Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Bonfire at Black & Blue

They tore down the Ninety-Nine on Western Avenue before I had a chance to take it out myself.

And over the course of many moons the workmen came and they built and we found out what was coming and wondered "Who spends $55.50 on an 18 oz jumbo lobster tail as an add-on to dinner?", and then we asked, "and are they looking for a date?".

The Black & Blue Steak and Crab opened in June to not alot of fanfare. B&B is in Guilderland, a nice area of the Capital Region where suburbanites and businesspersons can now go to for a pricey meal in a classy setting and slap down those flat rectangular gold things that serve as their special currency. I combed my hair, pushed back my mask, straightened out my cape and tights, and in a sea of flames, zipped over in my Zenamobile for dinner with Foodie Friend. FF was already in the bar enjoying a well made Bombay Sapphire martini garnished with a giant olive ($10) when I arrived. I ordered a glass of Zonin Pinot Grigio ($7.50), a dry selection served nice and cold, and asked for a few minutes before being seated for our 6:00 pm reservation, which they were happy to allow. The bar selection promises 9 beers on tap (4 from NYS) as well as a cider selection, 17 bottled beers, and about 16 wines by the glass ($7.50 to $11.75 - very reasonable and a nice selection). Staff carried our drinks over to the table once we were ready to be seated and added the cost to our tab. Everyone, without exception, was very professional and courteous.

The Albany B&B follows on the success of locations in Buffalo and Rochester
The attractive bar area has high ceilings, muted tones, lots of sunlight, and offers friendly, professional service

We were settled into the dining area at the front of the restaurant with a view of the street, a bright, airy space that was both spartan and welcoming. Servers were at the table almost immediately with glasses of ice water and a basket of warm semolina bread and salty pretzels aside cold whipped butter. The pretzels were divine, even by goddess standards.  Looking over the menu I would call it American steak and seafood standard - no surprises - the kind of place my Dad would like - safe and straightforward. But I thought there was certainly enough variety to keep everyone happy with lots of fish on the appetizer menu, a couple of salads, meat/chops, fish and shellfish entrees, and a couple of house specialties where they listed chicken because where else would you put it?  

The pretzels were warm and salty and chewy and divine
Our server welcomed us by asking if we had ever eaten there before (A: no), and quite proudly gave us a quick rundown (and we had some questions too) of where they source their meat and seafood. All the B&B's get their fish from Sammy's Seafood on the Gulf coast, promising that everything is caught with a line or a spear, and delivering their products fresh three times a week to upstate NY. (No nets; and we can assume they aren't out there spearing crab [which actually comes from Maryland or Alaska, and the lobster is from Maine/the northeast, and the scallops??? I didn't ask, but I digress]). The oysters are all northeastern coming from anywhere between Maryland to PEI. The beef is from Kansas, corn fed and wet aged, promising lots of marbling. Personally I prefer locally sourced grass fed beef, so I was fighting hard to keep my superpower zingers in check until I had had a taste (see the most recent report from Consumer Reports). We were told they had a 1700 degree oven to cook their meat. Being a Fire Goddess I got kind of randy thinking about all that heat. Oh, and he told us they had not one but TWO sommeliers on site (was one a manager? owner?) that select their wines and train the staff. That impressed me, but I didn't get a wine list, nor was I asked if I wanted to see one.  (Zingers!)
Four oysters served with five condiments: cocktail sauce (sweet and spicy), mignonette (which I never liked), a wee bottle of tabasco, a wedge of fresh lemon, and a mixture of tobiko with wasabi (which was amazing!) 

Dinner was off to a perfect start with a small oyster sampler ($10.95). The oysters were meaty and briney and very fresh. The first one I slurped up with just a bit of lemon, but the second one I topped with their tobiko (flying fish roe) mixed with wasabi - wow!! The flavors sort of exploded in my  mouth with little pops and some serious heat, but that gentle oyster flavor still came through. Wow. Wait, I said that already. 

FF had the Lump Maryland Crab ($31.50) - a warm, generous bowl of sweet tender crab, so simple and delicious - with just a touch of butter and a bit of scallion - what a delight. The wiggles on the plate were a super spicy hot sauce. She selected the Creamy Spinach as her side. It was big enough to serve two, loaded with nutmeg and butter: um, she ate some of it, thought it tasted like what you get at the diner/nothing special. I found it kind of gooey. Why anyone would ever order creamed spinach I do not have it in my powers to understand, especially when they could have had sweet potato dumplings....

That little pitcher had a rich and delicious aioli
I ordered one of their Steakhouse Specialties, the Steak au Poivre described as a 12 oz NY Strip steak with a brandy and black peppercorn sauce, hash brown rosti cake and green beans ($38.50). The green beans were perfect. The potatoes were tasty, but it was actually a big pile of mashed with a fried curly-cue potato thing on top that you couldn't really cut or pick up easily so you were busy digging under it to get to the mashed underneath, at least until it got soggy. The steak was served not medium, but medium well well, and was pretty badly charred on the outside. There was really no pepper flavor and very little actual sauce to speak of, and while not dry at first bite, the meat kind of got that way after a few chews. I wasn't totally disappointed but I think I expected better.

That is not potato rosti. Zena's x-ray vision can see it's a pile of mashed with a fried doodle on top.

We wrapped up by-passing dessert (noting the menu, again, had lots of standards/nothing surprising) but we were served a trio of chocolate truffles gratis that were simple and creamy. A nice way to end the meal.

This is the kind of place I would consider on a special night out. The food is good, kind of pricey, and the service is even better than excellent. And OK OK next time I'll send the steak back if I'm not happy with it. 

Dinner for two with one appetizer, one cocktail, two glasses of wine and two entrees came to $114.43 including tax plus tip. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Note to Self: Get dolled up for date night, go back and meet the oven and see if I can't get that little bonfire under control. 

PS: The bathrooms are nice, too.


Unknown said...

Are you going to the Mark Bittman-inspired prix fixe dinner on 10/22/15?
Any idea as to where to find the menu selections?
This place sounds good.......incorrectly cooked steak notwithstanding.

Zena G.O.F. said...

No but I do plan to go hear him speak!!! Very excited about it, actually. xxx Zena