opening; we need to talk about what happened.

For our early booking, we were seated at a table for two at the back of the largely empty restaurant. Shortly after, another couple were seated right next to us. Not spaced from a table but right next to it, with maybe 2 feet between my elbow and my neighbor’s. Now, in this brave new world, we are a little leery of being close, especially when you go to take off your mask to eat. have they been vaccinated? Would they cough or burst out laughing? We considered having them move a table down, but they were set up, coats removed. It wasn’t their problem or ours but the restaurant’s problem as there are always state imposed rules so my guest visited the hostess to ask if we could move out.

Overall, the request was treated with uncertainty, disbelief and annoyance, as if there was something unreasonable about our concern. Was there a table available in the empty restaurant? They should check it out. Once we settled in, behind a curtain next to the hostess booth, we watched the front section fill up with equally close guests. I would like to mention our serious young waiter who tries his best but he was so under-trained the plates were not cleaned while the drink and dessert orders were taken. As we finished a Viennese apple strudel for dessert, a fork from our mussel appetizer was still on the table. And while the beer selection deserves applause, an Old Fashioned bar with crushed maraschino cherries and a red cocktail straw has only been topped in retro-ness by the manager calling me “Hun.”

Look, Saratoga Springs deserves a laid back spot for beer and mussels or a beer garden with scallops and sausage, so I hope the Benelux Brewery takes the opening plans a little more seriously. For now, I would think twice before going back.

Benelux Brewery

Or: 390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Hours: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.

Info: 518-682-6950 and beneluxny.com



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