Date night with the mister to The Epicurean (579 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, NY) one evening in May. Evidently we still had a free bottle of wine left over from the purchasing system when they were in Troy (Buy, like, $100-150 or more and you get a free bottle of wine with purchase of 2 entrees on your next dinner), but it was set to expire by the end of May at the new location. Cool, that’ll get me in the door. Besides, we’ve been meaning to go back, but there are so many places to try, it’s hard to decide!
We walked into a pretty slow restaurant, and waited a few minutes for someone to seat us. It was a little confusing. No hostess that I could see anywhere near the podium, and the waiters were in different outfits. At first I thought our server may have been a busser, just because he was dressed a lot less formally than the other waiter (black polo and slacks versus a long-sleeved white dress shirt).
Bottle of Altos Malbec (normally $24). We were planning on getting some red meat, so I ventured out of my usual predilictions for sweet and white and went with a low-tannin red. Tasty stuff, but man it packed a whollop at 14%! I would have chosen something a little lower on the ABV scale if I’d have known, haha.
Still, tasty stuff. Would have probably been better to split with a few other friends. They took a few minutes to look us up for the free bottle of wine. Our server tossed a scrap of paper on to our table with a pen and was like “Write your name?”. Albany John wrote his name down for the server to find the card on file, or something like that. That was a little… less than formal than I prefer at The Epicurean. And it wasn’t that busy or anything. I could see if it were busy, but… yeah, there were like two other tables in there.
Epicurean, maybe tell your servers if they need someone to write something down for them, they should be like “Would you please write ______ down for me so I can find ____?” I wish some of Sandy’s natural hosting capabilities and formality were passed on to the servers. The servers always seem a little more casual than I’d like.
We got the charcuterie plate ($12) to start. Chicken pate (I think – it was in firm loaf form), and “two kinds of salami”. One wee tiny cornichon. Some salad greens and beet shavings. And some crunchy bread.
I really liked the chicken pate. Smooth, chickeny. I was expecting it to taste super-meaty and livery, but it was pretty light and good for the weather. Really good on the bread with some of the lightly dressed greens. Refreshing!
The circular salami was a little funkier than I prefer. Albany John thought it was kind of like a mortadella.
I liked the other salami, but it was kinda generic. Just reminded me of salami you could get just about anywhere.
It was down to us and one table after apps. Man, I felt so badly for the kitchen. The only thing worse than a kitchen over max-capacity is an absolutely DEAD restaurant.
I like what they’ve done with the space, decor-wise. My camera took a yellower picture than it is, but lots of warm sunset tones, and comfy chairs. Wasn’t so crazy about the jazz piped through the sound system, but is restaurant music ever good?
Albany John actually propsed to me when this space was Vin Santo, so the space holds a good bit of sentimental mushiness for me in the depths of my cold, cold heart. We were super excited when basically the first restaurant we ate out at as a married couple moved into the space. And this night we were seated at basically the same table we got engaged at. Awww.
Alright, enough with the mushiness, on to the important stuff – the food! I got Escalope de Veau Forestiere ($27). Veal cutlet with zucchini-mint gratin & fingerling potatoes. Slathered in delicious sauce. I think this was a shoulder cutlet, or some other kind of working part of the veal (do veal even work?), because it was a little tougher than I’d have imagined. When I think veal, I think “super tender”. Overall, I think it was a tad pricey (maybe $23-25 would be a better range), but man, all of the flavors go so well together.
Probably also doesn’t help that I wish they had their veau oscar on the menu. Man, that was so tender and delicious! It’s the veal dish I dream about.
Albany John ordered first, so he beat me to ordering the beef tartare, set at an affordable $18. There is a LOT of meat here. They use ground beef, not minced/chopped beef, so I was a little worried by how the texture would come out, but it was a nice, coarse grind and very well chilled.
It was absolutely filled with minced raw onion and lots of whole capers. It tasted fairly light. We found the egg yolk to be fairly unnecessary. The flavors were so good! I really want to order this again. So good. Did I mention it was good?
I know the fries look a little oily, but they were actually good – really well cooked.
The Epicurean’s dishes are all about the little touches. This sauce? All butter. And as always, their dishes needed absolutely no extra seasoning. I also like that their dishes are a manageable size. No take out containers needed.
The mushrooms on my veal weren’t just sliced white button, but a mix of oyster as well. And those fingerling potatoes, yum. So tender, and perfect for sopping up sauce. I’m deffo going to put some mint in with my zucchini this summer, too. Great combo.
At the same time, this iteration of the Epicurean is so much more different than the little gourmet space on Route 7. It felt like a secret there – all cozy, and only with a few servers. The high ceilings here make it seem less intimate, despite the warm decor. The weekend dinners felt more like you were dining in a speakeasy.
The prices here are a little bit higher than before, and the servers a little less polished. They’re nice, don’t get me wrong, but when you get used to Sandy fawning over every little thing, or coming to shmooze at your table during dinner, or bringing a dish out with a little of his Epicurean-style oomph, it’s a difference. It’s like when you were a kid in elementary school, and when you cut yourself, your parents would usually give you a hug or whatever and then when you go to the nurse she’s like “I can get you a wet nap and a band aid or you can go back to class”.
The dishes, decor, and prices point more towards formality, that’s all. The service would be fine if they did a more casual bistro feeling and changed the menu a bit. (But please bring back my veau oscar. And maybe some of that tapenade, too.)
Oh, it’s also moquito season because I got bit SEVEN times while over the course of our meal while dining inside. Ugh, so itchy now! I’m such a mosquito magnet.