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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Tradition Worth Keeping

By B.A. Nilsson

The menu has evolved over the course of 35 years; the barn has remained the same. The Cock ’ n’ Bull may be set back from the main road (Route 147) in Galway, but it’s no secret—not after 35 years.

“We hope it never changes,” says owner Rick Sleeper. “The barn has been the whole nut of the place. We try not to become too contemporary.”

We’ve checked in with the Cock ’n’ Bull every decade or so and are pleased to report that it hasn’t changed—at least, not all that much. The menu has been refined and simplified, but the specials board sports a changing array of fancier entrées. That’s also where the appetizers are listed.

Heading that list is one thing that hasn’t changed throughout the restaurant’s history: Pickled herring ($5.50) is one of the most popular starters. “Our head chef, Michael Staber, is the nephew of the original owner,” says Sleeper, “and the family was part of a strong Lithuanian-Polish community in the city of Amsterdam. Pickled herring was a tradition that I hope will always be popular here.”

Staber has been chef since 1976, which puts him there almost from the beginning. While keeping the emphasis on a familiar realm of steaks and seafood, he has always found ways to explore different presentations of the basics.

Back in 1987, I paid $9.75 for an order of chicken Josephine, which was basted with Amaretto and orange juice. Grilled monkfish sported a lemon-and-walnut cream sauce. Twelve years later we were enjoying grilled chicken that had been marinated in lime juice, honey, rum and ginger. This time out, we sampled a dinner special of grilled mahi mahi with mandarin sesame teriyaki sauce ($21), which placed a reasonable portion of fish atop the dark, pungent accompaniment, finishing the plate with a sautée of string beans and a portion of skin-on mashed potatoes.

In what now seems an old-fashioned custom, you get a choice of starch, including rice pilaf. And there’s a choice of salad—house or spinach, the former a mix of greens and the usual vegetables, the latter an impressive mound of baby spinach with those traditional goodies: bacon, hard-boiled egg and sliced mushrooms under a vinegary dressing.

You’re seated at a solid wooden table, on a sturdy wooden chair, surrounded by (no surprise here) the seasoned wood of an old, well-decorated barn. Not a chain-restaurant re-creation. We visited on an evening when parties were scattered among the different dining areas, although there was enough daylight left to make our seats by the rear patio doors attractive.

As has long been the case, only the entrées are listed on the two-page menu. The appetizers and specials are inscribed on a number of strategically-hung blackboards. The starters included that good old Trader Vic’s chicken-liver-and-bacon dish called rumaki ($4.50), clams as steamers or baked as Casino ($9 apiece) and an unexpectedly good bruschetta ($8.50) that features warm, garlicky tomato chunks and fresh mozzarella.

Soups included spinach Italiano and chilled raspberry ($3.75 apiece) as well as a $4.75 seafood bisque that was full of good seafood morsels but still remained light and creamy.

In the entrée realm, you can have your salmon baked or grilled ($22), or crusted with chopped nuts and fresh herbs with a lemon cream sauce ($24). A pound of king crab is $24; a nine-ounce Australian lobster tail $38. Sole strikes me as a fish that’s eager to please, maybe too eager, and that’s why it’s so adaptable. Here it was treated to a very rich finish by breading the filet and serving it in a creamy Alfredo sauce thickened with parmesan cheese ($19).

Land-based entrées start with the less-expensive: grilled Key West chicken ($17) and a grilled pork chop in an apple-cinnamon glaze ($19). Then the steak parade starts. Sliced sirloin or sirloin teriyaki gets you a twelve-ounce cut for $25. I went for the 18-ounce Delmonico ($27), which was thick and tender and cooked to a toothsome rareness. A 10-ounce filet mignon is $34, and prime rib is offered Fridays and Saturdays for $23, $28 and $34, according to your portion size.

Then they snare you with a list of homemade desserts. Of the many cakes and pies that are offered, I chose one, Black Forest cake ($6.50, and more chocolatey than I anticipated), that I hadn’t sampled before—only to discover that it formed part of both prior reviews.

The relaxed, affable staff made the visit all the more pleasant, and I had a chance to meet the chef on my way out as he surveyed the diners, making sure his work was appreciated. It was. The restaurant serves for as long as the evening business warrants staying open, so it’s always a good idea to phone ahead.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Celebrate the release of vocalist Patricia Dalton’s debut CD at Provence Restaurant (Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany) at 7 PM tomorrow (Friday) with a special menu to complement the music. It’s a Frim Fram Evening, taking its name from the CD’s title track, a Nat King Cole hit about culinary madness. Chef Michael Cunningham will offer Frim Fram-roasted chicken with blue corn tortillas, charcoal-grilled marinated lamb and Vermont chevre, Bing cherry Frim Fram fondue, Frim Fram-toasted almond pavé and much more (don’t forget the Frim Fram chocolate martini). Dalton will be accompanied by musicians Peg Delaney, Bill Delaney and Steve Raleigh, performing American classic standards. Reservations and info: 689-7777. patriciadaltonjazz.com. . . . Provence also presents a biodynamic, sustainable and organic wine tasting from 6 to 8 PM Wed (June 24), presented by Joseph Armstong of Lauber Imports. Enjoy a selection of hors d’oeuvres with more than 30 wines from Alois Lageder, Marcel Deiss, Nicolas Joly, Badia a Coltibuono, Hanzell, Lemelson, Marimar Estate, Bouchaine, Zaca Mesa and more. It’s $25 per person; call 689-7777, or go to provence-restaurant.net. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.



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