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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

A Fresh Angle

By B. A. Nilsson

Adirondack Seafood Co.

115 River St., Hudson Falls, 745-5845.

Serving 11-2 Mon, 11-8 Tue-Thu, 11-9 Fri-Sat. D, MC, V.

Cuisine: short-order seafood

Entrée price range: $7 (half-sandwich and soup) to $12 (mixed seafood platter)

Ambiance: rustic

 

If a Wizard of Oz-like tornado were to lift a representative seafood shack from its Maine moorings and whisk it, intact, many miles inland—dropping it, let’s say, in the unlikely venue of Hudson Falls—it might look something like the Adirondack Seafood Co. There would be one major difference though: The pricing wouldn’t be nearly as crazy.

Unobtrusively perched on the road from Glens Falls to Hudson Falls, this unprepossessing place has the look of a tumbledown saloon—that is, until you note that it’s intentionally rustic and step inside to find a comfortable dining room.

Stop by the sales counter first. Had I done so, I would have seen the fresh bluefish. If I had spotted this or the magnificent scallops that had arrived that morning, I would have completely restrategized my meal. Scallops are deceptive and too often the water-filled result of a drawn-out harvest trip. Dry-packed scallops are costlier, but the differences in flavor and texture are extreme.

“That’s the only kind we get here,” said our server, Donna, when I finished my meal and took a look. “Since this was your first time here, I should have recommended them.”

She wasn’t exactly falling down on the job, though. An 11-year veteran of the place, Donna knows the ins and outs of the menu and is on a first-name-basis with the large customer base. “Some of them travel a long way to get here,” she noted.

This isn’t surprising. Where else could you go to get seafood this fresh? It’s tough enough to find it in the Albany area, never mind in a less-populated area like Hudson Falls. So, it made sense for owner Mike Willig to expand what started as a market into his full-fledged eatery. The building itself had a long history as a bar, so it was already well-known.

The 12-table dining room is guarded by a large portrait of oilskin-clad fishermen who regard the viewer with expressions of defiance. They’re flanked by wall-mounted fish, bodies a-twist as if rushing to escape the net. Other nautical decorations include lamps, driftwood, and a tiny fisherman that was perch-ed on the windowsill beside my table, which I didn’t spot until well into the meal.

I was distracted by the menu. It was not at all what I expected to find. The restaurant’s name notwithstanding, I figured I’d see a listing of burgers, pasta and other such pub fare alongside a few seafood possibilities. Instead, it listed nothing but seafood, save for the token chicken breast, turkey, or BLT sandwiches.

Look for littlenecks ($8), fried calamari ($7), popcorn shrimp ($7), a basket of shrimp, clams or calamari with fries for $8; ditto fish and chips. Choose a fried or broiled preparation of scrod or haddock ($10), sole or shrimp ($11), scallops or a full-out platter ($12). Have the all-you-can-eat fish fry for $11, or pick something from the sales display and have it fried or broiled for $1 per pound more than its retail price.

It was no surprise to discover that the house clam chowder is commendable. I suspect it’s the location—between Manhattan and Maine—that prompts the restaurant to offer the chowder in both of its popular stylings. This is where my New England roots kick in, though, and I have to draw the line. The Maine Legislature once tried to make it illegal to add tomatoes to clams, but, in the end, you can’t legislate good taste.

Anyway, the fact remains that Manhattan should not be messing with clams. I’m pleased to note that my daughter Lily voluntarily shares my attitude, and thus ordered a cup of the New England variety ($3). It’s creamy without being pasty, rich with clams without seeming excessive, full of flavor without relying on salt; and it includes a bit of celery peeking through. It’s also available by the quart ($7).

I wasn’t so fortunate with my starter. Crabcakes were offered singly ($3) or as a full-meal pair, and it proved to be a packaged product. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I expected, and was certainly not comparable to what the restaurant does with fresh stuff.

This was confirmed by the catch of the day. It’s offered as a $10 meal, broiled or fried, and the day I stopped in it was pollock. With a light cornmeal dusting and a quick, hot bath in the deep fryer, it was as rich and tender as you could hope a piece of fish to be. Accompanied by a house-made tartar sauce and crisp fries, it couldn’t have been simpler or tastier—a testament to fresh ingredients.

Eschewing my quest for variety, Lily settled on fried shrimp. Again, it was cornmeal-dusted and quickly fried: a mirror of my own meal.

We might have gotten away at that point, but we’d seen desserts head to a neighboring table, singing as they went like those other maritime creatures—the Sirens. The list of sweets includes a few homemade items, among which were the butterscotch cream pie and carrot cake we tasted ($4 each). Both adhered to the textbook. The pie put forth an aggressive butterscotchiness from a flaky, shortening-based crust, while the other was formed as a sheet cake, generously topped with a sour cream icing.

“I’m not a chef; I’m a cook,” said chef Brian Bracher with unneeded modesty. It takes special skills to be a dab hand at seafood, and it’s obvious that, with Bracher, you’re in very good hands.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Saratoga Springs offers waterside, wood-fired pizza at the newly opened Harvest & Hearth (251 County Route 67) on Fish Creek. Saratoga residents Peter and Gina Michelin have reopened the former Chameleon on the Lake, now with a menu of handcrafted pizzas, salads and desserts, with an emphasis on the oven and fresh ingredients. The oven is custom-built of clay and stone, following a classic Roman design. The restaurant is open 4:30-9 Tue-Thu, 4:30-10 Fri-Sat, and noon-9 Sun. You can call them at 587-1900 or check out harvestandhearth.com. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.



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