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Winning Albany Restaurant Week

April 8, 2016

Yesterday, I promised to tell you a bit about what The City Beer Hall is planning to do for Albany’s Restaurant Week, which starts tomorrow. Great Scott!

I think I’ve finally identified the critical flaw of this perpetually frustrating promotion. It’s simply too inexpensive.

When I enjoyed Restaurant Week back on the West Coast, I think the deal was $30 for dinner. But here, the price of the three course meal is pegged to the calendar year. Which means for as long as I’ve been in the Capital Region, restaurants are pushing out three course menus for the price of a burger, fries, and a shake at BurgerFi.

Low prices are a double whammy. Not only do they encourage kitchens to cut corners, but they also draw people out to these restaurants who would never dream of coming back at full price. And clearly many of the restaurants have realized this. Because several of them sacrifice their own brands, with waiters who would rather not be there slinging substandard food to an unsuspecting population. And while customers continue to come back for Restaurant Week and eat up their meals, RW guests must surely be thinking that they aren’t missing much by staying away from these places during the rest of the year.

Few restaurants really seem to grasp what the opportunity and the promise of Restaurant Week can be. One of the establishments that will be putting its best forward is The City Beer Hall. Because hot damn, take a look at this menu.

I literally want everything on the menu except for the flourless chocolate cake. Look at the layers of the dishes. Marvel at the unexpected. And see with your own eyes what makes The City Beer Hall truly special.

Almost everyone is doing a salad for Restaurant Week. Charter is doing two. A “Chop Salad” made from chopped romaine lettuce, baby arugula, teardrop heirloom tomatoes, sliced radishes, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, capers and sprouts, tossed in a house made white balsamic vinaigrette. And a Caesar Salad of romaine hearts tossed in a house made Caesar dressing, with croutons, parmesan, and anchovies.

Yawn. But salad doesn’t have to be boring, because this one sounds awesome.

Dimitrios and Ian are grilling their lettuce, pickling their onion, marinating fava beans, making a pear vinaigrette, and crafting a harissa tofu mousse. Damn. The salad is not a throwaway course. It’s not there as filler. It’s a demonstration of what the kitchen is all about. This is a salad with attitude, much like the charcuterie plate, aka the Lemmy. Jack Daniel’s chicken liver mousse, Coca-Cola aspic, and charred Rock Hill sourdough sound just as badass as the legendary Motörhead bassist that the dish is named after.

“Surf N Turf” at The City Beer Hall is grilled octopus and crispy pork cheek. I’m dying over here. That’s brilliant. As is the vegan kung pao cauliflower, which kinda sorta might fit into my new stupid diet. I’m super curious to try it myself, and hope to find a night to make it down there.

Especially since through the magic of food science, CBH has found a way to make a vegan coconut milk flan. It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

There are a few other menus that I think did a pretty good job this go around.

Ama Cocina may not be offering their street corn as part of the promotion, but you can still walk away with a good sense of what the restaurant is about from the Restaurant Week menu. The Olde English is also solid, if a bit too heavy on my taste on the Indian side of British cuisine. And once again, I find myself tempted by V and R’s menu. There is nothing super-inspired there, but it’s three courses of Italian classics for $20. And that’s an offer I almost can’t refuse. I might be able to refuse it this year based on my diet. But man, it’s enticing.

For full disclosure, I am going to be working with Ama Cocina at Dining Out For Life on April 28. Mark your calendars. We’re going to be having a lot of fun there during lunch and helping to raise money and awareness for the Alliance for Positive Health. Hope to see you then. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll bump into you during Restaurant Week.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack C. permalink
    April 8, 2016 11:24 am

    Glad to see you’re doing DofL, too. We’ll be at the Beer Belly (since Lauren works at the Alliance, we get first dibs on the awesome locations).

  2. April 8, 2016 5:09 pm

    I agree about the cost and for years now I’ve wondered how long it will be before the year/price thing is nixed. Whomever figured that at the outset was a bit nearsighted. I DO enjoy trying a new place during RWeeks in the area and mostly I’ve been very happy with what was served. I have plans with 4 other super heroes at The Hollow next Friday – looking forward to it, since I’ve heard many good things and never been. Keep up the great blog!!! xxx Zena

  3. buffsoulja permalink
    April 9, 2016 5:02 pm

    After taking 4-5 years off from Restaurant Week ,trying CHB tonight – you sold it well Fussy -;let’s hope they bring it.

  4. buffsoulja permalink
    April 10, 2016 3:51 pm

    https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-city-beer-hall-albany?hrid=Av4xDjjpugsHCk4IUwgO_w

    My review. In short, a nice experience; although, stay away from the Surf and Turf.

    Perusing the other menus, I don’t think this experience would be repeated at the other restaurants.

    I already heard some ill words about V&R.

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