OGDENSBURG — Phoenix on the Bay was a welcoming beacon for us on a cold winter's night.
Established in 2005, the recently remodeled restaurant has added handsome windows overlooking a small bay and the St. Lawrence River. From the dining room and the new bar, guests enjoy a glittery sight of all the twinkling lights from Canada and the majestic Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge downstream.
There was a pretty good crowd when we arrived on a weekday evening, mostly congregated in an alcove away from the bar. We seated ourselves there at a window table next to a cozy little gas-fired stove. Thinking ahead to summertime, we envisioned the big wide widows open, allowing warm summer breezes to waft through the restaurant.
The menu offers a nice assortment of appetizers, both prefab and from-scratch, seafood, meat and pasta entrees as well as numerous salads, burgers and quesadillas for lighter dining. Plenty of choices to entice you to break — or keep — your New Year's diet resolution.
To get us started, we chose wonton shrimp ($6.99), escargot ($6.99), fried pickles ($4.99) and the chicken and cheese supreme quesadilla ($7.99).
Wonton shrimp was a tasty commercial product, crunchy breaded shrimp on a stick, served with a sweet orange dipping sauce. Rather than the shrimp being wrapped in a wonton skin, the shrimp were coated with pulverized wontons, then deep-fried.
Fried pickles, also from one of their suppliers, were terrific. Instead of pickle spears battered and deep-fried, these were pickle coins, which actually made each one a delightful snack bite.
We picked them up with our fingers, dipped them in the ranch dressing, and downed them. Lots of taste sensations going on here: warm and cold, crunchy and hot, cool and zesty.
Compared to the plain presentation of the pickles, the escargot was rather elegant.
Plenty of mushrooms and a generous serving of large but diced snails came in a lovely creamy Marsala/garlic/ herb sauce — a gravy of sorts — waiting to be mopped up with the grilled bread that accompanied.
With more than a half-dozen quesadillas on the menu, we were obliged to try one. Chicken and cheese supreme was filled with chopped chicken breast, black olives, onions, red peppers and both cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and just the right amount of zing from jalapenos.
The red bell peppers were our call. The kitchen willingly swapped out the specified green peppers for red — but at a price. Thirty cents was added to our bill.
Other appetizers include spinach artichoke dip, bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, poutine, chicken wings and chicken cordon blue balls.
We decided to order a wide selection of entrees, all of which came with choice of salad (house or Caesar) or soup, or if we preferred, chili.
Caesar salad was underwhelming. Fresh romaine was nice, but the dressing was noticeably oily and lacked flavor. Other than shredded Parmesan on top, this was a blah salad.
Homemade vegetable noodle soup was good, lots of fresh vegetables in a hearty beef broth.
Chili looked great, thick and hearty and tomatoey with lots of kidney beans and a noticeable heavy dose of chili powder. It seemed to lack depth, however, and had little or no heat to it. And for some reason, there was a 40-cent upcharge on our bill for the chili.
For fish entrees, there are shrimp, haddock and scallops. We were fascinated by Scallops Fenton ($17.99), so we ordered it, assuming it was a signature dish named after the chef or the owner or something like that.
Our waitress didn't know its origin and was kind enough to go to the kitchen to find out, but they didn't know either. Turns out, it's a bona fide preparation of scallops. We solved the mystery in the car on the way home. Smartphones to the rescue!
It was a cheesy good entrée, plenty of smallish sea scallops baked with mushrooms and a few green peppers in a creamy cheese and wine sauce, smothered with bubbly brown melted Swiss. A poor man's version of coquille St. Jacques, you might say. Yummy!
It was served with jasmine rice and fresh broccoli along with a baked potato coated with kosher salt.
Balsamic chicken ($15.99) was a pleasant surprise. The portion included four pieces of chicken breast that had been marinated in balsamic vinegar and oil, then lightly grilled. It was topped with additional balsamic and melted blue cheese.
Fresh steamed broccoli and smashed red potatoes filled out the plate. The potatoes were very fluffy, creamy and quite good.
Other chicken dishes on the menu include chicken Parmesan, Mediterranean chicken and chicken Marsala.
Penne Alfredo is available several ways: with grilled chicken and red peppers, shrimp and broccoli or an assortment of veggies. We got the shrimp and broccoli version ($16.99).
The pasta was done perfectly, the shrimp had a nice snap and a nice flavor, but the sauce wasn't very cheesy. It really needed more Parm to give it some pizzazz.
Sirloin tips ($15.99) intrigued us, probably because of the brandy wine sauce in the menu description. Additionally, our waitress asked for the doneness of the meat, so we were ready for something special.
The meat consisted of some chunks and some strips of steak. The chunks were done to our call of medium rare; the strips were more like well done. The meat was sautéed with large cuts of onion, green pepper and mushrooms.
But the sauce was disappointing — very thin and watery, with little or no evidence of either brandy or wine. And it was served with rice pilaf that turned out to be a restaurant supply version of Rice-A-Roni, as evidenced by the spaghetti bits mixed in with the rice.
Fresh green broccoli barely salvaged the dish. But we did we get to sing the Rice-A-Roni “San Francisco treat” jingle.
There wasn't a dessert menu, but our server offered us a selection of two cheesecakes and an apple pastry, none made in-house.
We took the “apple blossom” ($4.29), baked apple slices wrapped in a nice pastry crust, thoughtfully cut into four pieces, warmed in the oven and covered with whipped topping.
Dinner for four came to $109.47 before drinks. A frosty Yuengling pint cost $3, Brooklyn Lager $4 and a mixed drink, a Captain and Coke, $3.
Our waitress was pleasant and very helpful, readily answering questions we had about the food.
On the whole, the food was good with some interesting offerings, if you looked carefully for them, and a good value. It's a family-friendly place, generally warm but not overly fuzzy.
Windfall Bar & Grill, on Tooley Pond Road in Cranberry Lake, is now serving Sunday brunch beginning at 10 a.m. each week.
Chef John Dragun is cooking up three-cheese omelets, homemade cinnamon rolls and crepes, his lumberjack hash (egg, potato, onion, bacon, cheddar) and smoked salmon potato pancakes.
Mr. Dragun smokes his own salmon. The pancake fills an entire plate and it's excellent.
Check out their entire menu: www.windfallbarandgrill.com
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: email@example.com.
Phoenix by the Bay
1702 Ford St.
Good food with some interesting offerings, and a good value. Newly remodeled with a great view of the St. Lawrence River.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
APPETIZER PICKS: Escargot; fried pickles
ENTRÉE PICKS: Scallops Fenton, balsamic chicken
RATING: 3 forks