At the Table: Aptly named Taste offers fine dining in relaxed setting

My friend Mary and I traveled back to the Omni building on State Street to revisit the restaurant fo


WHERE: 45 Beaver St., in the Omni building at 30 S. Pearl St., Albany. 694-3322,

WHEN: Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner Monday to Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday

HOW MUCH: $109.80 with iced tea, tax and tip

MORE INFO: Parking on street or valet ($5). Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express. Accommodations made for children. Wheelchair accessible.

My friend Mary and I traveled back to the Omni building on State Street to revisit the restaurant formerly known as Dale Miller. We had a lovely time and some outstanding food. We also had fun, something we didn’t dare do at Dale.

”I always felt like I had to be on my best behavior,” Mary said of her visits to Dale Miller. “The service was much more formal,” she added, which is fine, but it’s like when you change out of dress-up clothes: Sometimes you don’t realize how uncomfortable you were.

The dining room has shed its white linen in favor of a more sleek decor. The banquette is still there, the tables and chairs seem the same, but the wait staff is in casual black button-down shirts, and they’re friendlier.

Not chummy, mind you, but Mary doesn’t miss the service at Dale that was a bit too fussy. When we asked a question of our server, he leaned against a table, pulled his order pad out of his back pocket and checked his notes. He was chatty, approachable, relaxed and very well trained. I watched him decant wine across a large table, and he did it with grace and ease. I liked watching the back-up staff stroll through the dining room carrying bouquets of glasses, 10 at a time, to restock shelves.

I’d settled for a later reservation on a Thursday night, and the dining room was half full. The valet staff was overwhelmed, backing up traffic on Beaver Street, where you’ll find the entrance.

The courtyard was inviting, the bar in full swing and a well-known politician was holding an event on the rooftop terrace, but the dining room was serene.

Three plate sizes

The menu required an explanation by the server. There are small plates, medium plates and big plates, the same idea as at Dale. We each chose a small plate to start.

He apologized that the rolls weren’t ready. “They’re almost done,” he assured us. He wasn’t kidding — they were freshly made. Taste gets points for the quality, variety and number of rolls. I skipped the aoli in favor of the soft whipped butter and dunked a few pieces into the oil-vinegar mix for variety.

I was curious to see how Taste could serve up fresh tomatoes in June for an heirloom tomato salad ($7), and the results were mixed. The yellow-streaked red tomato was a bit hard in the middle, but the plum-sized sliced yellow tomato was outstanding. The two pillows of fresh mozzarella cheese were soft and white, and the balsamic vinegar drizzled on the plate had tang and a bit of dark sweetness. A handful of greens added color and some bitterness, but I had hoped for more fresh basil.

Mary chose an elegant peach and manchego salad ($7), mostly dark mesclun greens with slices of soft ripe peach and slivers of yellow, semifirm and mellow manchego cheese scattered on top. There was a hint of mustard in the sweet dressing. Very good, she said.

My halibut ($28) had the lightest coating ever, discernible only by its crispy edges, and the fish was white, white, white. It flaked into tender, falling-apart pieces, reminding me how good halibut could be, and was heavenly when dunked in the light, tomato-based broth. The curious tom-toms at the bottom of the bowl turned out to be artichoke hearts with stems. There were stalks of broccoli rabe, a bit too fibrous to enjoy, and more vegetables including well-camouflaged fennel. Most wonderfully, I mined bits of crunchy salt halfway through; the effect made me feel I was just digging into my meal, starting out. What a nice idea.

The lobster Mary chose was described as infused with butter ($25 for half), so we were surprised to see the shelled meat surrounded by foam, an unusual presentation. Mary said the meat was excellent, and she found a variety of vegetables, gnocci and a wonderful sauce at the bottom of the bowl. “The foam mixes with the sauce as you eat,” explained the server.

Dessert choices

Taste has a long list of homemade sorbets and ice creams, and I could hardly wait for my three choices to arrive. We liked the long glass dish that held three scoops and the garnishes that contrasted with each type of sorbet. I started with the wildberry and was surprised to find it so sweet. I’d hoped the lemon would make me pucker, but it, too was more sweet than lemony. The flavor was overtaken by the sugar.

Desserts are a bargain, and for the price, you couldn’t buy half the ingredients: high-end chocolate, good heavy cream, eggs and sugar, not to mention the blackberries and strawberries. Do choose the chef’s tasting. For $10 you get three small servings of different desserts, perfect for sharing. Mary’s selection included flourless chocolate cake and crème brûlée so thick and smooth you could use it as a spread. It was a gorgeous plate, and the desserts were as good as they looked.

Our waiter poured out the last of the freshly brewed iced tea and brought us the check. Our meal, with drinks, tax, and tip, came to $109.80. That’s not a bad price for such a tasty meal.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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