My predecessor rarely reviewed a restaurant until it had been established for a few months. But I was impatient. The hype had been building for more than a year. I contacted Open Table for online reservations and acquired a table for the second night of Daley’s official opening.
Given the size of the venue (it was converted from an old taxi garage on Yates Street), the construction it required and the overall ambitiousness of the project, I marveled that it was completed at all.
A simple white and electric blue neon sign above the door heralded Daley’s presence within the brick facade. The venue might have gone unnoticed by pedestrians without it. Even the small hallway was misleading. But stepping through the second door brought the guest into a new world.
A vast “light-industrial” space revealed an infrastructure of tunnels and beams camouflaged at the ceiling in matte black. Two thousand lights played out in contemporary chandeliers and in miniature lamps over each table. The remainder of lights studded the black night ceiling like so many yet unidentified constellations. Neon blue, indigo and grey completed the palate for a vibrant yet relaxing effect.
The bar — with its 20 or so stools, lounge area with chairs that cuddle you, small round low tables plus a long high one — comprised the front third of the space, while three separate but open dining areas took up the rest of the floor. A patio ran the length of the left side of the building. The smaller of the three dining spaces is intentionally left vacant so that outdoor patrons always have an indoor space in case the heavens open up.
Stephanie seated us at a table for two between the two massive open garage doors, inquiring first if the air would bother us. We assured her that the summer wind was most welcomed on this balmy Friday evening. The table itself was made of faux grayish-brown bar wood and was accompanied by curved oak chairs with padded black seats. The only table decoration was a pair of small, dark blue ceramic salt and pepper shakers.
It was difficult to concentrate on the menu. The universe around us seemed static and mobile at the same time. Background music, part of the outer universe, in no way interfered with the sanctity of our private solar system.
Tiffany took our beverage order, and when she returned we were prepared to order. From an eclectic two-page menu of appetizers, soups and salads, grilled artisan pizzas, burgers, steaks and chops, Daley’s signature dishes and seafood, and signature sandwiches, we were able to narrow our requests to two appetizers and two entrees.
Ever on the spot, Johnny had his eye on the Eggplant Four Cheeses ($12) — four sauteed, thinly sliced wheels of eggplant with mozzarella, smoked gruyere, pecorino romano and gorgonzola topped with a perfect Pomodoro to cover lightly, but not to suffocate. It was a balanced dish in which no one flavor dominated. The dish was ample enough to have qualified as a light entrée.
My small bowl of warm Castelvetrano olives ($4) were garnished with a chiffonade of fresh basil. The olives were buttery and almost sweet — a perfect accompaniment to John’s eggplant.
His 16-ounce frenched Tomahawk Pork Chop ($29) was served with crisp-tender green beans, broccoli, and red and yellow peppers, as well as garlic mashed potatoes. For an additional $2, a small bowl of Hunter’s sauce with mushrooms was added. I wondered about the name “Tomahawk,” until it was pointed out to me that the long bare bone and perfectly grilled meat — triangular in shape — resembled a tomahawk.
My Pan Roasted Faroe Island Salmon ($25) was served with fingerling potatoes and lightly topped with a chopped tomato and basil salad. A handful of brown butter bright green edamame beans added color, while dill raita (yogurt and dill sauce) unified the components of the meal.
We had already eaten well, but still yearned for something sweet. The Lemon Blueberry Cakes with cream cheese frosting and sugared blueberries nearly snagged us, but our four eyes lit up simultaneously when Tiffany mentioned Catalan Orange Crème Brulee ($8). Flecked with nutmeg (and cinnamon?), and garnished with a large mint leaf and precisely four blueberries, the lightly burnt sugar-crusted custard was among the best we had ever enjoyed.
Service throughout the meal was efficient and friendly, but not overbearing. Courses arrived in a timely manner, water glasses were refilled and used utensils were removed. While the openness of the space raised the noise level, it was never enough to interfere with dining.
John summarized the experience best: “No detail [at Daley’s] was treated as a minor addition.”
Bright green Castelvetrano olives come from Castelvetrano, Sicily. They are often referred to as dolce (sweet) and are “Kermit-green” in color.
Daley’s on Yates
WHERE: 10 Yates St., Schenectady, (518) 901-0174, daleysonyates.com
WHEN: Currently Thurs.-Sat., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sun. brunches and possibly Wed. dinner to follow.
HOW MUCH: $83.95 with one coffee and one espresso, but without tax and tip.
MORE INFO: Kids’ menu, parking lot adjacent to the patio, AMEX, MasterCard, VISA, noise level permits conversation, accessible (small ramp into building), fireplace, full bar, gluten-free menu, nonsmoking, outdoor dining.