The various area Restaurant Week specials are a nice way to try a new place. For Downtown Albany restaurant week a small group of friends and I tried The City Beer Hall at the corner of Lodge and Howard Streets. Since we were nosing our way into this neighborhood and not sure of ourselves, we neglected to stop and take the good advice of the parking guy stationed uphill from the CBH and we ended up in the parking garage, which was waaaaaay too expensive. Our smarter friends used the free lot and the street, so remember to take the free lot option or park on the street when you go.
Inside the stately old place are basically picnic tables with benches, which gets fairly difficult after awhile. No backrests means discomfort. With no cushions either, we were ready to get out of there after dinner ended.
The Restaurant Week Menu at City Beer Hall is specials in three courses with starters, main dishes and desserts. We wondered about the work flow of the week's specials in the kitchen because we noticed things like not getting our main dishes before two parties who arrived after us were getting their checks, and there were some foods that had noticeably cooled or warmed in an untimely fashion when they got to our table.
Being a Beer Hall, it has a great beer menu with a few wines and ciders. The regular food menu has several categories of things that go well with beers, including refreshing takes on pub classics.
Each dish we had for restaurant week was playful and interesting, taking a basic pub or diner classic and zesting it up a little bit with modern sensibilities. Our party had fun talking almost the whole time about the food - there's a lot to notice in these inventive flavors and combinations.
Our party chose the BL Teezy My Neezy salad for one of the starters and there was a good deal of oo-ing and ah-ing over the slab bacon and roasted tomatoes. With a touch of sriracha the creamy dressing is a great compliment.
Our other starter was the Oscar Della Hummas black bean hummus and charred pita. It was beautifully savory with a perfect texture. It also had arrugula tangled up in it, I supposed to make it extra challenging to get it onto the pita, but it's hard to tell why.
The Oh Miso Corny chicken with kimchee fried rice was a beautifully put together dish, however I'm not sure what was intended with this particular plating, which makes it look like something was forgotten. The tempura baby corn is to die for. I want a whole plate of it. The chicken was the best chicken I have had from a restaurant in a very long time, being perfectly flavored and deliciously tender and moist. The balance of flavors in the kimchee fried rice with Korean bbq pork is smashing and makes an excellent foundation for the chicken and corn.
The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries got a hearty thumbs up and the report included ok coleslaw, which we all agree is apparently tricky for restaurants. While our friend didn't exactly lick the plate, there didn't seem to be much on it when she was done.
Three members of the party went for this handsome fish and potato combination called Spud and Salty Spheres. This is one of the dishes that suffered, we guessed, from out of sync preparation in the work flow of the kitchen. Since the plates had not been heated the potatoes were cold, and it seems to be the one element that wasn't dressed up with interesting flavors. We definitely feel like no one was looking after the total plate and monitoring when it should get warmed up during the time when everything was getting prepared. The general opinion of the greens is that they were meh. I got to taste the fish and it was lovely.
We chose the Nitro Stout Cream pie (above) and Boiler Maker Ice Cream (below) for our desserts and the ice cream seemed also to suffer from sitting around a bit too long - a significant amount of it was melted. Once again, no one was watching what was lined up and waiting to see that the dish didn't fall apart before going out to the table. A suggestion that the bacon be in the form of crumbles rather than a thick slice also seemed to make consensus. I ordered the cream pie and it was a knockout. Beyond the great flavor, the small size made it the best dessert I've had in a long time.
There are so many good looking things on the menu I'm sure we'll be back to try more of what the CBH has to offer in the future.