Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Doing the Numbers at D'Raymonds

I love numbers. I love that they can be so precise and yet make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Welcome to 2017 - believe whatever you want as long as it fits into your world view.
Cute exterior - D'Raymonds is not a big place, so reservations are a must
For example, according to Yelp there are 563 Italian restaurants in Albany, only a couple boast Star #5, D'Raymonds pops up #8 when you filter "Highest Rated", with 111 reviews to date, (11 by my friends). Trip Advisor gave me 60 Italian places within 25 miles, 4 dots out of five is typical, no D'Raymonds, with NY Pizza listed as #1??? Gayot gave us 37 with D'Raymonds having 3 1/2 stars. Fodor's lists 9. There are NO Italian restaurants in Albany listed in Zagat. Actually Albany doesn't exist according to Zagat. The local Times Union had 28 listed in their Best Of for 2017 with D'Raymonds on top, and it's been there for 8 years straight!

OK that last stat, if you stayed with me, was compelling. I hadn't been to D'Raymonds in years. I've had a few good, and a few not so good experiences there and, heck, if All Things Yelp are worthy, that left me 562 other options for Italian food (including pizza, which, Yelp, I'd like to filter out from Italian, but I digress), so I've been in no rush to go back.
Crusty bread that I only ate for because of this blog.  (:
But when DD (Double Donut) was leaving the department we decided to go for lunch and D'Rays was one of his all time favorites. Five point six miles to Osborne Road from SUNY Albany, the menu has 7 apps and soups, 6 salads, 10 grilled sandwiches ("bananas" - ???), 11 Italian specialties, 8 pasta specialties, and 7 fish dishes. And a couple of specials that we were not told of but I used my superpowers to hear the list read to a neighboring table. Everything is under $15, which, in my books, for a sit-down meal is exceptional value.
Excellent salads!!!  
Especially for what ended up being a wonderful meal. The pasta and Italian dishes all started with perfect side salads of baby spinach topped with unique ingredients (compared to Albany Italian mainstream) - ricotta salata, dried cranberries, chickpeas, marinated artichoke hearts, pitted black kalamata olives, red onion, pale tomato with a light, flavorful dressing - terrific. The bread was a bit lackluster but fresh, served with whipped butter. We then shared a Bruschetta -  toasted garlic bread loaded with pale tomato and mozz and topped with fresh basil - decadent, delicious, served with a side of red sauce for dipping that made it even that much better. Mighty good.
Bruschetta. Four pieces was plenty as an app for four people
DD had the Rigatoni Ala D'Raymond, served with crumbled hot sausage and a pink vodka sauce ($12.95) - good, nice and creamy, generous meat that wasn't too spicy, but a bit salty. Red had the Chicken Piccata ($12.95 - she subbed that salad for the pasta) - OK, sitting in butter so it was soft, more butter than wine, missing capers, but very tender. Pony had a ginormous serving of Orecciette Carbonara ($11.95) - a winner - best ever - super creamy, so delicious she couldn't stop eating.
Rigatoni Ala D'Raymond - pink sauce???

Not a pretty dish but the best of them all - Orecciette Carbonara rocked the numbers

Chicken Piccata needed a bit more wine and capers to round out the sauce

No I did not order the Chicken Parm. I went for the straight Italian American classic, Spaghetti Con Polpette ($9.95) - spaghetti and meatball, singular.  The red sauce was the same that came with the bruschetta - thick, rich, simple but herbal, not bitter, not at all sweet. The pasta was a perfect al dente, though I wasn't crazy about the meatball - very garlicky garlic powdery, fine ground everything and a bit dense. A generous serving and a classic in all respects, and I DID eat my leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Spaghette con Polpette
D'Raymonds is a classy joint but still casual, with good service, ample parking, and it's usually busy, so make a reservation unless you like a long wait counting the minutes before you finally get to eat.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

D'Raymonds main dining room at the start of service