ObDisclosure: I'm a former Boston hound who recently moved to the Albany, NY area.
I've been looking for decent chow in Albany for awhile now. I've found decent Indian and Vietnamese and Thai, but was looking for some options that were a bit more upscale for an occasional night out. Didn't have to be all that fancy -- just good ingredients, solid-yet-creative preparartion, good service.
On a friend's recommendation, I went for dinner at Carmine's Restaurant for the first time a few weeks ago.
The meal started off typically enough. Bread, olive oil, olive tapenade. I could taste the fresh garlic in the tapenade -- good. Unfortunately, I could also taste (and see) the chopped up, pre-pitted, canned black and green olives. Notsogood. If youre going to make an olive tapenade, please use good olives. A general rule for all dishes: if youre not going use quality fresh ingredients, just skip it.
My entree was a duck breast with "imported cherry sauce" (quotes mine). Why they opted for imported cherry sauce is beyond me when there is no shortage of quality, fresh local cherries in the area this time of year. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but sadly the cherries were candied, way too sweet, and would have been more at home on top of a stack of IHOP pancakes. Again, please use quality ingredients. The fresh, local alternative in this case would have been better *and* cheaper. The duck was cooked medium rare and still managed to be tough. Bleah.
I went there, a second time, after my friend assured me I must have been there on an off night. This time I opted for what I figured would be a safe choice - a filet of beef. A filet is pretty hard to mess up. The porcini mushroom demi-glace it was served with tasted like diner gravy. Way too thick and starchy. The filet was tough. Bleah again.
On the plus side, though, the dessert (tiramisu) was pretty good and the service was very good.
Before I moved to Albany I'd read it was a chow-free town. I think I'm starting to agree. I've found maybe two good restaurants in Albany (Jack's, 677) and one in Saratoga (One Caroline Bistro). They're good, but in comparison they would be average at best in Boston, NYC, or on the West Coast. I still have to try Chez Sohpie -- about which I've heard/read very good things and the menu looks interesting -- so here's hoping.
Help! Are there any Albany hounds out there? Good recs please!