Old House, Updated
By B.A. Nilsson
long-planned, well-executed refurbishment has paid off in
many respects. The Century House has a venerable history,
first as a mid-19th-century house built on land originally
sold to Stephen Van Rensselaer. In the middle of the 20th
century, the O’Hearn family bought the property and opened
the restaurant, and it’s still run by family members who have
honored the building’s past by preserving its unique Federalist
character. While the conference center is a more modern addition,
it salutes the old house’s character. And a meal in the tavern
dining room harkens to an older, easier-going time—even on
a bustling Friday, as my family discovered during a recent
With banquets humming in rooms nearby and distant, with the
dining room almost filled, we still couldn’t have received
a more hospitable greeting or more attentive service. It’s
a bit of a surprise to be seated at a wooden-topped table
in what’s clearly meant to be a white-linen establishment,
but it’s part of a new, less-formal personality the restaurant
the tables themselves are beautiful, custom-made for the Century
House by Amish craftsmen who mixed old and new wood in the
process. Because the tables sit on a newly-laid wooden floor
(itself from an old Connecticut tobacco barn), the tables
are cleverly sound-dampened with acoustic foam.
Homemade bread is immediately served with tapenade and butter
rosettes. Juggling the bread and your oversized menu can be
a challenge, but at least the menu kept me away from the bread
for a while.
The restaurant hired chef Kevin Conway close to a year ago;
a veteran of such places as Chez Sophie and Pearl, Conway
has an excellent way of reimagining old favorites, which is
especially good in a place like this, where the entrées run
to the traditional.
Filet mignon ($23), for instance, gets a shiitake mushroom
demi-glaze; rack of lamb ($26) is brushed with mustard and
bread crumbs. Veal osso bucco ($22) is there, one of Conway’s
signature dishes, which I would choose in favor of the veal
Oscar ($21)—the latter, with tougher-than-expected meat and
the barest dribble of Hollandaise, didn’t come together in
flavors despite the addition of lobster meat. And the promised
garlic mashed potatoes were replaced by cold roasted potatoes.
Another problem dish was the roasted duck ($22). Served over
overdone wild rice that was free of any seasoning, the breast
portion of the duck was raw on the inside. When we showed
this to our server, it was whisked back to the kitchen and
corrected, but it’s enough of a time-sensitive dish that by
the time of its return we were ready to wrap it for take-home.
shouldn’t have happened,” said manager Colin DeMers, who,
as part of the family, has worked at the restaurant in various
capacities for 21 years and recently became a co-owner. “We
try to take care with every dish that goes out of the kitchen,
and I’m glad they corrected it for you.” He sounded so unhappy
about it during our conversation that I’m going to have to
go back there for dinner some time and try it again—he assures
me the problem was unique.
Which I can believe. Another entrée we sampled during the
visit, tortellini Maribou ($17), was a wonderful array of
pasta with Mediterranean flavors, set off with artichoke hearts
and olives and the pine nuts of a pesto, and it was terrific.
As were the unusual appetizers, like vegetable vol au vent
($6), a medley of mushrooms, peppers, eggplant and squash
over puff pastry with goat cheese, and a portabella mushroom
crepe ($6) in a chive-flavored beurre blanc.
On another visit, everything that emerged from the kitchen
was superb, starting with the Martha’s Vineyard lobster chowder
($9) that justifies its price with a generous helping of the
aforementioned meat in a creamy rich base—and I do mean creamy.
The Century House filo roll ($6) wraps spinach and chanterelle
mushrooms in filo pastry and tops it with a pesto cream sauce,
rich enough to stand alone as an appetizer.
Salads are available à la carte, but the Caesar salad ($3)
and spinach salad ($4) are larger than their prices suggest.
I’d skip the app and start with one of them if you have a
Seafood risotto ($20) presents shrimp, crab and lobster portions
over a creamy (love that cream!) bed of rice, finished a little
more al dente than I would expect but flavored magnificently.
And the pan-seared sea bass ($19) was all it was promised
to be, with a moist, tender inside, crispy skin, excellent
flavors enhanced by the saffron-infused cream sauce, all of
it drizzling into the elusive mashed potatoes that awaited
Service was very friendly and we felt rarely neglected. During
the Friday visit, the duo English Garden performed Beatles
covers and worked very well in the room. It’s a far cry from
the fusty Century House of old, and is well worth a look both
for banquets and any special-occasion meal.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
the royalty of bubblies at the Veuve Clicquot
Champagne Dinner at Provence (Stuyvesant
Plaza, Albany) at 7 PM on March 16. Chef Scott
Krause will prepare a five-course dinner paired
with selected champagnes from this venerable house,
and the event will be hosted by the winery’s Guillame
Boisvert. Among the courses: belon oyster with
cracked pepper granita and osetra caviar; diver
scallops meunier with cauliflower purée, kumquats
and capers; roasted veal tenderloin with almond
mascarpone polenta cake; braised rainbow chard
with golden raisins and thyme jus. The cost is
$90 per person, not including tax and gratuity,
and space is limited, so call the restaurant at
689-7777 for reservations. . . . BFS Restaurant
(1736 Western Ave., Albany) is celebrating
its 15th year in business with a new 14-page menu
and a new website (bfsrestaurant.com). The menu
includes many new and old Mediter ranean favorites,
as well as an expanded selection of wraps and
vegetarian items. BFS has been named a heart healthy
restaurant by the Center For Preventive Medicine
and Cardiovascular Health of the Primary Care
Physicians, P.C. For more info and to make reservations,
phone 452-6342. . . . Remember to pass your scraps
to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..