If you are looking for a fine dining culinary experience without the pretentiousness that normally comes along with it, then look no further then Prime 289, located at, you guessed it, 289 Main St. in Oneonta.
Since opening in 2010, Prime 289 has been the spot for one of Oneonta’s best meals any Wednesday through Saturday night. From appetizers, right through to desserts, everything is hand-crafted with great precision by head chef Michael Andreasson with co-owners Adrian Origoni and David Zummo and many other valuable staff members.
Origoni, who also owns the Sip and Sail Tavern on Water Street, and Zummo, who own the Latte Lounge and Green Toad Bookstore on Main Street, are local small business owners who shared a desire to own a casual fine dining restaurant here in Oneonta, with “city quality standards,” according to Andreassen.
Graduating from Oneonta High School in 2004, Andreassen is a local success story. He began his restaurant career as a prep cook at the Corfu Diner in high school and then line cook at an Outback Steakhouse in college before being hired as a catering chef at SUNY Oneonta for Sodexo, where he worked for about two years.
From there, he spent two years with L.M. Townsend Catering out of Cooperstown, where he gained experience working high profile catering events for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and other upscale institutions, as well as catering weddings and other events. Since Andreassen took over as head chef for Prime 289 in 2011, the restaurant has established itself as one of the area’s finest establishments.
I began by ordering the flatbread special of the day (grilled chicken with arugula and a smoky blueberry sauce), the French onion soup (which, as I have written previously, is a favorite of mine), and the soup of the day (broccoli/cheddar), as well as the arugula salad. It was a lot of food, but thanks to my girlfriend, I had some help, and when the food began to arrive, we knew we had made the right decisions.
The soups came out first and were both appropriately hot. The French onion had the cheese melted perfectly over three crostinis, which were floating on the top. The soup was loaded with caramelized onions, and the broth was good enough to drink. The soup of the day had large florets of broccoli, not tiny or chopped-up bits. Its cheese and cream base was the perfect consistency — not too thick, but also not too thin either. It also had a hefty portion of rice and quinoa, which was a nice twist.
The flatbread was loaded with fresh, crispy arugula and grilled chicken, and then covered with a smoky blueberry sauce. The sweetness of the sauce balanced out with the peppery flavor of the arugula and completed with grilled chicken strips. It was an amazing combination that left no taste buds unsatisfied.
Now, I know it might sound like an overdose of arugula with the salad, but you can never eat too much arugula in my book, being as delicious as it is healthy. Tossed with a champagne vinaigrette, candied walnuts, strawberries, bacon and avocado, there is not much to say about the salad, other than it was absolutely phenomenal. The saltiness of the bacon, complimented by the sweetness of the other components and the semi-spicy arugula, was like a match made in culinary heaven.
As for entrées (and I know what you’re thinking, because I was starting to think the same thing too: “How could we possibly have room to eat anything else?”), we decided to split the 20-ounce USDA Prime porterhouse. Because we only ordered one entrée, I couldn’t resist “surfing” our “turf” with scallops in a delicious butter and herb sauce, and also adding sautéed mushrooms and grilled asparagus. The portion of mushrooms was huge, and they were sautéed with butter, oil, garlic and herbs — perfect for any steak and mushroom lover.
The porterhouse itself was plenty for two people, and was prepared in an 1800 degree infrared broiler because it “melts the salts right into the meat,” according to Andreassen, when we spoke after the meal. Seared to a perfect medium rare, it was seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper so as not to mask the savory flavor of the meat. With just the right amount of char on the outside, the warm pink center just melted in your mouth. As good a steak as you can get.
With a variety of other cuts of steak, and other entrees to choose from, including veal, pork tenderloin, chicken, ahi tuna, and salmon, Prime is toward the very top of the list of recommended eating in our area. I have eaten in many steakhouses, and fine dining restaurants in cities all over the country on both coasts, and Prime could easily compete with any of them.
As with most quality products in life, especially quality food, it does not come cheap, but the portions are plenty and the complete dining experience, from atmosphere, to service, to presentation and taste of the food, is worth every penny. If you long for a taste of big city dining here in this upstate city of the hills, then Prime can most certainly satisfy your craving. Just remember, do the right thing and tip your server at least 18-20 percent.