Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An American Brasserie

Saturday night I decided I needed to get out of the house, so after very little persuasion I convinced my cousin and his fiance to go out for dinner and drinks. My cousin decided to bring us to DP, An American Brasserie, located inside of the Hampton Inn and Suites on Chapel St in Albany (25 Chapel St). This charming restaurant is located next door to Yono's, and is owned by Dominick Purnomo.

The night got off to a slightly rocky start because the valet parking (which is shared with the hotel) was full, and the valet staff was extremely rude about it. More specifically some blonde college drop out with an attitude and a power trip. Valet should know better than to cop an attitude with hungry people... especially a Rutherford. Eventually we settled on parking at the $10 lot (a steal compared to parking in Boston, but a travesty in upstate NY) and made it to the restaurant just in time for our reservation.

When you first walk into DP you realize how small the restaurant is, but the space feels very warm, cozy, and inviting, which is a big plus. We were promptly seated at our table, and began the always stressful task of deciding what to drink. I've been on a huge red wine kick lately (by "lately" I of course mean for the last year) so I went with my standard pinot noir. Cara decided to go with the Nerello, and my cousin went with some ridiculous drink that I can't remember. (If you want to know more about the wine I encourage you to read Cara's review!).

As we waited for our drinks to arrive we perused the dinner menu, and shortly after the waitress dropped off some bread. Instead of serving a traditional Italian bread we were served little pretzel bites with mustard. Although I applaud their attempt at originality, I am not a huge fan of pretzels, and unfortunately these ones weren't hot, weren't soft, and the mustard was a little too strong for my taste. I think if the pretzels came out warmer and fresher, and the mustard had a little honey in it, or was mixed with some honey mustard, it would have been more successful. A for effort, C for taste and execution.

The menu had a great mix of small plates, burgers, and full-sized entrees. They also had a fairly extensive specials list for us to chose from. I really enjoy that they have a "burger of the day" special, I think it's a cute idea and allows for some creativity.

To start we each ordered an appetizer. I ordered the lamb sate, Cara got the shrimp sate, and Justin got the lobster ravioli starter portion. Although it's slightly unimaginative to offer smaller portions of full-sized entrees as appetizers, it does allow patrons to try cheaper versions of those meals, and if they enjoy it as an appetizer they would be more likely to order the full-sized entree for dinner next time.

The lobster ravioli was a nice appetizer size, and the plating was very beautiful. I love when restaurants use square white plates, it puts the focus on the food - where the focus should be.

Although not typically a peanut sauce fan, the lamb was nice and tender, and the sauce was well balanced and tasty. The pickled vegetables were a nice touch as well. My only complaints were that the lamb was a little well done for my taste, and I had difficulty getting it off of the stick - forcing me to cut around it.

Cara's shrimp sate
Sate and pickled vegetables are a very classic pairing of this Asian dish, and the vegetables were a combination of carrots and cucumbers.

After finishing our apps we placed our entree orders. For the most part our waitress was attentive, but she had one of the most boring personalities I've ever witnessed. When I asked for recommendations on apps, she gave me a look that said "really? just pick one" and eventually muttered off like five different ones. She wasn't familiar with the wine list either - pretty much you could tell she didn't want to be there, and although she did her job, she did the bare minimum.

For an entree, Justin ordered the bison burger off of the specialty menu. It was served with fried onions on top, and a chipotle aioli on ciabatta bread with french fries. Justin thoroughly enjoyed his burger, although he mentioned that the chipotle aioli was extremely spicy. On a side note, I don't think I like when there's garnishes on the side for us to "use how we like." I think all meals should be put together so that everything on the plate is meant to be eaten, and works well with the dish.

I really enjoyed seeing bison on the menu - it's such a great alternative to ground beef. It is much leaner, and has less overall calories than ground beef. Also, the ciabatta is a more upscale presentation for a burger, and acted as a better support for it.

For my entree I ordered the mushroom ravioli. The raviolis were heavy, but had really great deep flavor, and the scallions on top were a nice garnish, as well as a nice crunch. I also really liked the portion size - I think had it been any bigger of a portion it would have been overwhelming because the pasta and sauce were both on the heavier side. Overall I can say that I would definitely order this again, and probably the lobster ravioli as well. 

Cara ordered two different sides as her dinner - the mac and cheese and the truffled pommes frites. The mac and cheese was a combination of several different cheeses, and the pasta used was orecchiette. This is a more unusual pasta choice, your standard mac-n-cheeses are typically elbows or shells, but I think by choosing it they made their dish slightly more unique. I'm a huge fan of mac-n-cheese, and this one was pretty solid, although not one of my favorites. It could have benefited from a little more s+p,  but I do applaud the ability to achieve the creaminess and the crusty top. All and all I think with a few minor tweaks this would be a really great dish, and the presentation is super cute - although they need to burn those doilies.

As far as the fries, truffle oil has a very earthy flavor, and if used appropriately can add the flavor of real truffles to a dish - which is much cheaper than using real truffles. Her only complaint with the fries was that they didn't come with a dipping sauce. She eventually ordered a side of ranch, and the table had ketchup on it, but as you can see in my previous post, I love some side sauce with my fries - especially imaginative ones.

Ultimately we decided to order some dessert - mostly because I we wanted some more wine and dessert would allow us to stay longer and continue drinking. We decided on two different desserts - Chocolate Rendezvous and French Vanilla Cheesecake.

The Chocolate Rendezvous was layers of chocolate ganache, raspberry, chocolate mousse, lady fingers, and milk chocolate, in a raspberry/chocolate sauce and dusted chocolate and powder sugar. The flavor was pretty standard for a chocolate mousse cake - nothing special about it but still tasty. I didn't care for the lady fingers but that's more personal preference - why make it more difficult to get to the chocolate?

The French Vanilla Cheesecake was a basic cheesecake with a cinnamon graham crust. I love cheesecake - it is one of my top two favorite desserts (Key Lime Pie is the other.... fyi). This was a much lighter cheesecake and not as dense as a traditional one. The crust had nice crunch to it, but I didn't really taste the cinnamon flavor in it (which I liked because I don't like cinnamon, but unfortunately that could disappoint someone expecting cinnamon flavor). The sauce had a nice flavor to it, but the wafer seemed more decorative than an enhancement to the dessert.

As you can see, we did a pretty good job of finishing these off.... except for the lady fingers. 

After dinner we lingered for a bit, talking and drinking. At some point, although it was a little hazy, one of the chefs and owners approached our table. I had my head down, probably texting, and she tapped my shoulder and greeted me like I knew her. Obviously my "go to" response was to act like we were best friends. Usually this works.... however things got kind of super awkward, as I could not for the life of me figure out who she was, and she appeared equally as puzzled as to who I was. When she left the table my cousin and Cara immediately wanted to know how I knew her - to which we all had a good chuckle over my awkwardness. I will say that the strategy of acting like you know someone has roughly a 95.2% success rate - this was one of the 4.8% of times that it did not seem to work. 

Overall the dinner was good, and I could see myself going back there, although so far Aperitivo is in first place for upstate NY restaurants. 

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  2. absolutely fanatastic review as always! totally right about the mac n cheese> it was really good, it just needed a bit more spunk.