World Bistro Bar
Delaware Ave., Albany, 694-0520. Serving dinner 5-9 Sun-Thu,
5-11 Fri-Sat; brunch 10-2 Sun; tapas 3-5 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.
“global comfort food”
price range: $8 (tomato flatbread pizza) to $26 (Big
casual and comfortable
talented, creative artist develops a style. The first moments
of a Chopin piece reveal the composer’s signature; a story
by J.P. Donleavy could have been written by nobody else. So
it is with Ric Orlando’s cooking. Not content merely to explore
existing cuisines, he developed a recognizable style, not
only in the fusion of flavors and ingredients, but also in
the way the plate is dressed and presented and the menu is
After a successful 15 years running New World Home Cooking
Co. in the Saugerties area—to which he decamped after gaining
renown locally at Justin’s—Orlando returned to Albany a year
and a half ago to open New World Bistro Bar on Delaware Avenue,
not far from the Spectrum 8 Theatres. No coincidence there:
His partners in the restaurant are Annette Nanes and Scott
Meyer, two of the theater’s co-owners.
Orlando has helped lead the trend away from formal, course-sequenced
dining, offering dishes large and small, hot and cold, at
a range of prices that allow you to nibble an appetizer tapas-style,
or indulge in a gustatory bacchanalia of comestibles exotic
Familiars include beef, and the Latino steak frites ($24)
features a 12-ounce strip steak from a grass-fed, grain-finished
critter, served with steak fries. It veers into the exotic
by way of broccoli rabe, leading to chimichurri (a
piquant green sauce featuring parsley and garlic) and banana
ketchup, which is a surprisingly pleasing variant on the bottled
My sister, a taxidermist who lives and works in the Chicago
suburbs, was visiting. She has a far doughtier palate than
mine, having dined on muskrat and bear, so I figured she’d
be better served by this restaurant than my cooking. She considered
the steak. She had her doubts. “It can be really bad,” she
here,” I promised, hoping like hell I’d be right.
She declared it the best steak she’d ever eaten in a restaurant.
Whatever other context she had in mind probably involved a
campfire. I didn’t ask.
What made the steak so good is Orlando’s not-so-secret primary
secret: getting the best ingredients. He’s always been well-in-tune
with what’s available locally, but even the harder-to-find
stuff is carefully selected. “There are a lot of choices of
sustainable meat and seafood,” he says. “So I can be picky
about what I bring in.”
Orlando shuttles between his two restaurants, although he
spent more warm-season time overseeing the catering operation
tied to the Saugerties unit. The personality that informs
the food down there also extends to the floor, where the staff
is welcoming, friendly and a little quirky. Individuals, in
other words, are en couraged to ex press that individuality
in service of the meal. It’s a good sign that this also informs
the Albany location, although during my recent visit, on a
Monday eve ning, the service seemed comparatively colorless
and perfunctory—which is only to say that it was on a par
with what I expect from other area eateries, and not as joyful
as that experienced during earlier Bistro Bar visits.
are tough,” Orlando says. “We’ve just come off the weekend,
and it’s often a slow night, so it’s hard to kindle that spark.
But, really, there’s no excuse.” He sounds distressed, so
I veer away from the subject, lest I should provoke a staff-meeting
Monday is also not much of a night for specials, he notes,
but my visits are infrequent enough to give the regular menu
great appeal. New World recently changed to a fall menu with
a heartier theme well worth exploring.
Old favorites like jerk chicken ($21) and ropa vieja ($21)
endure, as they should. Look also for hemp-nut-crusted salmon
($25) with Hudson Valley corn pudding, and, in the “forbidden
pleasures” section, sautéed sweetbreads ($9) and roasted beef
marrow bones ($8). Vegetarian choices are abundant, like the
popular Tandoori tofu ($19), which may be the best thing ever
to happen to that benighted curd.
Whither the gluten wrenched from all that gluten-free fare
drugging the market? I have a whimsical picture of seitan
trucks taking on cargo. Seitan is often offered as a meatless
substitute, served in the style of that for which it’s standing
Blue-corn-sautéed seitan medallions ($19) are served with
tomatillo salsa, black beans and brown rice, and it proved
a tasty dish, lacking only a more handsome on-the-plate look.
The combo of papardelle with Panang Bolognese ($14/$19),
whimsically named “Thai- Italian Love,” pretty much presents
itself—a bowl of pasta—with a truly Orlando-defining flavor
mix. And my entrée also was a signature dish: the brined and
barbecued pork chop ($23), which I ordered with a blistering
habanero-based dirty-blonde sauce that nevertheless presented
a balanced mix of components.
From the tapas list, we sampled a $13 sampler that puts an
array of olives, dates, mushrooms (truffle scented!) and beet
salad across a serving board that also sports a baba ganouj
variant. And even if you’re not a huge fan of anchovies, the
$5 plate of an array of white anchovies may persuade you into
that camp with their more delicate, less salty aspect.
But the foregoing probably is moot: New World Bistro Bar has
established itself nicely in a fairly short time. “The numbers
have been fantastic,” Orlando says, “and we already have a
loyal customer base that keeps us going through the slow times.”
He’ll be spending more time at the Albany location during
the winter months, but celebrity seems to be overtaking him.
He recently won a prestigious Santé magazine award
as well as a Food Network cook-off, and he’s working to develop
a Food Network project. So look for him while you can, but
be assured that his unique restaurants will continue to pursue
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
World Bistro Bar (300
Delaware Ave., Albany) was one of only 16 restaurants
in the United States to win a 2010 Santé Restaurant
Award in the Innovative Food category. The 13-year-old
Santé Awards program is the only peer-judged national
restaurant competition in North America. Chef
consultant Ric Orlando previously won a Santé
Award in 2006 at his Saugerties restaurant, New
World Home Cooking. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland.