Dale Miller Restaurant
WHERE: 30 South Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $142.96, with two sodas, tax and tip
MORE INFO: 694-3322 or www.dalemillerrestaurant.com Major credit cards accepted. Reservations highly recommended. Valet parking available.
It was almost the end of dinner at the new Dale Miller restaurant when my companion Mary leaned forward across the table and whispered, “Can you find anything wrong yet? I can’t.”
Not that I was looking, but it was a dinner review. And no, we agreed, there wasn’t a thing wrong. Everything was perfect.
So let me fill you in on the details of our wonderful dinner at Dale Miller. We knew it was talked about in the most glowing of terms so we turned out in our best summer linen for our dinner reservation. The main dining room is on the first floor of the Omni Plaza building, but there’s also seating in the bar and rooftop dining available when weather permits.
Our server’s attentiveness struck just the right note. He was quietly respectful, but knowledgeable and deft. After bringing our drinks, he started off the meal with an amuse, a tiny bite to alert the palate and create anticipation for the rest of the meal.
“Shrimp with pineapple salsa,” he said, delivering small plates set with Chinese soup spoons. Two small but sturdy shrimp nested there on a bed of finely chopped, tangy colorful fruit. It was a small thing, but it said, “This is going to be good.”
The menu is designed to encourage you to try as many different things as possible, by either combining small servings or choosing entree sizes. First Impressions are starters, including salads. Put together three small plates, or Mosaics, to create an appetizer tasting. These are highly creative and inspired, like the pan-seared squid chiffonade, with gingered herb pistou, and tobiko sprinkle ($6). There’s the Discovery menu, available for entire tables every night, and what I think of as the regular dinner menu, the Montages. It’s really not all that confusing.
The Montages come in two sizes — either 4 or 8 ounces of protein. Say you wanted the pan-seared strawberry grouper fillet with vintage port sauce and wild mushroom leek risotto. It comes small ($18) or large ($30). You can pair the small size with, say, the small size of char-roasted filet of beef ($18) with horseradish mustard crust, sumac onions and golden potato puree. We tried it both ways.
Mary started with the fresh beet salad ($12), a rainbow of baby beets, pickled ever so slightly with rice wine vinegar and served over lightly dressed greens and served with a triangle of creamy goat’s milk cheese. The salad was lovely to behold, arranged and served with great care. Very nice.
You must try the shrimp, proscuitto and melon ($12) appetizer, which blew me away. Two jumbo shrimp are skewered and wrapped with the ham, then seared. Delicious enough, but the cantaloupe sorbet was a small ball of frozen melon at the peak of its flavor. The hot shrimp melted the sorbet just a bit, and I discovered adorable micro-melon balls of perfectly ripe cantaloupe and honeydew beneath. I dipped bits of ham-wrapped shrimp in the lemon-basil pesto at the bottom of the dish and thought about how good food could be.
The bread is homemade, and the batch we got was hot out of the oven. Not warmed, mind you. Just made. We got a clever sectioned dish holding sweet European butter, flavored squiggles of cream cheese, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For my dinner I ordered two small portions, one chicken ($16) the other sirloin steak ($20), although taken with a first course and dessert, one small dinner portion is plenty of food. Especially since each is meticulously crafted and full of flavor. Mary’s larger order of duck ($32) was a regular-sized entree.
And let me tell you, the food was exquisite. The large sectioned dish that held both chicken and steak looked a bit intimidating, with meat and starch on the ends and vegetables in the middle. The sirloin, prepared with rock salt, aged saki and soy sauce, was absolutely delicious and didn’t have me reaching for any more salt. There was a bit of gristle running through the meat but I don’t blame them for it — even good steaks can hide it. It was served over cross-sections of tiny new potatoes.
The chicken was served supreme, a delicate and stylish preparation that leaves the first wing joint connected to the boneless breast, with a bit of crisped and herbed skin to cover. It’s good, richly flavored chicken, moist and tender, served with a Meyer lemon shallot sauce accompanied by a small cake of fennel and potato hash, a dressing, almost. The day’s mix of fresh vegetables included split and grilled teeny-tiny zucchini.
Mary said the duck meat was tender, with a bit more body than chicken, more like filet mignon. It came served with an Italian whole grain called farro, which has a firm, chewy texture. Mary remarked on the thinness of the slices, which were fanned out and made the duck easy to eat.
Dale Miller is a dessert destination, and prices are reasonable, from $7 to $9 for something very special, and a group can get a tasting for $7.50 a person. I chose the key lime custard tart with burnt-sugar topping. They get serious points for a tender, thin pastry and for the slightly bitter flavor of the crunchy burnt sugar that contrasted so nicely with the sweet and tangy custard. The delicate mound of whipped cream was garnished with the tiniest, most graceful sprig of mint I’d ever seen. My family have grown mint for years, and I’ve never seen a miniature version like this. It was perfect, of course.
Mary ordered the chocolate dessert, a delicate round cake with ganache and served with fresh fruit in a graceful white bowl. Lovely, and delicious. Dale Miller’s desserts are composed, arranged and presented beautifully.
You must go to Dale Miller. Put on something nice and bring your appetite. Dinner there is definitely a special occasion, with terrific service and exquisite food.
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