The landmark Desmond Hotel is celebrating 40 years in the business, and it still impresses. Husband Eric and I enjoyed a phenomenal dinner at Simpson’s Grille, their traditional and moderately priced American-cuisine restaurant. It didn’t start out too well, though.
Simpson’s had plenty of empty tables when I walked past to meet Eric at the Tavern, The Desmond’s maritime-themed saloon. Eric nursed his martini and we were ready to eat, only to be told that Simpson’s now had a 20-minute wait.
The hostess apologized, citing several large parties, and we huffed back to the bar. I was ready to bail as the clock ticked past 20 minutes, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
Simpson’s Grille at The Desmond Hotel
WHERE: 660 Albany Shaker Road, Colonie, 869-8100, desmondhotelsalbany.com
WHEN: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $67.08
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express. Children’s menu. Reservations also available at OpenTable. Wheelchair accessible.
Perhaps the Colonial-era décor looks a bit dated but Simpson’s dining room is still genteel and charming. There are spacious booths and wood-paneled walls, brass chandeliers and banker’s lamps, and handsome framed prints. I liked the cork-backed placemats and fresh flowers.
Simpson’s dinner menu features classics like French onion soup, shrimp cocktail, and Caesar salad. You can get grilled seafood, like swordfish and salmon, and pasta with creamy sauces. Filet mignon, the priciest entrée, is $32. Dinners include bread, vegetable, and potato.
Things got very good fast. Someone attended to us right away with menus and suggestions, and the kitchen had caught up so the timing of the meal was impeccable. So was the service. Used cutlery was replaced promptly and plates were cleared straightaway.
There were two kinds of steaming, delicious crusty rolls with spritzes of cold whipped salted butter followed shortly by the first course.
Their award-winning New England clam chowder won another award from Eric. Piping hot, it had chunks of potatoes and was luxuriously thick and creamy.
Their signature salad of Romaine and radicchio was topped with cranberries, grated cheddar, slivered almonds, halved red cherry tomatoes, carefully arranged mandarin orange slices, enough to hold your interest.
Roast chicken ($17) is a good test of what a kitchen can do, and Simpson’s performed. I thought I made a good roast chicken, but their kitchen, hamstrung as it was by large parties, still blew me out of the water.
Neatly cut pieces of a half-chicken were moist and flavorful, with crispy skin, accompanied by a tidy haystack of cornbread stuffing featuring celery and onions, and cranberry relish. The vegetable was willowy asparagus; the potatoes were au gratin with melted butter leaking out.
All superb, but I’ll remember the gravy; thick and light-colored, with a big note of sage and Thanksgiving all over it, a whole gravy boat just for me.
“This is perfect,” said Eric after a bite of the succulent 12-ounce slab of Angus prime rib ($22). There was enough marbling to keep it moist and give it plenty of character.
The craggy popover made an admirable Yorkshire pudding, and Eric is a sucker for horseradish sauce. “I’ll have dreams about this,” he sighed. The garlic mashed potatoes were awesome but superfluous.
We took home most of our meals, which were delicious even left over, and had to pass on dessert but I can tell you the ones we saw that night looked sumptuous. The tab for this dreamy meal came to a reasonable $67.08 with tax and tip.
Simpson’s Grill, not as elegant or pricey as the dignified Scrimshaw, has its own charm and is an excellent value. What a great meal. Go Desmond, you’ve still got it.