Brown’s Brewing saw the possibilities of Hudson River views in 1993, as a pioneer in a gritty neighborhood surrounded by mostly empty buildings. Now it’s a small empire in a hopping neighborhood of eclectic eateries.
Brown’s encompasses the original Taproom and the event space Revolution Hall, and in 2013 opened the dark, cozy Malt Room.
The Malt Room is a high-end cocktail bar with an abbreviated menu that changes weekly and features astonishingly good food. One small quibble: The changing menu is supposed to be posted each week on their Facebook page, but hadn’t been updated in two weeks.
Husband Eric and I were waiting for a table upstairs at the Taproom when it occurred to us to have a drink at The Malt Room. Sure, said the hostess.
The Malt Room
WHERE: 417-419 River Street, Troy, 273-2337. www.brownsbrewing.com
WHEN: Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
HOW MUCH: $45.30, with tax and tip, not including drinks
MORE INFO: Credit Cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. No Reservations. Wheelchair accessible.
We headed past the crowd, three-deep at the bar, and went downstairs and next door to the relative peace of The Malt Room. The contrast couldn’t have been greater. A quick look at the menu and we decided to stay.
The Malt Room is tucked away in the basement behind Revolution Hall with very little signage. It oozes exclusivity. Low, flattering light illuminates brick and stone walls and gray concrete floor. There are a few high tables, as well as sofas and areas for gathering.
Rows of bottles glisten behind the copper-topped bar, illuminated by small spotlights attached to the massive wood beams that support the ceiling, ducts and sprinkler pipes. Chalkboards list the beers, while a row of lamps with copper shades hangs over the patrons.
Eric and I took a glass-topped high table.
The Malt Room is open Wednesday through Saturday; the menu changes weekly. There’s always a selection of bread and cheese, flatbread and a selection of small plates.
We were choosing between wild mushroom ravioli ($14), oyster and champagne poached halibut ($15), and beef filet stuffed with duck paté ($15). The cheeses were apple-pear Stilton, French Morbier and Spanish Manchergo el Trigal. No wings here.
Eric settled in with a dry martini made with Bootlegger’s gin from Roscoe, in Sullivan County. Brown’s supplies exclusive drafts for downstairs. I sipped a medium-dry pinot grigio and we nibbled hot-sweet chipotle nuts ($5) with sliced almonds, the better to pick up more glaze.
Even though it’s not about the food at The Malt Room, you get luxurious napkins, weighty flatware, and plating is meticulous. My beef filet with fried duck liver paté and roasted root vegetables was a still life on a black slate.
Long-cooked carrots provided a pop of orange, substantial chunks of beef grounded the plate, crunchy coating on the duck liver provided texture, right angles supplied by neat logs of beet, all on thick smear of curry and honey-scented sweet potato. Watercress brightened the palette and white parsnips gave contrast.
The beet lit up my mouth like nothing I’ve eaten in ages. The filet was top-drawer, no gristle or chewy scraps here. The earthy duck liver was crisp, the parsnips sweet. I can shovel pasta with the best of them, but give me a dish like this and it’s just as satisfying, perhaps more so since my senses are so engaged.
Meanwhile, Eric was enjoying the halibut, “It’s like a white sauce,” he said of the creamy dollops that provided some of the kick. “There’s thinly sliced onion, tart apple and lemon, and just a hint of horseradish.”
Celery leaves and slender slivers of preserved lemon gave the predominantly white meal just enough color, and thin strips of onion and lazy long peels of whole green apple offset the chunks of white fish. Gorgeous, like mine, and delicious.
Those in the less-food-more-flavor camp will be pleased. I continue to be impressed with the quality of restaurants opening up in Troy.
The Malt Room may be all about the drinks, but for me it’s all about the food.