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The Restaurant of My Dreams

September 18, 2014

Way back in 2010 I had a series of posts about Nice, Good & Reasonable. This was a segment of the local restaurant scene that I thought was severely underdeveloped in the Capital Region.

Well, a couple of days ago, one bold Albany restaurant went and completely changed what they do. It feels like my prayers have been answered.

I wanted a frequently changing menu. I wanted local, seasonal ingredients. I wanted smaller portion sizes. I wanted lower prices. I wanted pared down menus. I wanted to see talented chefs apply their craft. And I wanted it all in a comfortable setting.

Amazingly, this restaurant now exists. In Albany. Right now. Like, today. As in, you could call them on the phone and be eating there tonight. Finding this all too hard to believe, I sent an email to the owner. Not only did she confirm that it’s all true, the restaurant is doing it for all the right reasons.

Welcome to the new Taste. The restaurant that was formerly Dale Miller is now the home of chef Mark Graham. He’s back in Albany County after a stint up in Saratoga at Max London’s. I hate watching Albany’s more talented chefs leave for the glow of the racetrack’s lights.

Well, Taste has done away with their long form menu and replaced it with something intensely focused. There are four appetizers, four entrees, and three desserts. This is down from over twenty small to medium sized plates, over ten large plates, a selection of steaks, and a smattering of other dishes. It actually now reminds me of a favorite Bay Area spot back in the day, Citron. And like Citron, Taste has a beautifully appointed dining room, and a menu that changes weekly.

Weekly! Here’s what owner Maura Gannon had to say about this change:

For Mark and the chefs, this gives them a chance to stretch out a little bit and use what the farmers and regional purveyors have to offer in a more present state. What is fresh now will not be so in one month. When they were developing the new fall menu, knowing that it would be installed for three months, it just did not feel right since what is fresh and now this week is gone and done in three.

Here’s the kicker. A three course prix fixe is just twenty-five dollars.

You can see this week’s menu here. I’d be tempted to take the Italian route and and start with short ribs and cheesy polenta, followed by the brussels sprouts with ricotta gnocchi, mushrooms, dried figs and pine nuts. Although the duck breast entree looks enticing too, but I’d probably pair that with the roasted sweet potato appetizer. Regardless, the chocolate chili semifreddo with Mexican chocolate gelato would be my dessert.

But the first week’s menu isn’t a flash in the pan. Next week sounds delightful too. I love a nice beet salad. Grilled lamb racks with roasted fennel bulb, fingerling potatoes, olives and date butter sounds fantastic. Again, the chocolate dessert would steal my heart. Who could say no to a chocolate salted-caramel hazelnut tart?

Wine flights can be had for just fifteen dollars. But perhaps even better, Taste has a remarkable list of half-bottles. That 2008 Etude pinot noir would be a real treat. However, the wine list posted on their website appears to be a bit outdated. But I’m not complaining.

I’m thrilled. Absolutely thrilled.

Those who won’t feel satisfied unless they are spending more money and getting more food can come on Fridays and Saturdays when in addition to the three course prix fixe menu, Taste has a five course menu for thirty-seven dollars.

My sincere hope is that this new direction is so wildly successful that it shakes the Albany restaurant scene out of its complacency. A thirteen week seasonal menu just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Maybe it’s too early to suggest that the days of caprese salad in February are behind us. Perhaps it’s premature to pitch the thirty dollar chicken cutlet. But we’re on the right track.

And that fills me with hope.

Follow Taste on Twitter, Facebook, or just go to their site to keep up with the menus as they come out. First one in to try it is a lucky duck. When you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Reba permalink
    September 18, 2014 10:26 am

    Sounds promising!

  2. September 18, 2014 11:57 am

    As much as “Gluten Free” as a marketing gimmick makes me want to punch myself in the face, the menu looks good. Think I’d do the soup and the sprouts.

  3. September 18, 2014 1:40 pm

    Big Mark Graham fan. I was a fly on the wall at an Ommegang event last year where chefs had to present dishes using the beer as an ingredient. Mark’s presentation and stage management was over the top. But even he was darting around with his foams and dots of infusions as time was running out, he maintained a sense of humor about the whole thing. Not surprisingly, he won.

    Only thing I don’t like is the visual layout of the menu. Looks like something from Applebee’s. Perhaps they think they still have to explain things to us clueless Cap Districters….

  4. DEN permalink
    September 30, 2014 4:17 pm

    I checked it out the first week and was impressed. $40 for a quality three course meal, prepared by somebody of Mark Graham’s caliber, and 3 paired wines. Superb value.

  5. Marcus permalink
    October 2, 2016 12:55 pm

    Going through the archives and saw that they are closed now :(

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