High above the mighty roar of the American Falls and Canadian Horseshoe Falls, at 160 metres (520 ft) from street level and 236 metres (775 ft) from the bottom of the falls, stands the infamous Skylon Tower. Opened in October of 1965, this Niagara Falls landmark has graced the city skyline for over 50 years now and has welcomed countless tourists. The main floor hosts a few random souvenir and coffee shops and the large basement area, which can be accessed by escalators, features an aging arcade and some fast food options.
Taking one of 3 ‘yellow bug’ elevators to the top of the tower in an impressive 52 seconds reveals two restaurants – The Revolving Dining Room and the Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room, as well as an observation deck. All three offer spectacular views of the falls, the skyscraper hotels and casinos, the Rainbow Bridge leading to the US, and the action and lights of Clifton Hill.
If you choose the Revolving Dining Room as your destination, you’re in for a real treat. For starters, you’ll manage to see EVERYTHING the surrounding area has to offer as the dining area makes a slow but full turn once every hour, exposing diners to an ever-changing view throughout their meal. There isn’t a bad seat in the house as tables for 2 and 4 guests are lined against the window, and larger booths are elevated and forward facing toward the picture-perfect view, no matter the time of day or season. It’s the outer ring of the restaurant, where the tables are located, that provides the slow and steady movement of the floor in a circular motion. The inner ring is stationary, where the elevators, maitre ‘d check-in, and bar are located. So if you leave your table for any reason, be prepared for your party to have moved by the time you return. Also, a word of warning, do not place personal items on the window ledge adjacent to your table as the windows and ledge remain stationary whereas your table will continue to move and it won’t be long before you lose sight of your belongings.
It’s difficult to say whether dining early or late provides for a better view as both offer a different atmosphere. Daylight views would present more detail of the area, whereas nighttime views include the colorful lights of Clifton Hill and the surrounding hotels, as well as the beautiful lighting aimed at the falls.
Although casual attire is accepted taking into account the touristy area; the dim lighting, piano accompaniment, and waiters in tuxedos are indicative of the restaurant’s refinement. That same refinement can be found in the wine and cocktail selection, as well as in the varied, upscale menu. Starters include French Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, Clam Chowder, Tiger Shrimp, Escargot, and Calamari, to name a few. Warm bread with cold butter is also served. For our dining experience, we opted for the Salad Framboise and Calamari Rings. The salad of baby spinach, radicchio, chicory, and mixed greens was fresh and crisp, the walnuts and feta cheese garnish added a flavorful blend of crunchy and chewy and the raspberry balsamic dressing offered the perfect mix of sweet and savoury. In a nutshell, the salad was a flavor explosion. The calamari was crunchy on the outside, chewy and palatable on the inside, and happily lacked that fishy aftertaste often associated with calamari. The bread was so fresh that it took some discipline to leave room for the main course.
Entrees include choice cut steaks, Chilean Sea Bass, Seafood Pasta, Mediterranean Chicken, Rack of Lamb, and THE most succulent prime rib you could ever hope to sink your teeth into. For guests preferring a vegetarian option, the Skylon has you covered with a Vegetable Medley entree that features battered eggplant.
For our experience, we chose the prime rib, which came complete with roasted potatoes in the skin, steamed broccoli, a tasty parmesan crusted grilled tomato wedge and a delicious horseradish that was indeed hot and tangy but proved to be the perfect accompaniment for the tender cut of prime rib. As a side, we chose Mixed Sauteed Mushrooms which were juicy with butter and flavor. The portion size of each and every dish was surprisingly generous, so much so that dessert was almost omitted. In the end; however, it was hard to resist the freshly baked vanilla cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce and assorted fresh berries. It was a melt-in-your-mouth-experience that was not to be missed.
An Early Dinner Prix Fix menu is also available for those wishing to dine between 4:30 and 5:00pm and save a bit of money.
Presentation at the Skylon is not only apparent on the plates, but also on the tables within the crisp white linens, sparkling water glasses and a candle for effect. Adding to the presentation is the commendable wait staff in tuxedos, who are truly helpful and attentive to ensure that the dining experience is a great one.
With an average price of $50 (Can) per entrée, $16 on the average for starters and $11 for most of the decadent desserts, your tab undoubtedly will be pricey, especially if you’re dining with a family. However, it will be well worth it as a meal you’ll never forget, not only for the superb taste and presentation but also for the first rate service and extraordinary ambience.
By Scott McAlpine
Photos by Chris Heighington