Adjacent to the Ralph Lauren store on 55th St, you will find a host outside, iPad in hand, checking off a list of reservations. Prior to this dinner engagement, I had seen photos of the food at this new hotspot. It is the reason I was prompted to make reservations in the first place. When you call, the host is sure to tell you that there are limited spots available and you need to reserve one month in advance. I guess you can call my friend and I lucky, because we were able to snag a table at this restaurant at 11PM on a Friday night with only two weeks notice. If that’s the best they can do, so be it.
I arrived inside the restaurant first. I wore a tight blue American Apparel pencil dress that hugged my body just enough to make it sexy without being provocative. I stood near the upstairs bar as I waited for my roommate to arrive. Within minutes, she walks in looking ravishing as always. Tonight in particular, her outfit stood out, mainly because it was the very same dress that I was wearing. We both shuddered in embarrassment. When you’ve been friends this long, you start to think alike- too alike. But now wasn’t the time to scurry home and change. We sucked it up and were escorted to our table downstairs.
We sat between a middle aged group of black women and three trust fund college kids wearing matching bowties. The table on the left appeared to be from out of town, while the table on the right just got off the school bus from Princeton. It was apparent that this restaurant drew in a diverse crowd of patrons. However, the decor is on the verge of exclusive country club. I felt as though I could be in an upscale movie scene, but at the same time, a comedy skit that purposely overdid the scenario.
Art with stern faced men holding mallets on polo horses framed the walls. The wooden and brown leather theme encompassed the entire restaurant, while adding subtle hints of green plaid. The staff was dressed impeccably down to the shoes, with manners that only an etiquette teacher would expect. After they offered us water, we were helped to ‘complimentary warm, cheese crusted popovers,’ or in other words, bread. At that point we looked at each other and knew this place was too fancy for the both of us.
I took a look at the menu, which screams all American, and was immediately drawn to the pigs in a blanket for $14. It was great to see a sense of humor on the menu. Although I was tempted to see what this dish was all about here at the Polo Bar, my friend and I opted for the tuna tartare and burger to share instead. When the food arrived, it didn’t come with share plates. They actually split it for us onto separate plates. A service oriented gesture like this hasn’t been done since I was at L’agrifoglio Ristorante in Torino splitting gnocchi! The Polo Bar definitely goes out of their way service wise. Although we had a late reservation, we didn’t feel rushed out. Our server, Carlos, was attentive, charismatic and nice to look at, so that obviously didn’t hurt.
When it came down to the food, I was left with little to no words. The denomination of Polo Bar holds weight, hence why I was excited to try it. The food wasn’t bad. It wasn’t remarkable. It was just good. The tuna tartare was great. It was fresh and well prepared. As for the burger, I would give it a B+. It seemed to be a staple piece on the menu, but it didn’t live up to 'The Polo Bar Burger’ name. There are cheaper, better burgers in this city.
Will I be back at The Polo Bar? Maybe. I may have friends in town who need to experience this showy all American restaurant. But will I lose sleep over it until I can return? Probably not. Now when I think of this restaurant, I’m not sure if the word that will come to mind is 'fancy' or 'pretentious,' but either way, it was not for me. If you’re ever planning a night out (with one month advance notice!), try out the Polo Bar and tell me what you think.