It's good to see the stately Polo Grill keeps working to stay current after three decades of serving a fine-dining audience in Utica Square.

The changes mostly are cosmetic, but those who haven't been there in a while will notice some differences.

The original dining room and bar area used to be separated from its wine cellar rooms - private party rooms - by a sidewalk, and each had its own entrance. Today an inside hallway decorated with polo mallets connects the two.

A new wine room, the Sonoma Room, holds up to 22 guests, and all seven private rooms have TV monitors for presentations or just to watch sporting events. The regular bar area has been expanded to hold 16 extra guests.

The most familiar face one will see roaming the dining rooms today is Royal Merrifield, managing partner and son of chef-proprietor Robert Merrifield.

"Royal is the face of the restaurant now," Robert Merrifield said.

One thing that has stayed consistent, based on our recent visit, is the food. Michael Funk, chef de cuisine, has been on the job seven years, and that has to help.

When we visited on a recent weekend night, the place was jam-packed. All of the private rooms were booked, and the main dining room, where we sat, was full. Reservations, especially on weekends, are a good idea.

Before we ever got into deciding what we wanted, our server brought a bowl of salty kalamata olives to nibble on, then a fabulous amuse-bouche, a two-bite wonder of seared salmon with lemon caper gremolata (a light garnish).

Soups weren't on the menu, but we noticed a bowl at another table and inquired about it. We wound up with a silky lobster bisque to go with our salads, a chopped Caesar ($6) and seven-leaf salad with savory gorgonzola torte ($6).

The Parmesan, romaine and olive oil in the Caesar were fresh and lively. I scraped off bits of the pungent gorgonzola cheese and mixed it with a lemon thyme vinaigrette to give the seven-lettuce salad some punch.

A bread tray came with the salads and included sourdough, focaccia with rosemary and jalapeno cornbread mini muffins.

Although three salmon dishes were tempting, we selected a prime 14-ounce New York strip steak ($47) and a stuffed French breast of chicken ($21) for our entrees.

The steak was thick, maybe two inches. At first cut toward an edge, it seemed it might have been on the grill a little too long, but another cut toward the center proved differently. It was a perfect medium-rare.

We also added sliced portobello mushrooms and sauce to the steak, and the flavor kick proved to be worth the $6 upgrade.

The steak came with Yukon Gold whipped potatoes and long spears of grilled asparagus that were tender and flavorful.

The chicken breast was stuffed with fresh basil, goat cheese, Parmesan and white truffle oil served over Yukon Gold whipped potatoes.

The lunch menu has as many selections as the dinner menu does, but it includes more sandwiches and salads, with prices ranging from $6 to $21.

I paid by cash, as I normally do, and the server made a slip-up here: He asked if I needed change. Let's assume the guest wants change unless the guest states otherwise.

The dining room has a comfortable ambience, sort of Italian-California wine country with dark woods, brick floor and butterscotch walls decorated with baskets and vases.

The private wine cellar rooms have names such as Sonoma, Bordeaux, Beaujolais and Burgundy, and hold groups from 12 to 30. The large banquet room off the bar area holds 60.

Robert Merrifield said the Polo Grill plans to celebrate its 30th anniversary this December.


2038 Utica Square




Service: (on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; accepts all major credit cards.

Scott Cherry 918-581-8463

Original Print Headline: Dining space updated, but 4-star food is same