Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Innovo Kitchen: ECHO Echo echo

After a really really really annoying day there's nothing better than getting together with a couple of good friends for a good nosh instead of a good cry.

Is there an echo in here???

October 19th through October 25th, 2015 was restaurant week in Colonie - fixe prix three-course menus for just $20.15. The Chamber of Commerce did a nice job of listing the 20 participating restaurants and their menus; most were ramping up to offer diners something new at bargain prices, so this was a good time to try something new, and speaking of new, Innovo, which had just opened on October 2nd, was on the list.
Innovo Kitchen is at front of a new strip mall where there used to be a bowling alley
Located at 1214 Troy-Schenectady Road in Latham (Route 7), Innovo Kitchen is, on the inside, a big, cavernous, wide open space reminiscent of renovated old buildings where they keep the structure and the structure is visible and then the old stuff is fixed up to shine and you've got this nice balance of times past and present, only it's not an old building, it was just built, albeit with some of the hardwood from the old Bowlers Club, supposedly, so it struck me as kind of affected. I found the noise level really high and it seemed like there was an ECHO Echo echo resounding throughout the space, which Batman might have liked, but not Zena, Goddess of Fire. However, it was rather attractive, if not a bit cold and industrial.

The dining room is attractive but kind of noisy. The room with the windows is available for private parties.
Three of us arrived in time for happy hour at the bar (uh, happy 2.5 hours, from 400 to 630 daily - a very happy thing....), featuring $4 glasses of select wine and beer. I had two, poured out my woes and brightened up a bit. The special wines weren't anything special but the price was nice and so was our barkeep. Stretch and I each had two, while Puppy enjoyed a delicious Cosmo before we were seated in the dining room.

The bar was well staffed and the staff were all very friendly
Sometimes you just NEED a Cosmo
The Innovo fixe prix offered plenty of options - four first courses to choose from, five entrees and two desserts. Flatbread (not housemade) served with a white bean dip was offered gratis as a starter; the dip was a bit bland but still creamy and satisfying.  Puppy ordered the Duck Meatballs, two nice size tender morsels served kind of chi-chi with 3 different "sauces" - a bitter celeriac, a salty gravy and a sweet cheery moutarde. Good, but it didn't taste like duck. Stretch went for the Crunchy Kale Salad - also sweet and salty and savory, with a nice crunch  from the addition of roasted almonds and croutons. The greens were tender and mild, and the dressing was light handed and delicious. I went for the Five Onion Bisque (red, white, scallion, garlic and shallot and chive oil drizzle which equals six so I screwed something up). Anyway, this one was not for the faint of heart (of course, I was fine): creamy and garlicky, served hot, topped with a tasty crunchy goat cheese crouton. We liked this one best of the three - intense and delicious. Also the table was given a basket of soft, fluffy, molassesy oat bread, as well as some fresh semolina bread that were so good they didn't need anything to jazz them up. A great start.
The flatbread was not housemade, but the white bean dip was. 

The 5 Onion Soup with a simple slice of warm homemade semolina bread
Two little duck meatballs are overwhelmed by the sauces. 

The kale salad was perfect

By now the restaurant had gotten very busy, with just a few empty tables. We ordered the wine special, Insurrection ($32), an Australian CabSav-Shiraz blend that we quite enjoyed - fruity and spicy.

Our entrees arrived and we settled into sharing bites. Puppy ordered the Steak, Potatoes and Vegetables, a grilled tri-tip with pan charred brussels, carrots, onion and green beans, with a cup of hot hot hot thick cut cubed potatoes. The meat was perfectly cooked and beefy (it might have been tough if cooked much longer), with a side sauce reminiscent of A-1, and it was a generous portion to boot. Stretch had the Salmon, served with white cheddar grits and stewed tomatoes topped with charred leeks. Very nice, especially the grits - these were rich and OMG creamy. The fish had a nice crust and tasted fresh and clean. Taking a bite of a bit of everything all at once I thought that the flavors came together beautifully, but the leeks alone were a little too burnt, even for the likes of a fire goddess. I decided on the Pan Fried Pork Chop "Saltimbocca", with sage and country ham, served with mashed, spinach and red eye gravy. It was OK, not very attractive, pretty darn salty, and the spinach was bitter (kids can hate spinach and this is an example of why). But we all enjoyed the meal and took leftovers back with us, and the chop was still good on the reheat.
The salmon and grits. I just wanted a big ol' bowl of them grits. OMG.

Not a lovely presentation - mashed with spinach topped with the chork pop and gravy. Good, not great. Salty!!!

This was a lovely plate - a generous serving of veg, meat and potatoes. 
Two desserts ended the evening. The Cannoli Chips were a bit odd, with soft "chips" reminiscent of the NYS fair that could have been crisper fer sher, but the ricotta, blended with pistachio and chocolate chips and served to the side, was delightful. The Cookie Platter was wonderful wonderful wonderful (there's that echo again!) - homemade pecan sandies that were nicely crumbly, not too sweet, Milanos with raspberry, and chocolate chip classics that were crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle. I think we ate them all.
The cookies were awesome

French press decaf was a nice touch, alongside the Canoli Chips. 
The choices were varied, the servings were generous, and the staff were hustling - I was glad to see this new spot doing so well after being open only a few short weeks. I appreciated the little things - the barkeep checking that the glasses were spotless, being given the Restaurant Week menu without having to ask for it, an attentive server who managed ours and many many many other tables without missing a beat, and the chalkboard of specials in the bar (check before you are seated!). I left Innovo feeling like all smiles, and my two dear friends echoed that.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

PS: Unlike Yelpers who want to be "firsts", I prefer to wait a while to let a new place get in their groove, but these guys all seem to be doing just fine already.  Bravo!

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