State St., Albany, 434-7410. Serving breakfast 7-10 Mon-Sat,
lunch 11:30-2 Mon-Sat, dinner 6-10 Mon-Sat, brunch 10-2 Sunday.
AE, D, MC, V.
contemporary American with a French flair
price range: $19 (crispy duck confit) to $42 (grilled
Edelweiss veal chop)
monotonous drone of a ro botic voice intoning something to
the effect of “The system has detected a problem; please exit
the building at once . . . ” did not faze the scores of placid
diners more intently focused on the food in front of them
than on the possibility of impending doom. My husband nervously
raised his eyebrows and looked across the table at me; we
were having our first dinner at the just-opened Marché at
74 State Street, and I was really, really enjoying the combined
effects of a perfectly concocted Stoli martini, a comfortable
dining room, and a babysitter at home with my kids. We really
should get out of here, his expression telegraphed to me.
Remember the Coconut Grove. Think about the children!
Luckily, all of us were saved from having to do what we should
have done when our gracious maître d’ hurried over to inform
us, with a thousand apologies, that the kitchen’s security
system was having an electronic glitch—a normal if embarrassing
occurrence in a brand new facility—and within a few short
minutes, the problem subsided. As I said, nobody seemed to
mind, and that’s as much a factor of being well cared-for
at this pleasing new dining room, as it is our society’s collective
immunity to things like emergency storm warnings.
At the time of that visit, Marché had already had a bit of
drama, as its well-known French chef Eric Masson left under
cloudy circumstances just days into the foray. Scrambling
to regain its early footing, the powers that be promoted Brian
Molino from sous chef to top chef, and while diners and foodies
still speculate as to what really happened to Masson, the
food has not been a casualty.
The overall atmosphere of Marché is one of quiet gentility,
with soft neutral colors and even softer lighting giving off
the feel of the kind of place that, when I was little, I thought
grown-ups went to. The soft neutrality carries through to
the table accessories and, to an extent, the service. On an
early visit, just as I was admiring the presentation of said
martini, served in a classic glass on a gleaming silver plate,
which itself was atop a snowy white napkin, the waiter arrived
to fumblingly remove the silver plate. Generally, waiters
have been loath to give an opinion on which special looks
the best; perhaps this is a house rule, but I prefer a modicum
of knowledge and a smidgen of opinion when I’m debating between
two entrees. (On the other hand, the bartenders at the second-floor
bar are more than happy to share insights or offer suggestions
The menu opens with a fresh-food manifesto, pledging among
other things to use local produce whenever available, utilize
organic and free-range meats as a first preference, subscribe
to Seafood Watch guidelines, and be socially and environmentally
responsible in the purchasing and preparation of all products.
This is a welcome trend, indeed, but, what exactly is local?
On my first visit, the presence of things like octopus, Hawaiian
pineapple and plantains, seemed incongruous given the frigid
night outside. That said, the winter tasting menu, with items
like a winter-squash bisque with gingered cranberry coulis
and rosemary cream, and maple-glazed duck breast with roasted
chestnuts and gratin Dauphinois, was a lovely, well-thought-out
sampling of produce, tastes and textures, that was beautifully
in keeping with the cold late winter/early spring of the Northeast.
Since taking over as head chef, Molino has developed more
confidence. Early on, I found strange inconsistencies in several
items. The yellowfin poke, an appetizer dish outfitted with
cucumber carpaccio, pineapple, ginger confit and crispy plantain
chips, was decidedly mild and almost mushy, with no clear
definition between the meat and its tangy counterparts. A
wild-mushroom tart was very good, if a tad salty, but for
the fact that the pastry was hard as a rock, and veal sweetbreads
were a little overcooked. Subsequent visits have seen marked
improvements in each of these dishes.
One dish that didn’t need too much tweaking is the grass-fed
beef carpaccio ($11), delectable strips of raw beef drizzled
with a bit of truffle aioli. The first time we had this, the
kitchen was a little heavy-handed in the chopped-onion accompaniment,
slightly overpowering the delicate flavor of the meat. This,
too, has been tempered.
Molino’s salads are plentiful arrangements of excellent quality
greens—field, mixed baby, Belgium endive, etc.—accompanied
by a bit of sweetness (beets, lavender-honey vinaigrette,
apples) and some crunch or tang (toasted nuts, pickled shallots,
blue cheese). The lunchtime salads, in particular, which include
traditional favorites like Cobb and Caesar, are just the ticket
to tempt a diehard carnivore into at least trying a greener
Marché separates its entrees into two categories, main courses
and “74 Classics.” From the former, the grilled edelweiss
veal chop is a real bone-sucker, although this doesn’t seem
the right place to actually do that sort of thing. Served
atop a creamy risotto spiked with shiitake, toasted pine nuts
and laced with a shallot marmalade and wild mushroom jus,
it’s one dish that is completely wolfed down, regardless of
who I’ve seen order it. My husband enjoyed the New York sirloin,
prime dry-aged and served with delectable bone marrow, truffled
potato “napoleon,” grilled asparagus and enriched with a caramelized
shallot sauce. A dining friend rhapsodized about the sesame-seared
ahi tuna, served perfectly and lightly cooked over wasabi
mashed potatoes and baby bok choy and pickled ginger with
a miso-soy glaze.
Molino also shows a deft hand at scallops, often featured
as a special. Among the so-called classics, the crispy duck
confit is a masterful rendering of the French standby, and
Molino pairs it well with lentils, roasted beets, baby arugula
and, for a needed shot of acidity, sherry vinaigrette. Braised
lamb shank, with rosemary scented couscous, golden raisins
and roasted baby vegetables, is a welcome dish on cooler nights—one
wonders how, if at all, this section of the menu will change
with the warmer weather upon us. Only the bouillabaisse, which
I’ve tried twice, has failed to excite me. While the scallops
and shrimp are good and firm, and the broth’s saffron and
fennel flavorings are delicate and haunting, the bass has
been overcooked and, worse, included the dark fatty part of
this fish that most American diners prefer to do without.
Just about all of the mains are executed with precision, although
I can’t help but think about the most recent season of Top
Chef, in which contender Cliff finally got the boot because
his dishes and their presentation were just a little too .
. . textbook. “Hotel cooking” is how hosts Tom Colicchio and
Gail Simmons described it, and that phrase comes to mind here—with
no pun intended, since, obviously, Marché is housed within
a new boutique hotel. But for a place striving to be special,
a cut above the stereotypical business travel hotel, it should
cut loose a little, take a few chances. (Among those chances:
How about opening on Sunday evenings, perhaps with a special,
An earlier incarnation of the wine list was darn near impossible
to read: Its impressive listings were presented in tiny type,
and I completely missed several Cabernets, the listing of
which jumped from the bottom of column one to the top of column
two without direction. Like so many of the dishes, the look
and utility of the list has improved over time, and it’s indicative
that one of the very positive things about Marché is the care
being taken by its owners and Molino to get it right. Despite
a few early and mostly minor missteps, Marché has shown an
ability to right itself, and to put the needs and tastes of
its clientele where they belong, at the forefront of the dining
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery will
hold “A Little Bit of Jazz,” a food-intense benefit
at Schenectady County Community College from 5:30-8
PM tonight (Thursday) with a buffet that includes
a carving station, antipasto table, pasta station,
tapenade, coffee and desert. The event also will
feature vocalist Colleen Pratt and Friends, wine
tastings and a silent auction. John and Karen
Mantas, owners of Mike’s Hot Dogs on Erie Boulevard
in Schenectady, will be honored. Admission is
$50 per person. For an invitation, contact Joanne
DeVoe at 573-0773. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at banilsson.com).
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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..