at all like me, you’re blotting paper, absorbing the mix of
happiness and tension that constitutes a given day. Where
I grew up—snooty suburban Connecticut—the major remedy was
cocktails, and by cocktails I mean journeyman boozing. I find
the wine-with-dinner approach to be more salubrious.
greets you with an attractively featured building, its earth-toned
exterior colors traveling alongside you as you pause at the
busy bar, with its mutely lighted top and artful array of
bottles and glassware. Behind it all is an impressively eco-friendly
facility, using recycled material and making creative use
of such new techniques as a grass roof.
dine there, or alongside the bar, or in the large dining room,
itself segmented without losing its attractive airiness. Conversation
in that room is easy to follow; we learned later that the
acoustics were an important consideration.
is the brainchild of David R. White, who owns several area
restaurants (including nearby Bountiful Bread, which supplies
the same to Creo’) and Mark A. Burgasser, and they were shrewd
enough to enlist chef Andrew Plummer and general manager Paul
McCullough, both of whom were most recently at McGuire’s in
designed the place—physically and in the hospitality realm—to
ease you out of your world and into theirs. And theirs is
a very nice place to be. You lose yourself in the pleasant
service, the easygoing attention, and you’re invited to create
a meal as small or as extensive as you like.
becoming happily common, the terms “appetizers” and “entrées”
appear nowhere on the menu. It’s divided by plate size or
preparation style, giving you freedom to design a dinner of
whatever size works at the moment. Having said which, my family
determinedly ordered according to the appetizer-entrée paradigm.
plates include bruschetta with tapenade ($7), homemade (and
gorgeously browned) potato chips with blue cheese ($9), calamari
with kung pao sauce ($11), Thai steamed mussels ($13) and
fried oysters with habanero tartar sauce ($14).
which gives you a clue to Plummer’s culinary approach. Nothing
unusual about the main ingredients; it’s the co-stars that
are different, and the production itself often is translated
from another language.
the chicken quesadilla ($10). It’s traditional bar fare, but
flavor-enhanced with a cooking technique: The chicken is rotisserie
grilled, giving the meat a richer flavor, and the assembly
is enhanced with chipotle, the wonderfully pungent smoked
jalapeno peppers. There’s nothing unusual about the look of
the item, but tasting it is like discovering a Porsche engine
in your old Beetle.
the chicken soup ($5). Chicken soup! The name conjures childhood
recollections of that awful Campbell’s product, splotched
into a saucepan and hastily heated—but the Creo’ version messes
around with those memories, reviving your palate even as it
replaces years of mental mediocre soup accretions. Nothing
special here that I could discern except for the fresh, for-real
ingredients—and a dandy addition of asiago-based gnocchi-like
are à la carte, and many of them are available in two sizes:
Thus, the chopped vegetable salad comes in $7 and $12 varieties,
the Caesar in $6 and $10. This is a welcome option, easing
the process of designing your meal, and the versatility spreads
into the pasta, rotisserie and “big plates” menu sections,
where selected items also are two-tier priced.
a chop salad, which surrounded iceberg lettuce with grilled
eggplant and zucchini and included a sprinkling of cashews
in a thick, sweet balsamic vinaigrette.
pizzas are a selling point here, and while I absolutely couldn’t
imagine tucking into one in the context of the meal I anticipated,
I what-the-hell’d my way into a five-cheese pizza ($11), a
personal-sized portion on a thin crust also topped with tomatoes
and basil. And I didn’t regret it at all. Other varieties
are offered, ranging from a spinach and feta combo ($12) to
a pie with spicy chicken sausage and fontinella ($14).
meats include chicken, pork, a rib eye of beef and lamb in
appealing preparations ($12-$29). In the “big plates” section
are classics like grilled sirloin with a roasted garlic demi-glace
($23) and roasted duck with orange-pomegranate sauce ($24).
Slightly more exotic are panko-crusted ahi tuna ($27) and
Chilean sea bass in a soy sesame butter ($33).
went ultra traditional with the meat loaf, a small portion
of which is $13 and was satisfying enough to make me wonder
how much you get for the $19 size. Veal and wild mushrooms
figure into the blend, and the meat was firm, rich and exceptionally
tasty, set off with a light sauce and excellent mashed potatoes.
The plate was a delight to behold, garnished with crisp vegetables,
including string beans.
marinated grilled salmon ($23) turns out to be glazed and
tender, perched atop crisp noodles, finished with the sweet-sharp
punch of a hoisin wasabi vinaigrette. And we checked out one
of the specials, per our server’s recommendation, and found
the pan-seared diver scallops crusted with sesame seeds to
be a showcase of this kind of dish, the seafood intensely
flavored, the starch a serving of purple (or “forbidden”)
my daughter went nuts over a dessert of homemade mud pie ($8,
and it may be getting near time to disown her), my wife and
I shared a dignified serving of homemade sorbet ($7), choosing
a scoop apiece of blood orange and pomegranate- red-wine flavors.
a top-of-the-line dining experience here, thankfully raising
the Capital Region’s culinary bar, and I expect that the success
this restaurant already has enjoyed will only continue.