By Victoria Moran
My husband and I first fell in love with Andrew Plummer’s cuisine when he owned Allegro Café in Troy. Plummer and team are truly working culinary magic again, this time in Albany. If you are planning a special night out, or simply want to enjoy an exceptional dinner any night of the week, head over to McGuire’s at 353 State Street in Albany.
My husband and I have eaten at McGuire’s more than a few times, but this time I really paid attention to the wonderful detail that goes into each and every meal. The night began with a warm greeting by Paul, who deserves great credit for the experience. He remembers names and really enjoys his big role in the restaurant’s success. His skillful leadership of the wait staff and his attention to the dining experience is probably unmatched in the Capital District.
We were seated in a booth area across from the bar. The decor is very conservative, but lovely—art deco and classic woods.
We started out with drinks—Stella draft beer for my husband and my favorite, Tasman Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The wine selection is vast and full of excellent selections ranging from a $25 Palmer Vineyards Cabernet Franc to a $550 bottle of Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon ‘02.
Since appetizers at McGuire’s are plentiful, a couple can easily share. We chose two—the lobster dumplings and a salad. The dumplings came with an Asian dipping sauce with chili sauce and wasabi that sat on spoon next to the sauce plate. It was cleverly served on a banana leaf and was outstanding!
The salad was simple, but delicious. It consisted of generous portions of provolone cheese, sweet red peppers and asparagus, dressed with a light balsamic dressing. Salads are always a treat at McGuire’s because the selection also includes wonderful seasonal specials not on the menu. Each salad has a trademark edible flower lying on the plate; a touch that makes it even more special.
With so many creative entrees on the menu, Plummer makes it nearly impossible to make selections. I chose macadamia encrusted moonfish with a pineapple salsa. Most dishes are served with a potato mixture of white and sweet topped with homemade chips, which looks like a work of art. The vegetables do not seem to vary much, but are excellent—green beans, snow peas and grape tomatoes. The moonfish, which has become my favorite fish when offered, was cooked to perfection—meaty and sweet. The portion was also quite large.
My husband selected veal tenderloin. It was served sliced in a marjoram cream sauce and topped with blue cheese pieces. It really was out of this world. The blue cheese was a stroke of genius and gave it a great bite. While this might sound incredibly heavy, it really wasn’t… another sign of a great chef!
Our dinner entrees were accompanied by another Tasman Bay (I am a creature of habit, but always good habits) and a glass of Ed Meads Red Zinfandel.
We were too full to enjoy dessert, but I can assure you that you will be delighted if you can save room. Every selection (which always includes a sinful chocolate creation) sounds like it was heaven sent. My favorite in the past has been a Lemoncello parfait served with a small glass of Lemoncello chilled.
The experience at McGuire’s is truly wonderful. It is classically decorated and the service is unmatched. It is expensive for the Albany market, but worth every penny. Our total bill was $146.90 before tip.
Reservations are required; call early for weekend seating. Parking is a problem, but for $8 valet parking is available. I advise you do it so you can get in and enjoy without delay.
McGuire’s is located at 353 State Street in Albany. Hours are Monday-Thursday 5pm- 9:30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights they stop serving at 10pm. For more information call 463.2100.
Victoria Moran is a freelance food writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The Hidden Café—“A Mediterranean & American Affair”
By Judith Power
When the publisher of Capital Region Living asked me to write a monthly food column, we agreed that I would seek out “off the beaten path”, or “less-known” establishments. They, by definition, can be hard to find, and when you do you hope that they are worth the trouble.
Let me tell you, the Hidden Café in Delmar was well worth any trouble. I’d walk here in the dead of winter for dinner if I had to, and after you try it you’ll feel the same way. It’s not so much off the beaten path since it’s located in the bustling Delaware Plaza, but its’ location is inconspicuous and has left more than a few Delmar locals surprised to discover it. It’s tucked away in a little breezeway in between REMAX Premiere and FYE—you’ll see the sign as you approach the back right corner of the Plaza.
Grant and I walked in and were greeted by a bustling server who was doubling as a hostess. She politely asked if we had reservations, which took us by surprise. Apparently, it wasn’t as “hidden” as we had thought. We did not, but only had to wait five minutes for a table to be prepared.
Service will make or break a restaurant. I don’t care how fantastic the food is, people won’t come back or recommend it to anyone if their server was suited for another profession. As an old, classically trained server in my former life, I can tell you that the wait staff here is attentive and well trained.
On the menu, the owner-chef, Joseph Soliman, describes your experience at the Hidden Café to be a “Mediterranean & American affair”. He is also a fan of garlic—you tell that by the signs over the small bar. The menu is descriptive from appetizers to entrees, including the daily features. The wine list is eclectic and offers good value. It includes a Greek wine, but we tried a Spanish Chardonnay out of curiosity. At $25 it was the most expensive bottle on the list. It was a tad sweet for my taste, but very drinkable nonetheless.
The appetizers, which ranged in price from $1.75-$8.95 were tough to choose between, but I finally settled on stuffed grape leaves with a taziki sauce, along with a falafel plate (not the “traditional” sandwich). The grape leaves were some of the best I’ve had, and that comes from a large sampling. They were firm, not gummy or chewy, and the rice was flavorful and perfectly cooked. The falafel was surprisingly light, and served on a well-presented plate complete with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, humus and warm pita.
Grant ordered an appetizer feature called Fries Hidden Café. It was a mix of house made potato and vegetable chips, simply topped with crumbles of feta, lemon juice, oregano and cumin. Fantastic choice.
Entrees were also hard to choose from. In addition to the specials of the night, the menu offered lamb, chicken, seafood and beef. They ranged in price from $12.95-$18.95.
I had the chicken kabobs, which I can only describe as delicate. The chicken was seasoned and tender, and the rice was of the type that you wish you could make at home, perfectly cooked and presented in a large timball. Grant had the shrimp and scallops tossed with a marinara of sorts. It was rich, but not heavy with its fresh tomatoes, oregano and onions.
Once again, we missed out on dessert, but if you’re a fan of sweets you’ll have a few more choices to complete your experience.
Toward the end of our dinner, Chef Soliman made his rounds through the restaurant, stopping at tables to check on the fruits of his labor. I wanted to give him a hug…that’s how good this place is.
The Hidden Café is also open for lunch, with a lighter menu consisting of salads, wraps, sandwiches and house specials
Total price: $100, including tip.
The Hidden Café is located at 180 Delaware Plaza in Delmar. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-3pm; 4:30pm-9pm. For more information call 439.8800.
Judith Powers is a freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.