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Teri Currie

This House Is Now a Home
By B. A. Nilsson
Photo by Teri Currie

Old 499 House
499 Second Ave., Troy, 238-0499. Serving Tue-Sat 4-10, Sun 4-9. AE, MC, D, V.
Food:
***½
Service: Exemplary

Ambience: Pleasant

Have you seen any of those Internet sites that present restaurant listings? Often there’s a facility to let readers contribute reviews, and reading a succession of them is far more interesting than looking at only one. Intelligent criticism nestles with angry rants; unexpected aspects of a place are revealed. In a perfect world, Metroland would have a limitless budget allowing me a staff that could assist in making multiple visits before writing about a restaurant; we’re stuck with this single-visit policy, though, and so it’s up to you to read between the lines, if you like, to decide if you’re interested in the place I’m reviewing.

Sometimes I don’t choose to go out—I have to, with a weekly deadline looming. So it was one evening last week when we piled into the car on a drizzly night for a trek to Troy. Which is to explain why I was feeling grumpy upon entering the Olde 499 House, the refurbished former Old Daley Inn.

This well-established steakhouse was run for more than a quarter-century by the same owners before they closed it last year, and it’s a steakhouse still, housed in an 18th-century Dutch building on Second Avenue near 112th Street. As an inn, it was a stagecoach stop for Saratoga-bound travelers; through the next two centuries, it shuttled between private residence and public accommodations. It’s now run by Don Wade, who has made a success with the Cider House restaurant at Altamont’s Orchard Creek Golf Course.

Now, I remember past visits to the Old Daley as pleasant, but I was bowled over by the reception we got this time. We were greeted nicely, seated promptly, and never neglected. Every server who stopped by was pleasant and knowledgeable, and (under my casual questioning) suggested that the staff–which includes some Old Daley veterans—enjoys being here.

We sat in one of the many small rooms that comprise the large dining area, and put together our orders. My daughter is a great fan of clam chowder, so she started with a cup of seafood chowder ($2.50, but included in a kid’s meal). It’s essentially New England clam chowder, but with more varied aquatic representation: creamy, not overthickened, with a good balance between potatoes and seafood.

Meanwhile, I worked though a bowl of French onion soup ($4), or at least the popular American variety that floats a thick raft of cheese-covered crouton atop a beefy onion brew. This was a straight-ahead preparation of same, delivering exactly what you expect, therefore very satisfying. For this meal, I put into practice a stricter form of portion control than I’ve allowed in the past, and it physically pained me to leave half the soup behind.

Susan ordered a mushroom appetizer. She intended to get breaded and fried mushroom caps, served with a homemade sauce ($6), but she asked for stuffed mushrooms, not knowing there was a separate, so-named item on the menu. And that’s what she received: large lobster-stuffed caps, the stuffing mixed with cream cheese and topped with something melted (Monterey Jack, I suspect), broiled in a white wine sauce ($8). Our server was distressed to learn of the mistake, but Susan acknowledged it to be her own, noting “had I seen this on the menu I would have ordered it anyway.”

House salads featured very fresh mesclun garnished with carrots, cukes and croutons and a few grape tomatoes. Don’t miss the Vidalia onion dressing.

The kids’ menu isn’t printed, so it was recited. This can be a problem, because those magic, terrifying words “chicken fingers” are thus articulated. And the child cries, “I want chicken fingers!” And her father admonishes, “They’re made of mashed chicken meat and glue. Mostly glue. They have no flavor.” “But I want them!” Like the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the McDonaldization of children takes place when the more vigilant parents aren’t looking. Thus our daughter learned of these fat-rich, nutrition-free morsels.

Again I implore all restaurants: Encourage your younger diners to sample the regular fare. It’s not your fault if the kids “won’t eat anything but hot dogs and spaghetti.” Parents caused that to happen; let the parents work it out.

Maybe I’m not doing the kid any favors, but I steered her toward baby back ribs ($8). What a bargain! It was a half-rack, tender, meaty, topped with an apple-flavored sauce. Included were sides of the inevitable fries and a great little helping of cole slaw.

Susan ordered a special: a seafood platter ($16) that boasted sea scallops and scrod, with a few stuffed shrimp that were far better than the norm, a more pronounced flavor in the stuffing giving it extra appeal. My entrée was the Classic New York Strip ($19), a good-sized slice of sirloin that was as good as this gets. A side of mushrooms ($2) turned out to be a big portion of them: small, full-sized, garlicky.

Both entrées had sides of broccolini (also known as asparation, a cross between broccoli and kale) and club (aka twice-baked) potatoes.

Twenty-one-year-old chef Brian Hinckley has been in the business since well before you’re supposed to go to work, a self-taught dynamo who is a veteran of several area steakhouses, and about whom I predict we’ll hear much more in the coming years.

Dinner for three, with tax and tip and a couple of glasses of wine, was $85.

 

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