S. Pearl St., Albany, 694-3322. Serving lunch 11:30-4:30 Mon-Fri,
dinner 5-10 Mon-Sat. AE, D, MC, V
price range: $15 (miso-glazed salmon, European portion)
to $30 (rack of lamb, American portion)
learned to bake when he was 5 and was catering parties before
he’d achieved double digits. Dale Miller discovered his affinity
for food—design, preparation, service (the gamut)—early enough
that he’s still a young man, even as he enjoys the status
as one of 61 Certified Master Chefs in the country, a notoriously
difficult level to achieve.
up in Montgomery County helped,” he says. He’s a native of
Tribes Hill, a tiny community on the Mohawk River west of
Amsterdam. “Part of the certification process was a mystery
box meal, and one of the components was fiddlehead ferns.
I grew up with fiddleheads, and knew that you have to wash
them thoroughly. The fellow beside me was disqualified because
he left grit in his ferns.”
His professional journey has taken him from the Stone Ends
in Delmar to Albany’s famed Jack’s Oyster House, where he
spent several years, then to the Inn at Erlowest in Lake George.
But he jumped at the chance to return to Albany’s downtown.
And why not do it in an eponymous way?
Albany’s State Street/Pearl Street area is architecturally
uninspiring, and the approach to the arena mixes a startling
variety of buildings. But you approach the restaurant through
the subdued lobby of Omni Plaza, so you’re already a little
calmed when you swing open the welcome-to-Oz-like door. Inside
is a careful array of earth tones and curves, high-ceilinged
rooms that nevertheless encourage hushed conversation, and
abstract wall decorations that give comfort through color
and shape. It seems of another era, but that may be more of
a psychological effect. It’s an effect that’s shattered when
the first cell phone goes off and the first self-involved
jerk at a nearby table launches into too-loud chatter. But
that’s not the restaurant’s fault, and, of course, cell phone
jammers are illegal. (But available.)
The sommelier will chat with you. Your server is delighted
to go over the menu. You’re a guest at a lavish party where
the host really does make sure your sense of well-being is
Be as careful or extravagant as you like when assembling your
meal. The latter most certainly would be a trip through the
Discovery Menu, a $90-per-person extravaganza (it must be
ordered by the entire table) that takes you through eight
courses and a breathtaking array of preparations. One such
menu featured a first course (but ordinarily your post-amuse
second) of Champagne-poached oysters with a lobster-and-brie
frittata and a caviar dollop, pan-roasted foie-stuffed quail
with a strawberry fig glaze and a choice of pan-seared strawberry
grouper filet or charmoula-crusted rack of lamb.
But why not ease into the starters? First impressions, they
say, are important, and there’s a so-headed column that kicks
off the carte du jour. The night we visited, it ranged
from crisp calamari with lemon pepper yogurt, to salmon cake
with lotus chips, to pan-seared foie gras with a vanilla-poached
pear, each priced from $9 to $16.
You could almost study the plate itself under my serving of
beef carpaccio ($11), so translucent was the meat. It curled
on the fork like a paste, bringing with it the Mediterranean
flavors of the truffle oil and capers that accompanied the
meat, slices of Reggiano cheese balancing the flavor. Lobster
bisque ($10) was dark, nutty, tangy with lime and jalapeño,
served (poured at tableside) over a light, tasty dumpling.
Even smaller plates are the mosaics, which are priced from
$4 to $7 and encourage you to combine the treats. So my wife
chose an array of three vegetable preparations: fried egg-battered
asparagus, Asian veggie rolls in ponzu sauce, and a grilled
“vegetable tapestry,” layered like little Napoleons. Each
was its own intricate masterpiece; together, they found flavors
I never thought to associate with the garden.
A further example of Miller’s inventiveness was shown in a
course he sent out as a surprise: a tomato-based medley that
put a small serving of cold sherry-laced gazpacho alongside
tomato slices, with fresh mozzarella and an espresso cup of
rich, hot tomato soup, topped with cappuccino-style froth.
Such a wide-ranging journey with that ubiquitous fruit!
This is also the first time I’ve seen a mojito shooter as
a menu item, but, as it accompanied a single, fat, salsa-enhanced
shrimp, I’m glad I tried it ($7).
Many of the main plates are offered in American or European
portion sizes, and we ordered the latter where possible without
feeling the least unfulfilled. Yes, I’ve celebrated great
hulking portions in reviews past, but I’m paying the poundage
Not much you can do to reduce the porterhouse-cut pork chop
($24), but I did take most of it home. A simple preparation,
it was perfectly cooked, served with a peppery apple glaze,
accompanied with rosemary-enhanced roasted potatoes. I already
knew that Miller likes scallops, and you can count on a good
presentation, so the pan-caramelized version here ($26/$16)
fulfilled, even exceeded our expectations. A gremolata of
pine nuts was the novel accompaniment, and, as if it needed
more, there were eggplant-and-artichoke-stuffed ravioli.
Of course, the favorite meatstuffs are here—salmon, lobster,
beef, beef, beef. But espresso-seared duck breast ($30/$18)
sounded so contradictory that my daughter, a contrarian-in-training
herself, chose it as an entrée. The coffee flavor was subtle
and well-blended, set off by the lemon-shallot sauce. Alongside
was a pilaf of farro, that spelt-like granddaddy of all grains.
And the fellow who started baking at age 5 is still doing
so, offering desserts like a warm chocolate tart with chocolate
malt ice cream and a cherry port compote that now has become
my kid’s dream dessert, not to mention a hazelnut-filled brioche
with coffee-praline ice cream, and a banana cake and coconut
flan with banana sorbet and warm caramel bananas ($8 each).
The menu changes daily, although many courses recur. You can’t
help but find something to intrigue and delight your palate,
and you’ll enjoy it in a space that whispers contentment.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Mill on Round Lake (2121 Route 9, Round Lake)
has unveiled its newly renovated outdoor bar and
fire pit, and if that’s not enough to persuade
you to spend some al fresco hours here, there’s
also a new bocce ball court. The indoor portion
also has seen improvement, with the addition of
another dining room, fireplace, more restrooms,
and an expanded warm-weather menu soon to come.
Call 899-5253 for more info. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland.