Dinner at The Bishop, a fairly new gastropub on North Pearl Street in Albany, is a game well played.
The restaurant’s chessboard motif plays into the wooden tabletops, the tap handles at the bar, and the parlor-esque atmosphere glowing with classic cocktails and a crackling fire.
And since it seems all of the dishes my date and I ordered were served with three pieces, there’s a lingering question in the air of, “Is it your move or mine?”
Self-described as “the bourbon and beef spot that Albany has always longed for,” The Bishop has unsurprisingly mastered bourbon and beef. The menu offers a myriad of options, but the best strategy is to follow chef Tommy Fitzsimmons’ advice.
Pricey — generally $13 each — but potent, the cocktails are a necessary first move. The cocktail list stands proud with updated classics such as spiced Manhattans, boozy Boulevardiers and herbal Bourbon Rosemary Punch.
Advancing into the menu, though, one needs to employ more strategy. The starters are sparse and fairly expensive, like three little pawn-like shrimp ($10), served with buttery grits and a tangy bourbon barbecue-like sauce.
Sandwiches served with shoestring fries ($12-$17) are more generous, but the menu is so diverse it’s difficult to choose one and not feel buyers’ remorse. Options include southern fried chicken, lobster rolls, pork katsu or cast-iron fried burgers.
I tried the Smoked Duck Breast sandwich, but the heavy defense of chewy baguette, thick slices of brie and fatty duck made the sandwich nearly impenetrable, blocking the much-needed acidity promised by the accompanying bourbon cherry sauce.
The chef’s true checkmate of the meal was the steak. The beef is sourced locally from Highland Hollow Farm, a 500-acre farm in Schoharie known for its grass-fed herd. There are no wrong moves here: you can choose your cut (tri-tip, strip or ribeye, starting at $24) and one of three different preparations (au poivre, chimichurri, or steak frites). The Tri Tip Salad was perfectly seasoned and cooked medium. Delicious!
The Scallop & Nut entree featured good imagination but lacked integration. Heavy polenta, sweet cashew and pistachio praline bits, along with bright green olives, fought for attention. But the plump (and sustainably sourced) scallops were seared perfectly; too bad there were only three of them!
The overall experience at The Bishop is a unique one, a juxtaposition between a minimalist focus on quality ingredients prepared well and a maximalist expansiveness of options.
Even the interior decor lacks a singular focus, with industrial modern lighting among upholstered booths and dark teal, patterned wallpaper.
Dinner for two, including cocktails, a shared appetizer, two entrees and a lovely chocolate mousse cake for dessert came to $107 before tax and tip.
At that price, the best strategy here is to stick with the bourbon and the beef.
Where: 90 North Pearl St., Albany; 518-512-5009; www.thebishopalbany.com
When: Full kitchen open Monday-Friday,11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
How much: $107 for cocktails, one appetizer, two entrees and one dessert, without tax and tip