Whether you’re heading up from Baltimore to Albany to do a little lobbying business, visiting folks or sightseeing, I’ve got a great place downtown for you to eat. Its name says it all: Taste Albany. It’s located in a tall office building in view of the sleek, Governor Rockefeller-era skyscrapers facing The Egg, the egg-shaped performing arts center. It’s décor inside makes me smile, recalling the grand, modern American business side of the 1970’s – the decade wasn’t just about disco, baby. Tall, dark wood walls have a steel daisy in one room. Almost makes you want to say, “Have a nice day!”
What a difference a decade makes. Everyone is talking about 1960’s Mad Men, but quite honestly, I’m more than a little creeped out by the thought of lionizing the pre-Civil Rights Movements era. Especially these days . . . it seems unpleasantly dated in a “don’t forget the Visigoths” kind of way. I find much more excitement in remembering the 1970’s, when I was a kid and everyone could participate in fresh possibility.
Taste Albany’s menu is all in that new, fresh spirit. They have classic favorites with modern twists, as well as new things altogether. I got to try it for lunch, which is a great time if you’re dashing to and fro downtown. For you busy-busy-busy bees, they have a lunch buffet to get you in and out in a hurry. For a more leisurely lunch, there’s the regular menu. They also have a “healthy” menu as well as the dinner menu at night.
Taste Albany lets you know they have an eye for detail right away with the heavy, architectural silverware. The bread that comes to the table is hot out of the oven.
I wanted to start with an unusual appetizer, one you don’t see elsewhere: roasted Brussel sprouts and red grape sautée, matchstick carrots with pancetta vinaigrette. So, it surprises your mouth to have what is traditionally a hot veggie side dish served more like a salad. It’s caramelized for Fall flavor, but with modern lightness suitable to a working lunch.
They serve a celery root clam chowder. It sounded just different enough to make me want to try it. It was lighter and fresher tasting than many clam chowders, but still rich and full of clams.
The Kobe meatloaf sandwich is very tasty, served on sourdough with Provolone. You can get it hot or cold. I got it hot, which was excellent, but I always did like cold meatloaf sandwiches as a kid, too. The meatloaf is very tender, befitting Kobe beef. One of the sides you can pick from, besides some picnic-like classics, is the locally popular sweet potato fries.
On a verbal twist on the Dr. Seuss book, they have a dish called Red Fish, Blue Fish Kebab: citrus-marinated Ahi tuna, garlic-marinated grilled shrimp and popcorn-crusted scallop. It was peppery, packing quite a bit of heat into the fresh seafood. The dish was plated with naturally presented baby garden veggies.