The Merry Monk

Albany John and I popped in for supper at The Merry Monk (90 North Pearl St, Albany, NY), one of Albany’s newest eateries on Pearl Street. Save your groans, The Merry Monk is worth a trip to Pearl Street.

Albany John suggested we check out either The Merry Monk for mussles, or Pho Yum for pho. Clearly, mussles > pho for me on this night.

Rince Cochon beer on the left. I liked the name and the tap (a big pink elephant!), and they were out of the Ephemere I wanted, but Albany John wisely urged me toward the Palm beer sitting on the right since the Rince Cochon had a 9-10% abv!

I liked the Palm beer. Both were drafts, but boy did that little piggy have an alcoholic kick! The Palm was caramelized and nice for a chilly winter night.
Mussels are buy-one-get-one-free on Wednesday nights. Oh mama. They offer a little over a half dozen types of sauced mussels, and orders are 1 or 2 lbs. We were dainty and went with 1# orders.

Albany John got the chipotle lime mussels. These were my first pick, but he beat me to them, and I’m glad he did – they were thoroughly enjoyable and well prepared (don’t let the blurry picture fool you), but I don’t think I could have eaten an entire bowl of them by myself. Spice wuss that I am. But I happily stole some off of his plate. The sauce was kicky and had a good degree of heat, but wasn’t just a one-note “spicy” thing going on.

Blue Cheese & Bacon mussels! I’ve never seen such a combo before with mussels, so I had to try it. Curiosity got the better of me, and I’m glad it did – these were delicious! As a salt-fiend I loved the flavors going on – salty, strong (from the blue cheese), but still balanced and rich. If you’re watching your sodium levels, you could probably choose a different preparation. Albany John and I can’t wait to go back to try the meuniere and Thai coconut sauces.

The mussels were all well cooked – plump and juicy, and not an overcooked or shriveled mussel among the log. Albany, we’ve got our mussels joint! And prices are great too – $10.99 for 1 lb, and about $16 for 2 lbs. I’m getting 2 lbs.

We also tacked on some fries for an extra $2 with two dipping sauces. I pretended they weren’t mayo-based, hehe. The pesto was really good (again, balanced), and the horseradish had some heat to it.

Here’s where the Merry Monk really stood out for me, though. We’d also ordered one of their app specials – boar short ribs in a cherry sauce. It was $9.99 for the appetizer portion. It didn’t come out before or while we were eating our mussels. When we mentioned it to our waiter, he was really that it didn’t come out at all. He put the order in, told us it was on the house, and asked if we wanted any other drinks on the house. Wow! All over a missed appetizer. Our server apologized a few more times and mentioned the error was on his part. We didn’t order any more drinks, so he took our more expensive beer off of our tab. Dude! This kind of proactive service is in Albany now? I love it!

These were worth the wait – falling off of the bone tender. They were generously covered in pepper. Something I normally wouldn’t like, but it worked really well with the whole cherry sauce thing they had going on. I wonder if they got it from Adventure in Food?

I can’t wait to go back. On a week night, the space wasn’t crowded and was pleasantly different from other Pearl Street bars and restaurants. I really liked their service – not only did they own up to a mistake and go above and beyond to correct the problem, but it was laid back and when I was in there it felt like I was just in a nice, relaxing bar/resto, away from any urgent pressure.

The fact that they went above and beyond to correct something I saw as a minor mistake is something I am just blown away by. It’s a great sign of Albany’s restaurant service evolution. I’ve been to restaurants where the exact same thing has happened, and they just shrug it off (worst-case scenario was they left an item on the bill and then give you stink eyes when you point out you never received an item). Maybe if I were more into having my meal arrive in any sort of order other than as-soon-as-it’s-ready this would be more of a deal to me, but as long as it comes out shortly after it’s made, I don’t care if my appetizer, salad, and entree all come out at the same time (actually, I kind of might prefer it that way, grazer that I am).

Any way, great job Merry Monk – I look forward to many more pounds of your deliciously economical mussels in a relaxed atmosphere.

  1. those boar ribs have me convinced….must. go. to. merry . monk

  2. Mr. Dave said:

    I am sorry, but bleu cheese and mussels? I don't think I can live at that speed.

  3. Mr. Dave – I thought that too before I tried mussels in a Gorgonzola cream sauce at Garden 24 Bistro. They were outstanding. Like lick the bowl outstanding. Give them a try.

  4. We went the other day and I got those ribs as my entree – O.M.G. The were absolutely divine. I still dream of them.

    Shawn got the mussels and I thought they were ok, but like the ones from Garden Bistro better.

    As a lover of Belgian beer (I spent a semester there in grad school), I have to say I was a little disappointed with the selection. To many American beers and not enough that's authentic. But overall, not bad. I'd go back for the ribs frequently if they made them a regular menu item.

  5. MsGarlic said:

    I also really loved this place. Cannot wait to go back! (How often do you get that feeling? Not too often I think!)

  6. We liked it, too. Also need to try Pho Yum.

    Some people are unfortunate enough to work near Pearl Street, but at least there's a decent lunch option now! Without the beer, of course.

  7. Deborah said:

    i've been a few times since it opened, and each time im always saying how great the food is! I hate Pearl Street at night, and this is it's hidden gem!

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