returning to his local roots, Marché chef Brian Molino turns
to local suppliers
success usually results from skill larded with luck. In Brian
Molino’s case, he hit the right kitchen at an opportune moment.
Although a Capital Region native, as a Culinary Institute
graduate, he made the logical move of heading for New York
married his high-school sweetheart, the two pursued their
respective careers there with Molino achieving the enviable
position of sous chef at Manhattan’s Craft, one of celebrity
chef Tom Colicchio’s acclaimed eateries.
But the couple also shared a growing desire to return to their
roots, and Molino lucked into a sous-chef position at Marché
as the downtown Albany restaurant was getting ready to open
in 2007 (the name was chosen to signify a melding of French
tradition and market freshness). Barely a week after that
opening, the original chef and hotel management had a quiet
parting of the ways, and Molino was promoted to executive
chef. “Yeah, it was unexpected,” he says, “and I took over
a menu that was already in place. But we change it often enough
that I’ve been able to slowly make it my own.”
Marché, the fine-dining realm of 74 State, the name-is-the-address
hotel in the heart of downtown Albany, is a few steps from
the venerable Jack’s Oyster House, a few blocks from stalwarts
like Yono’s and Café Capriccio, and not far from legislative
buildings and a million lawyers’ offices. And Marché performs
the tricky dual service of offering some of the area’s best
continental fare while satisfying the not-always-adventurous
culinary desires of neighbors and hotel guests.
Molino pursues this balance with great confidence, a deft
hand, and the support of a staff equally committed to his
mission. He’s been doing it for more than three years, which
is as long as the restaurant has been open, in a style heavily
influenced by classic French cooking. But, as with any good
chef who trained the Escoffier way, he has devised many a
new direction in which to take his cuisine.
A cheerful, placid 28-year-old, Molino says his approach includes
at least 25 percent experimentation, always looking to customer
response for affirmation. “I try to get out on the floor whenever
possible to talk to people, which is the best way to figure
out what’s working.”
How does it start? “Usually, with the order guy,” Molino says
with a laugh. “I pick items and get a general idea of what
I’ll be working with. If I’m going to do a chicken dish, I’ll
see what’s in season, what’s available, and take it from there.
I get what I can locally,” he adds, and notes that he’s able
to slip away most weekends to hit the area farmer’s markets.
Molino usually starts with the protein: a serving of diver
scallops, for example. These are the plump ones that escape
the offshore (on boat, in fact) processing that robs them
of flavor, so there’s no need to overcompensate. Thus: butternut
squash risotto, adding a contrasting type of creamy sweetness
to a creamy, slightly salty dish.
have cauliflower in now,” he says, “that I’m going to build
a risotto around. I’ll roast the florets, and puree the rest
of the stalk to use either as more flavoring, or put it in
a soup, or use it in a sauce for scallops.”
A current free-range chicken offering, observing seasonality,
is served with a flageolet bean ragout that’s flavored with
seasonal vegetables—any of several types of squash and root
vegetable are in current rotation—and presented alongside
roasted hen-of-the-wood mushrooms to reinforce the earthy
Molino designs his plates to feature subtle textures alongside
pronounced flavors, but keeping dishes simple also is important.
You won’t find tall food flecked with foam, but you may enjoy
a tender sirloin short rib that leaps from the bone alongside
its bed of rich and very classical Bordelaise sauce.
Does the French influence include the kind of sauces that
worry health-conscious eaters? “It hasn’t been a problem,
because we make sauces that have a lightness about them,”
Molino says. “They’re stock-based but not fatty, and get their
flavor from slow cooking. Yes, there are some sauces that
we melt butter into, but those are the exception.”
Molino recently has been encouraging some of the farms he
patronizes to grow items specifically for his kitchen, and
the local-support angle also extends to other food and beverage
businesses. There will be a dinner June 18 that pairs his
food with Ommegang beer from Cooperstown; local wine and cheese
also have been featured at such events.
Alongside the steaks and seafood that are staples of a hotel
restaurant are items that spend much more time in the preparation
phase: items like duck confit and tender short ribs. “I like
to build flavors slowly,” Molino says, “and roasting and braising
are great ways to do that. I don’t know if I can really say
I have a signature dish, but I’ll tell you that time is my
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Local Pub and Restaurant, 142 Grand Ave.,
Saratoga Springs, 587-7256, thelocalpubandteahouse.com.
Burgers, tea sandwiches, salads, and pub fare
that includethe best fish and chips in the area.
Serving 11:30-10:30 Mon-Thu, 11:30-11 Fri, 9:30
AM-11 PM Sat, 9:30 AM-10:30 PM Sun, brunch 9:30-3
Sat-Sun. AE, D, MC. V.
Railroad, 20 Railroad St., Great Barrington,
Mass., (413) 528-9345. Recently reopened local
favorite featuring updates on pub comfort food
with Asain flourishes along with a nice selection
of craft beers. Serving lunch and dinner 11:30-10
Sun-Thu, 11:30-11 Fri-Sat. AE, D, MC, V.
Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave., Albany, 689-7777,
provence- restaurant.net. Classical French cooking
with some modern twists, from bouillabaisse to
steak au poivre with plenty in between.
Serving lunch 11:30-3 Mon-Sat, dinner 5-9 Mon,
5-10 Tue-Thu, 5-10:30 Fri-Sat, 4:30-8:30 Sun.
AE, D, MC, V.
Joe’s Pizza Place & Restaurant, 2780 Hamburg
St., Schenectady, 355-7700. Forty years of made-from-scratch
pizzas along with a full menu of Italian specialties
and American sandwiches. Serving 11-10 Mon, Wed-Thu,
11-11 Fri-Sat, 11-10 Sun. AE, MC, V.
Daisie, 183 Jay St., Schenectady, 344-7082,
chezdaisie.com. Sweet and savory crêpes offered
on a bargain-priced menu in a quaint serve-yourself
setting within sight of Proctors Theatre. Serving
lunch 11-2 Mon-Fri, 9-2 Sat; dinner 5-7:30 Mon-Sat.
Biergarten, 895 Broadway, Albany, 427-2461,
wolffsbier garten.com. A surprising variety of
German fare in a wide-open space with hanging
lights and picnic tables. Great selection of German
beer. Serving 11 AM-2 AM Mon-Fri, 9 AM-2 AM Sat,
9 AM-midnight Sun. Lunch specials 11-4 daily.
Brunch 9-4 Sat-Sun. Cash only (ATM on premises).
Tavern, 40 Mohawk Ave., Scotia, 393-3344,
turftavern.com. Scotia’s 60-year-old dining destination,
offering excellent steaks and an old- fashioned
attitude that includes old- fashioned prices.
Serving lunch 11:30-1:30 Tue-Fri; dinner 5-9 Tue-Fri,
5-10 Sat, 11:30-8 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.