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Malcolm's a new addition to Union Street restaurant scene

Malcolm's a new addition to Union Street restaurant scene

It focuses on farm-to-table, locally sourced food.
Malcolm's a new addition to Union Street restaurant scene
Nate Germain is owner of Malcolm's in Schenectady.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- It may have been done quietly, but Malcolm’s is open for business on Union Street.

Owner Nate Germain, a Scotia native who cut his teeth working at New York City restaurants for nearly eight years, said the restaurant opened on March 3. But they are still in their “soft opening” stage, he said.

The restaurant only served family and friends during its first couple of days being open. Those family and friends started telling their friends about it, and that’s when the customer base started to grow, Germain said.

Then they put a sign out on the sidewalk on Sunday advertising that they were open, and Germain said that brought in about 20 more people.

“Now we are just open,” Germain said. “And we are busier and busier.”

The restaurant’s concept focuses on farm-to-table food and locally sourced ingredients. The menu features full entrees, appetizers, snacks and a four-course menu for $45, which gives samples of its entree menu.

It offers plates such as Rabbit Ragu, a dish described as having speck, golden raisin, pistachio, maple brook ricotta and mezze rigatoni; Spanish octopus, which has Wild Hive polenta, piquillo peppers, swiss chard and green olive relish; and pork from Lovers Leap Farm, made with salt and vinegar potatoes, turnip greens, and bourbon maple soubise.

However, all of those menu items could be swapped out for new ones, according to Executive Chef Krista Espinal.

The menus are given to customers on Kindles because they are always being changed, Espinal said. It’s part of the reason Espinal, who previously cooked at New World Bistro in Albany, came to work with Germain.

“What really attracted me to working with Nate is nothing is going to be stagnant,” Espinal said. “I can be inspired by those things and promote those things. We can bring stuff diners haven’t seen before.”

Espinal also said the staff takes getting the best products possible to make their food seriously. She said they did a blind taste test with four different chickens, with one of being a commercially produced, and picked the best one.

While the focus is on purchasing local products, Espinal recognizes the best doesn’t always mean it’s locally sourced. It also comes down to what is available to them during particular moments of the year.

“For me, lamb is hard to find this time of year,’ Espinal said, adding it’s something you usually find locally during the spring and the summer. “But we found a farm in Kinderhook. They had lamb and it was amazing.”

The restaurant is also utilizing a different concept to try to bring a different experience not only for its customers but also its staff.

It follows an open kitchen concept, where the kitchen isn’t closed off to the general public. Instead, you can watch your food be prepared while you dine, and even pull up a seat at the bar that comes right up to the kitchen. That’s why Germain said they use induction burners, so guests won’t feel the heat from the kitchen.

A server will be there to take your order and pour your wine, Germain said, but the cook will come and bring you your food, Germain said.

“A cook delivers the food and improves the guests' dining experience by discussing with them the food in their meals,” Germain said.

This allows cooks to collect tips from the tip pool, Germain said. So, servers will get more in tips than cooks because they make less hourly than the cooks do. He said this goes toward his effort to create income equality in his restaurant.

“I want this to feel like a team,” Germain said. “Everybody is part of the team.”

Malcolm’s adds a new business to Union Street. It opened around the same time as the new Union Inn, which debuted in March as well. It also adds to several existing businesses on the street, including Centre Street Public House and Beer Garden, Rare Craft Steak & Cocktail House and Maria’s Cafe and Catering.

Germain said he is currently capping the number of reservations each evening to 40, as he said the staff is still “trying to get our sea legs underneath us.”

He said when too many guests come in at the same time, it harms the dining experience. This is why he’s trying to manage the flow of people coming in.

“You serve as many people as you can in the time you can cover over the course of a time period you feel comfortable with,” Germain said.

Soon, they will be serving meals to guests on an outdoor patio and there will soon be a private dining room located upstairs. But he wants to make sure it’ll be done when he and his staff feel comfortable doing so.

“We’re going to make the system work right,’ Germain said. “We want to do it in a way that makes people happy.”

Germain said there will be a grand opening, but he wasn’t willing to put a specific date to it just yet.

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