By B.A. Nilsson
254 Broadway, Troy, 274-0167. Serving
lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Mon-Sat 5-10. AE, D, MC,
Food: H H H H
offer this only as a statement of fact: I don’t know what
purpose it serves to gather at a bar after leaving work at
five o’clock. I haven’t held a nine-to-fiver in nearly 30
years. I dig the notion of post-job unwinding, when beer never
tastes better, but my gigs typically end much later at night.
At five I’d be thinking about getting home and getting some
supper started, because the prep is going to take at least
a half-hour, with again as much time needed for cooking.
If you’re trying to get your evening meal together in less
time than that, you’re missing one of the great joys of living.
Sure, there’s a huge chunk of the food industry devoted to
the concept of the “30-minute gourmet,” but it’s generally
pandering to the hurry you believe you’re in. Devote the appropriate
amount of time to the rituals of dinner, and the rest of your
life will also be eased.
Or you can go out to eat. Trouble is, when you do so at the
Monument Square Café, you’ll find the bar area crowded with
people busily unwinding after work, and they’re noisy. Also,
the room is a giant echo chamber that bounces the hubbub off
the tin ceilings and shiny walls, and mixes it with the music
crowing harshly in the background.
could do magical things with muslin,” my wife, Susan, said
as we sat in the pleasant-looking dining room, separated visually
from the bar area by a room-long divider. “Drape it like clouds
across the ceiling to absorb some of the noise. Since it would
seriously diffuse the lighting up there, they could put lamps
along the walls, which would make the room look less harsh.”
Open since March, Monument Square Café is the latest enterprise
of Buzz and Laurie Literski, last seen shepherding nearby
Daisy Baker’s to life, and before that working at the now-closed
Allegro Café. The current location of the restaurant was once
the Capehouse, which took a dizzying fall from best seafood
restaurant in the area to an annoying mediocrity. The charm
(and noise) of the old place is preserved, and the staff is
eager, efficient and very helpful.
Although the restaurant bills itself as continental, the fare
has a decidedly Mediterranean edge (in the Northern Italy
region). Among the appetizers, you find a spinach-ricotta
crepe in garlic cream ($4), skewered lamb on rosemary sprigs
($8) and oysters served three ways (Lauren, Rockefeller, mignonette,
Pasta dishes run from a simple fettuccine pomodoro ($8) to
wide pappardelle with wild mushrooms in a wine demi-glaze
($13). Other entrées are divided between “small plates” and
“signature plates,” each in different price ranges. The former
($9 to $13) include veal scallopine with wild mushrooms, grilled
lamb chops, pan-seared salmon and vinegar pepper chicken;
the latter ($16-$23) is where you find steak and shellfish.
We were dining on a deadline. We needed to get up the hill
to RPI by 8 PM, and I didn’t know exactly how to reach my
destination. So we decided to forego appetizers. “I’ll just
get a salad,” said Susan, and I reckoned that would add a
The menu offers three salads. For $7 you can get a combo of
roasted pear, blue cheese and toasted pecans, or an arugula
salad with parmesan; Susan chose the mixed baby greens with
herb vinaigrette ($4), which proved to be a generous array
of fresh baby greens ringed with endive leaves and grape tomatoes
with a very tasty dressing.
But this would mean she’d be eating while my daughter, Lily,
and I starved. So I asked for an appetizer portion of a pasta
dish: gnocchi with garlic and olive oil. “We don’t make appetizer
portions,” our server explained, so I reluctantly agreed for
the regular size ($9) and silently asked the heavens why it
is that pasta, of all things, can’t be rendered smaller. It
can, of course, and our server quickly returned to tell us
so. Good for her for checking, and we were served just enough
(at $5.50) to take an edge off our appetites. This was a classic
gnocchi preparation of potato-based dough, with plum tomatoes
and fresh basil filling out the flavor. Nice presence of garlic,
too, for that pesto flavor—but this produced a more powerful
effect than my entrée would, which only underscores the fact
that it’s offered as a main course.
Susan ordered a paella special ($19) that placed clams, shrimp,
scallops, a couple of sausage slices and lots of chicken in
a tomato-enhanced rice casserole with plenty of basil. A little
soupy, perhaps, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule on this
dish. It’s a great way to usher in autumn.
Mine was the Tuscan grilled trout ($16), which turned out
to be just the filets, butterflied, grilled and served over
mashed potatoes. An impressive sculpture, with an attractive,
slightly bland piece of fish, but the potatoes were reconstituted
from a mix and thus had an oddly lump-free texture with not
much flavor at all. More was offered by the grilled vegetables
that finished the plate.
We didn’t stay for dessert, most of which are obtained from
local purveyors but which include an in-house bananas Foster
that sounded quite tempting. As it was, we had leftovers to
tide us through the following day’s lunch, and at a not-bad
price: dinner for two, with tax and tip and a couple of glasses
of wine, was $68.
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