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Albany - Solano Grill – Asian Fusion and $5 wine tastings with appetizers

rworange | May 8, 2006 12:14 AM

This was a first visit to Solano Grill to try out the new week-end brunch.

There are a few changes at this restaurant. In addition to adding brunch, there is a wine tasting every other month.

A question first before the report … did anyone go to the wine tasting last month?

Five dollars bought a taste of 22 wines (and the appetizers). The wines at these tastings are available for purchase. How were the prices for bottles?

The owners of the restaurant have a wholesale wine business, Echelonwines and have won a number of awards from Wine Spectator for the restaurant wine list.

This month (Tuesday 5/22 – 5:30 – 6:30 pm) will be Pinot Noirs and Spanish Riojos.

Upcoming tastings will be:

Tuesday, July 25th – Chardonnay & Pinot Grigio

Tuesday – September 26th – Champagne & dessert wine

Also, although there are not many reports on the web about Solano Grill, those that are out there are positive. The chef, Sam Chen, worked at La Folie.

There is a French/Asian slant. For example, the soup last week was Nori Seaweed & Cauliflower Soup with Silky Tofu & Egg Flower. My server said another example of the fusion was wasabi aioli.

Never a good thing when I stall around this much before the report. I would go back, probably not for brunch, but to check out the dinner menu – especially the $30 prix-fixe with a $15 supplement for a matching wine flight.

Even though I didn’t like my brunch selection, there were nice touches that showed real promise and led me to believe I just ordered the wrong dish. Also, the server said they were still working out some of the details on brunch.

Breakfast started with a warm delicious complimentary slice of walnut-date bread.

I highly recommend the Basket of Freshly Baked Pastries with Assorted Mini Muffins & Croissants.

The lemon poppy seed muffin was the best with intense lemon flavor. The apple walnut was light with delicious spiced apples and large chunks of walnuts. The dried cranberry I didn’t like because it tasted like the biscuits that are heavy on baking powder and make my mouth pucker.

The mini croissants were excellent. The chocolate was still warm and the chocolate interior was still liquid. The plain croissant was very buttery.

That being said, the "Solano Grill" Egg Benedict with Orange Hollandaise, Hobbs Bacons, & House-made English Muffin, was one of the most memorably awful versions of eggs benedict I have ever had. I may even have trouble drinking orange juice with eggs in the future. Orange hollandaise … NOT a good thing. The eggs were nicely poached though.

It was the house-made English muffin that caught my eye when reading the menu. The muffin reminded me more of a crumpet than an English muffin. It didn’t have enough nooks and crannies to sop up the yolk. What they did to that Hobbs bacon was a sin. It was totally overcooked and tooth-breaking hard.

The roasted potatoes were good, if different. The potatoes were roasted and then cut in half after roasting. Usually potatoes are cut before roasting.

However, the baked goods were so good, that I may have zeroed in on a dish that was a miss. Looking around on the web there was a recent rave about the Vanilla Custard French Toast with Cinnamon Butter. There are also positive comments on the desserts and the presentation of dishes.

The service was very nice, helpful and … prompt. As I pulled the chair out to sit down, they asked what I would like to drink. The menu hit the table before I hit the chair.

The restaurant has been open about eight years and seems like it could use a little updating. It could be one of those restaurants that looks better at night when the lights are low. The color scheme was pink and turquoise and the carpet a little worn. It was pleasant enough though especially sitting next to the window overlooking Solano Avenue. The art work is by local artists and can be purchased, so that part of the décor is ever changing.

There are a few rooms that host private groups. Curtains can be drawn for privacy. They also do catering and have some banquet menus at pretty good prices, IMO.

However the dated color scheme wasn’t helped by the fact that there was a group celebrating an event in the back of the restaurant. I know I didn’t dream this, but as I walked in a guy dressed in a powder blue tuxedo and frilly shirt was playing a guitar (badly) and singing “Home on the Range” (badly). I was up late the night before celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so had THAT gone on for more than one song, I would have had to leave.

Fortunately, it was a one-tune wonder and the background music was switched on to Smash Mouth, A New Planet.



Solano Grill and Bar

1133 Solano Avenue
Albany, CA 94706
(510) 525-8686

Lunch Hours
Mon-Fri 11:30am-3:00pm

Brunch Hours
Sat-Sun 10:00am-3:00pm

Dinner Hours
M-Th, Sun 5:00pm-9:00pm
Friday-Sat 5:00pm-10:00pm

Link: http://www.solanogrillandbar.com/

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