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Dueling Restaurant Weeks

October 17, 2011

How do you know when the idea of Restaurant Week is totally played out?

Well, Downtown Albany’s Fall Restaurant Week just started a few days ago, and Colonie’s Fall Restaurant Week begins today. The one key difference between the two is that the organizers in Colonie know how many days are in a week.

Not everyone who comes to the FLB is a local, so let me provide you with a bit of context. Colonie is one of the major suburbs that actually abuts Albany. There are suburbs in all directions, which over the years have drained Albany of potential well-heeled inhabitants.

The entire point of Downtown Albany having a restaurant week is to draw the suburbanites into the city. But now it looks like the suburbs are fighting back. Now, I know many of you have thumbed your noses at restaurant week in the past. But when I was looking over the Colonie menus, one really caught my eye, and I have to tell you about it.

You know why? Because this guy gets it.

He gets it so much that it leave me wondering why nobody else gets it. It’s not that it’s ungettable.

Garden Bistro 24. It’s the great restaurant with the terrible name, where occasionally some of my dear friends have gotten terrible service. But give me good food at a reasonable price, in a nice setting, and I’ll beat a path to your door.

Well, for the restaurant week promotion, Garden Bistro 24 is sticking to what it does best. It’s not putting out dishes that are atypical of what the restaurant serves on a daily basis. They are not using lesser ingredients.

No.

They are using this opportunity to do their thing. Create a simple menu, with strong, seasonal flavors, and fresh high-quality ingredients, for a reasonable sum. Except during Restaurant Week in Colonie, it is even more reasonable.

If you have not had the chance to try out this local gem of a place, now is the time to do it. Let me walk you through their three-course menu, which is only $20.11 for the week, and maybe you’ll see why I’m so excited.

Both of the appetizers look appealing.

There is a hearty beef and lentil soup. This is appealing because beef is what they do. Garden Bistro 24 has no freezers, which means this can’t be beef scraps from all the steak trimming they’ve done over the past few months. So that suggests it will be good stuff. I know what they can do with steak; I’d love to see what they do with beef soup.

There is also a salad: autumn roasted butternut squash, local goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. That just screams fall. It sounds like a delightful contrast of textures, colors and flavors that uses both local and seasonal ingredients. It sounds so easy, but if that were the case everyone would be doing it (which they are not).

There are two entrées I would order without hesitation.

Besides steaks, GB24 is known for its mussels. During restaurant week they are running this decadent sounding preparation: Prince Edward Island mussels in a bacon Gorgonzola cream sauce with English peas and pomme frites. Seriously, I could go through a loaf of bread sopping up all the bacon Gorgonzola cream. I might even attack the sauce with a spoon. Damn, that sounds delicious.

Additionally, they are offing a roasted free-range chicken with fresh herb jus and pomme frites. How many other restaurants are doing free-range chickens? Please don’t make me count. The number is very low, if there is anyone sourcing it at all.

While there are two desserts offered, there really only is one choice.

It’s the crepe filled with roasted local apples and topped with fresh caramel and whipped cream. This is apple country and this is such a smart thing to do, from both a cost and a taste perspective. The apples we picked recently from Indian Ladder Farm are so freaking good and so freaking cheap.

Do you see what I mean?

Normally this meal would cost you a reasonable $28 or so. This week you can try it out for the bargain basement price of $20. And I’m betting that if you go during restaurant week and fall in love with the thin-rimmed wine glasses, the heavy silverware, and the well-made food presented in a comfortable setting, that you’ll be back.

I’ve said before that other restaurants need to take a page out of their book. Time and time again, GB24 is proving that this still remains the case.

Forget Downtown Albany’s restaurant week. If you haven’t been to GB24 yet, now’s the time to go.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2011 10:03 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only person talking about how terrible the name is.

  2. October 17, 2011 11:57 am

    I love that GB is featuring fresh local foods in such a tantalizing way! It all sounds delicious. Could you tell us who the chef is?

    Nick has been concocting amazing new menu items w/ local produce & cheeses all summer and people aren’t exactly beating a path to our door (ahem, DB. {just kidding really – we know you have a lot of committments}). And our prices are *way* less! I think one of the reasons people perhaps aren’t showing up more is our unfortunate location, but we run lean & clean hence our lower overhead ($7 for a lunch entree, all locally sourced & fresh, prepared from scratch every day, with an inventive new menu -every- weekend). People could order three meals from us for that $20 they’ll throw down for one elsewhere (and that $20 is considered a bargain price, good for only a week)! Everybody deserves affordable access to real, clean food prepared well, city or suburb (or student ghetto, in our case).

  3. October 19, 2011 9:54 pm

    I still have not made it back there. Sucks because I really liked the food. Time to suck it up and let bygones be bygones?

  4. October 20, 2011 12:09 pm

    I finally made it to Garden Bistro for the first time last night, and I tried this menu — the squash salad (you’re right, really nice contrasts in textures and flavors), the roasted chicken and the apple crepe. It was delicious. :)

  5. October 23, 2011 11:22 pm

    I went by there a few months ago, I assumed by the name that this place was nothing special. However, I was very impressed by the menu. Thanks for the review Daniel, I’m looking forward to checking it out this week.

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