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Pleased to Meat You
By B.A. Nilsson

The Bear’s Steakhouse

Route 7, Duanesburg, 895-2509. Serving dinner Wed-Fri 5:30-8, Sat seatings at 5:30 and 8:30. MC, V.

Cuisine: no-nonsense steakhouse

Entrée price range: $19 (pork chop) to $35 (chateaubriand)

Ambiance: like being home

 

The year began with the Tet Offensive and ended with the election of Richard Nixon to his first term as president. While I doubt that Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley got news cameras up to Duanesburg, in 1968 the Bear’s Steakhouse—then known as Duane Manor—opened its doors. Without bothering to advertise or publish a telephone number.

Bob Payne already had put in time cooking at Schenectady’s Van Dyck Restaurant, but decided that a scaled-down format highlighting the steaks he enjoyed was preferable. A loyal following of customers has agreed with him.

I last wrote about the restaurant seven years ago and couldn’t praise the place highly enough. This time, trying to schedule a last-minute visit, I ran into a few sold-out nights. So I knew they were doing well.

When I finally got in, I understood why. They haven’t changed the formula one bit. It’s still very much a family operation, although Bob Jr. now has taken over the kitchen. His father still orders the meat, however, because he’s a man with very strong beliefs about how a cut should look and how old it should be and a myriad of other details that set the threshold of the product. And without an excellent cut of meat to begin with, you don’t get an excellent steak.

I’d all but forgotten how simple an excellent steak can be. For what I think may have been the first time in my life, I ordered a surf-and-turf combo, which in this case paired a filet mignon with an order of sautéed sea scallops.

Ah, but did I want a Mama Bear or Papa Bear size? They carry the bear thing to great lengths here, but, after all, it’s Bob Sr.’s nickname and this was enough to persuade him not only to name the restaurant thus but also to decorate it with all manner of bear-related knickknacks and memorabilia.

About a dozen tables fill the single dining room. They’re nicely white-linen appointed, with accents of blue from the napkins. What with the ongoing struggle to come up with ever wackier ways to dress a dining room, this seems old-fashioned. But old-fashioned, as implemented here, works well.

John, another one of the Payne boys, runs the floor and does it with unsurpassable elegance. He’ll make whatever you order seem like the true and only choice, as if you’ve been seized with some innate menu genius. He’ll talk to you and your party throughout the meal, with progress reports and any anticipated courses.

My party of three watched with envy as a spectacular looking platter of appetizers went to a much larger party. “Would you like one of those?” asked John. “We can do it for three.” Although his father would later visit our table and complain about the smallness of the shrimp, we saw no such diminution. Several well-cleaned jumbo shrimp were accompanied by a nicely tangy cocktail sauce as well as a sauce melding wasabi and cream.

Nova Scotia-derived smoked salmon was nearby, beside an order of homemade mozzarella cheese interleaved with juicy tomato slices. Each of those three appetizers is $10 alone. We also got a small wheel of baked Danish brie, a former menu item that the chef had on hand and added to the mix. And there was subtle, delicious wine-marinated herring. ($4.25 as an appetizer). The platter also was dressed with fruit and provided a substantial quantity of leftovers.

With all the food you’re bound to get, you probably don’t want a cup of soup ($3). But if it’s the beef and vegetable blend, which uses end cuts from the filet mignon, you’ll miss an amazing recipe, something that will put all future tastes of the same-named brew to shame. A beef soup with plenty of beef!

House salads are fresh and chilled and served with respectable dressings.

As the regulars know, you not only need a reservation on weekends, but also have to phone ahead for the chateaubriand, the house specialty ($35 per person), typically cooked for parties of four but available to a deuce on weekends. And the prime rib ($29) should be ordered in advance as well.

There are non-steak items available, like the poached salmon or sautéed scallops ($21 each), as well as a nightly chicken special. Other non-beef items are a pork chop ($19) and lamb chops ($25). How many you get of each item depends upon the size of the cut and the chef’s whim. You won’t be left hungry.

Then there’s the three-in-one mixed grill ($28) that presents a slice of filet mignon, a couple of lamb chops, and a fat pork chop slice. A great combo and a study in contrasts, as my table discovered through many samples.

That classic rib-eye cut, the Delmonico ($24) is a plate-dwarfing behemoth that also varies in thickness along its body. So what looked, at the edges, to be a little overcooked proved to be perfectly medium rare in the middle.

My own filets—I was served two because the chef thought them too small—also were perfectly finished. No complaints about the food here, except for the excess, which turns into torment when the desserts arrive. They’re huge, too, and also homemade, with a carrot cake that’s simply one of the best.

Sure, it’s not the world’s best diet. But it’s rare to find a restaurant that understands its clientele this well, and offers exemplary food and service to anyone who makes the trek.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The Gramercy Bistro in North Adams, Mass., recently was awarded a three-diamond rating by AAA, an honor given only to the highest-caliber restaurants. In addition to the new AAA rating, the restaurant was rated 4.7 out of 5 at Fodors.com and was given four stars (out of five) on NYTimes.com in 2004. Gramercy Bistro is a chef-owned and -operated restaurant that serves creative American cuisine with a focus on local, farm-fresh ingredients. The restaurant is located across from the MASS MoCA campus at 24 Marshall St. Call (413) 663-5300 for more info. . . . Brush off your palate for a dinner and wine-tasting event at Parisi’s Steakhouse (11 N. Broadway, Schenectady) at 7 PM Monday (June 6). Featured are Wine Merchants’ Picks for the Summer, with Wine Merchants representative Joe Benny to guide you through the selections. It’s a six-course meal with five wines; they include blackened chicken with parmesan risotto paired with a White Haven (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc; grilled summer vegetables & chorizo with a Frei Brothers (Russian River Valley, California) Pinot Noir; and a Frei Brothers Merlot to highlight grilled swordfish with beef steak tomato and peppered vinaigrette. The event is $50 plus tax and tip, and reservations are required. Call 374-0100. . . . The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets’ Pride of New York program kicks off a series of farm-to-table dinners tomorrow (Friday) at Howe Caverns Restaurant in Schoharie County, which will continue every Friday in June and September. Menus (created by Howe Caverns executive chef JoAnne Cloughly) will feature Pride of New York products while members share recipes and product samples with attendees. For more info, call 457-3136 or visit www.prideofny. com. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com).


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



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