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Savory and Silvery

Bloomers: An American Bistro

2853 Route 9, Malta, 584-4484. Serving dinner Tue-Thu 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: creative American

Entrée price range: $12 (Southern-fried quail) to $28 (New York strip)

Ambiance: elegant diner

 

By B.A. Nilsson

Seeming contradictions abound in Bloomers, both as a concept and in what you’ll experience while dining. The menu takes an elegant approach to familiar fare, yet it’s priced surprisingly accessibly. The place itself has the shell of a silver diner, but the inside murmurs sophistication. And the owner, Michael Bauer, retired from the insurance business to create this place with no previous restaurant experience.

He was shrewd enough to hire chef Mark Lawrence, whose culinary stamp perpetuates some of the provenance of this place, because this is the former location of Chez Sophie Bistro, in whose kitchen Lawrence spent seven years as sous-chef.

So he’s another of the many area apostles of simplified preparations of the freshest possible ingredients. But don’t let “simplified” fool you—this isn’t about slapping a steak on a grill or boiling veggies.

You won’t miss the place as you approach, thanks to a blue neon sign that also gives the silver building a bluish glow. Inside, the aging booths were replaced with roomier ones, the lunch counter has given way to a more formal service bar, and there’s a new floor and new lighting.

Open since last April, Bloomers has a menu that Bauer and Lawrence have evolved over the months into a wide-ranging survey of food ranging from the familiar to the slightly exotic. To keep the pricing within reason, one page is titled “Light Fare” and offers full-bodied stuff in portions smaller than our Brobdingnagian tradition expects, but which therefore are priced from $12 to $21.

And I can tell you that the venison chop I ordered seemed not at all deficient. Not in portion size and certainly not in preparation. The meat itself was as tender as it could possibly be, and that alone, combined with the grill-enhanced flavor, would have been satisfying enough. The added cherry demi-glace reminded me that venison, like pork, offers even more when paired with something just a little bit sweet.

Even if the chop weren’t served atop a bank of mashed potatoes, I’d have fork-pushed those spuds into the drippings-enhanced sauce. That’s part of the job of the starch. Finished with crisp string beans, the plate was as excellent an entrée as I’ve recently tasted.

And I had the temerity to consume it in front of a vegetarian. Like most of her persuasion, she views the omnivorous folly of most of the world with easygoing resignation. Besides, she’s technically a pescetarian, which she demonstrated by ordering a starter of an Alaskan king crab cake ($12). It’s one large cake, in fact, and you’re not at all surprised to learn that in the eternal struggle between breading and fish, the fish in Lawrence’s preparation wins. It’s the satisfyingly dominant flavor, and it’s well enhanced by a not-too-sweet (and moderately spicy) red-pepper remoulade.

Start your meal more gently with a soup—crab bisque ($6) is a regular offering—or a salad. Or do as I did and start with something relatively mild, like the house pâté ($10). It’s a slice of a country-style loaf in which duck meat figures prominently, served simply but attractively with cornichons and a dab of dijon mustard.

After which I had the simplest salad ($5), a mix of fresh greens and the house vinaigrette. Other salads include oranges and roasted beets with a walnut vinaigrette ($8) and a $10 beef tenderloin and maytag cheese mix over arugula. Lawrence cures his own salmon for another appetizer offering ($9). Also available are shrimp cocktail ($11), oysters ($12), calamari ($10) and a wild-mushroom-and-fontina tart ($12).

The light-fare page is a recent addition intended, Bauer explained, to make Bloomers an affordable destination for weekly dining. The selections sound as good as anything else on the menu, including grilled marinated shrimp ($15), seared scallops with an herbed beurre blanc ($16) and filet mignon au poivre ($21).

On the facing page, the regular entrées include barbecued quail with an espresso-and-chipotle sauce ($23), over which the venison only very narrowly won in my ordering stakes, lamb chops ($28), White Marble Farms pork loin ($23), and cioppino (with shrimp, scallops and clams, $26). Also a couple of significant vegetarian items: bulgar and black bean “meatloaf” with mushroom gravy ($21), and the item my friend enjoyed, a cassoulet that substituted mushrooms and an array of finely-chopped vegetables for the confit, served in an aromatic white bean stew ($21).

As we dined, we enjoyed an eclectic selection of blues-based music which, like the name of the restaurant, is a tribute to one of Bauer’s heroes: guitarist Mike Bloomfield. “And did you know that his father owned Bloomfield Industries?” Bauer asked. “They’re one of the biggest suppliers of restaurant equipment, and we have a Bloomfield coffee machine here. So it comes full circle.”

Finish your meal, as we did, with good coffee and some sizzling guitar licks, and you’ll see that a new American bistro concept is being defined here.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

A couple of closings worth noting include one that’s temporary, as the Saratoga Rose Inn and Restaurant in Hadley closes from Jan. 13 to 25 to give the owners a much-desired vacation. . . . The final dinners at Park 54 in Clifton Park will be served Jan. 12, and Mike and Deena Pietrocola turn over the place to new owners who will install Zaika, an Indian Restaurant, in a few weeks. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at banilsson.com)



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