LATHAM — At Innovo Kitchen on Troy-Schenectady Road, Chef John LaPosta and partner Tina Kruger have created something first-rate and out of the ordinary. Their long history of hospitality is evident in the creation of this unassuming, stylish new restaurant.
A garage door opens to the patio and chandeliers are cleverly made from hanging work lights. The bar is on one side, dining on the other side of a divider. Tables are butcher block, the floor is concrete and infrastructure is in the open, as is the kitchen. It’s chic and sleek but hard surfaces mean that bar noise carries.
The menu is printed on both sides of a card in plain language. There are snacks and starters like Parmesan tater tots ($6) and duck meatballs ($13). You can get pasta bolognese ($12), house charcuterie and inspired salads without too much kale.
WHERE: 1214 Troy-Schenectady Road (Route 7), Latham, 608-1466, www.innovokitchen.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m Sunday
HOW MUCH: $82 for food before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Full bar. Accommodations made for children’s meals. Parking available. Reservations by phone, on website or at www.opentable.com.
Eight main courses mean the chef has picked the best of each.
They have burgers ($14) with sweet pickles and duck fat fried potatoes, or try a sandwich with their own cured pastrami ($13). It’s inspired but not fussy.
The bar was already packed when we took one of the first tables in the dining room. We liked the dishtowel napkins, smart tableware and logo imprinted wine glasses. Our server took drink orders right away and returned with bottles and a snack, decanting our wine at the table.
“The bread is in the oven,” he said by way of apology as he left a basket of seed-covered crackers and zippy white bean dip. Garlic, fennel and mustard gave it spirit, as did the oil drizzled over.
Innovo serves three kinds of just-baked bread, and their sweet butter topped with crystals of assertive sea salt is a match made in heaven.
“Stop eating,” I told Mom, as she tucked into the first of her tangy grilled Tallegio cheese sandwiches ($7) with red pepper jam and pecans, which looked delectable. The starters prophesied a momentous meal to come. She reluctantly stopped and said it was “out of this world.”
The pimento cheese spread ($7) comes with fresh pretzels that bring to mind pecan rolls but think chopped bacon and garlic where the pecans and cinnamon would be. The mild cheese with pieces of aromatic pepper first came about as a product of industrial food manufacturing, but here has a higher calling.
The next course came out at just the right time, and we marveled at the beautiful plates.
Innovo’s steak is a tri-tip ($27), which comes from the sirloin and is an exceedingly flavorful cut. The triangular shape is uneven, and Mom’s steak was crispy on the outside, medium-rare mostly, with a texture like filet mignon. LaPosta’s steak sauce was snappy, sweet, tangy and hot.
Textbook-caramelized onions jostled perfectly braised carrots and green beans for space, and a paper cone was stuffed with fries cooked in duck fat that are chubby, browned, crinkly and delicious. “It was perfect right down to the roasted vegetables,” said Mom.
Innovo’s chicken fricassee ($25)is an American-style supreme of white meat that smelled and tasted like long-cooked carrot, celery, onion and seasonings. Just right, but also gorgeous, with brown glossy sauce and braised carrots, onions, green beans served with fingerling potatoes. The meat was profoundly tender, the vegetables cut like butter. Wow.
Desserts are impressive. Mom’s lemon raspberry cake ($8) was a cylinder of sponge cake, fruit and cream filling, the best dessert I’ve had in years, no kidding. I got red velvet cake ($8) by mistake, but it was miles better than I’ve had elsewhere.
There’s plenty of staff, they’re very professional, and we liked the place lots even before they brought out chocolate bark with almonds and cranberries.
The tab for our food came to $82 before tax and tip. Mom put it best: “It’s so different from ordinary restaurants.”