Sometimes you need a scorecard to help you keep track of the comings and goings on the Capital Region restaurant scene.
Add to the “new” column Brandon’s Steak & Seafood, a full-service restaurant with a long pedigree that opened in December at 1702 Chrisler Ave., former home of El Divino and, briefly, Shalimar.
The owner — Brandon Williams — is the son of Don Williams, who for nearly 20 years ran Brandon’s Ritz Terrace on Van Vranken Avenue. Don retired in 2009, and the place was then operated briefly as Giorgio’s Ritz Terrace and, most recently, reopened as R.J.’s Ritz Terrace.
Brandon Williams had been working for the Mallozzi family as general manager of The Brown Derby restaurant in Albany. His chef at the new Brandon’s is Duane Chevalier, who worked for many years at Brandon’s Ritz Terrace and also at Panza’s on Saratoga Lake and at the former Perrino’s and the former Luigi’s in Schenectady.
Brandon’s Steak & Seafood
WHERE: 1702 Chrisler Ave., Schenectady. 631-6373
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; until 10 p.m. Friday; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted; handicapped accessible
Like the Ritz Terrace, the new Brandon’s is a steak and seafood place but with a lot of Italian-American dishes on the menu. You can get some dishes that were popular at his father’s restaurant — like the Lobster Boat and Bouillabaisse, a French fish stew, both of which are priced at $45. Those two dishes are the priciest on Brandon’s menu, where dinners otherwise range from $14 to $29.
For her entrée on the night we visited, Beverly chose the Veal Sorrentino ($19), a dish from Italy’s Amalfi coast that is a combination of Veal Parmigiana and Eggplant Parmigiana served, in this case, with linguini.
I went for the Rack of Lamb ($29) and was rewarded with seven delightful little lamb chops cooked to a perfect medium rare and served in a brown sauce with mint jelly on the side. I chose linguini over the mashed potatoes as a side.
We began our meal with the mussels ($9) and a bean soup ($3), both of which more than exceeded our expectations.
The mussels — more than a dozen of them — were served in a savory red onion broth. The soup, steaming hot, featured beans in a cabbage stew that was a perfect foil for the cold weather.
The bread, which arrived warm with butter with our appetizers, was fresh and crusty but otherwise unremarkable. It did come in handy, however, when the mussels were gone and it was time to mop up that wonderful broth.
Our entrées came with salads — Italian dressing for me and the house balsamic for Beverly, both of us requesting it on the side. As garden salads go, these were quite nice, a good mixture of leafy greens, black olives, grape tomatoes and crispy cucumbers.
I was impressed with the rack of lamb. The little chops had a great charcoal flavor and were cooked perfectly pink. The brown sauce was a good accompaniment, preferable for me over the mint jelly, but it was good to have a choice.
Beverly’s Veal Sorrentino was an epic dish — the breaded veal and eggplant with sauce and melted mozzarella crowding the big plate on which it was served, leaving room for only a little garnish and some sprinkles of parsley. (More than half of it went home with us and served as lunch for two over the next couple of days.)
If you like the Schenectady restaurant tradition of abundant food, Brandon’s will not disappoint you. You can also find some favorite dishes from the past on Brandon’s menu — like the Stuffed Sirloin, which was ordered by a man at the table next to ours, the Veal Oscar, pork chops and, a real blast from the past, calf’s liver.
If you’re looking for lunch, you’ll pay between $5.50 and $12 here.
We visited Brandon’s on a weeknight and found the place full up. There are about 60 seats spread over a dozen-plus tables. Reservations are a good idea.
Desserts, we were told, came from Villa Italia, which isn’t a bad idea if you’re not going to make your own. We chose to close our evening with coffees, however, and to skip the sweet stuff.
Our tab, for an appetizer and soup, salads and entrees with bread and coffee and espresso, came to just over $80 with tax and tip. (That doesn’t include the cost of two glasses of pinot noir, which we drank with dinner.)
Most of the time we get in and out of restaurants without anyone knowing we’re on a mission for the Gazette. Not so at Brandon’s, where our server turned out to be a neighbor with many mutual acquaintances. He brought the boss over to our table at one point for introductions and urged us to be kind when we were getting ready to leave. Even so, we were confident that the food and service we received were typical of what you would experience at Brandon’s, so we weren’t worried at all that our cover was blown.