Diners take advantage of a warm night to have dinner outside at the Point Restaurant and Lounge on Madison Avenue in Albany. (photo: BEVERLY M. ELANDER/FOR THE SUNDAY GAZETTE)
ALBANY The Point Restaurant and Lounge in Albany’s Pine Hills neighborhood is a trendy place with lots of dark wood, high tables in the bar area and pretty light fixtures, and it’s also an excellent choice for dinner.
Chef Jennifer Hewes has created a menu that is not extensive by any means but is filled with tempting — and delicious — contemporary dishes, including pizza and an array of small-plate options, all at reasonable prices.
Though the restaurant was packed with diners on the evening we visited, timely service was not noticeably affected.
There were, however, a couple of annoyances that you can avoid when you make your dinner reservation. Ask for a table that has some light. We found ourselves struggling to read the menu from the glow of a tiny votive candle.
And if you plan to have a conversation while you eat, ask for a seat that is away from any of the banquettes in alcoves that have great acoustics that serve to project the conversations of the occupants. Alas, not everyone is a Noel Coward.
The Point Restaurant and Lounge
WHERE: 1100 Madison Ave., Albany. 729-5383
WHEN: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted; handicapped accessible
Our server for the evening, Kevin, won us over from the start with a basket of warm bread — actually two kinds of breads, one of them infused with rosemary, and a crispy flatbread cracker, accompanied by a tapenade and butter.
From the starters section of the menu, whose daily artisan cheese choices were recited to us by Kevin, we chose the Point-a-Pasti, which is the house’s antipasto ($10) and the Trio Sampler ($14), which allows you to taste the Eggplant Napoleon with spicy red sauce, a substantial crab cake with lemon grass-ancho chili remoulade, and green bean fries — crispy fresh green beans that are lightly breaded and deep-fried. (“Way to make green beans unhealthy,” I observed, tongue in cheek, which is not that easy to do when your mouth is full of fried green beans).
The crab cake was a treat — fulsome and crispy golden with a lot of crabmeat and a remoulade that was the perfect accompaniment.
Dinner partner Beverly’s antipasto received a similar rave for its cured meats, grilled artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and olives and the relish of grilled cherry peppers that added considerable interest, not to mention heat.
Perhaps the best ever
For her entree, Beverly chose the small-plate version of the Puttanesca ($13), a classic pasta dish featuring San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, capers, kalamata olives, pancetta, anchovies and crushed red pepper. It was perhaps the best Puttanesca she’d ever eaten, she said a couple of days later as we polished off the contents of her take-home container for lunch.
I chose a medium rare hanger steak ($18) for my main dish. The beef is lightly marinated and then grilled and served in a robust mushroom sauce over gnocchi flavored with Gorgonzola and spinach. The meat was tender and delicious and was well-paired with the creamy gnocchi with its sharp Gorgonzola highlights. Like the Puttanesca, much of the steak dish went home with us for a later lunch, thanks to the bread and generous appetizers we ate before the main events.
The most expensive dish on the Point’s menu was a steak called the French Kiss for $32 — a grilled filet mignon served atop scalloped sweet potatoes with what the menu describes preciously as a “vanilla bean, cherry butter kiss,” and drizzled with a port wine glaze.
From Sunday through Tuesday, you can choose from a prix fixe menu offering a choice of salad or appetizer, an entree and dessert, all for $19.99. Entrees include the Puttanesca, a Chicken Chasseur, Red Pepper Pasta and Pollo Pasta.
Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find a duck leg confit on the bone over creamy rice with duck sausage, poached pears and goat cheese garnished with gooseberry demi-glace for $24.
There is also a Bolognese pasta featuring wild boar and beef in a chianti wine sauce for $14/$19.
Sides are all priced at $4 and include Black Truffle Frites, Lemon Pepper Frites, Red or White Gnocchi and the Green Bean Fries.
The tab, for appetizers, entrees and drinks, was $76.80 including tax and tip.
The question we always ask at the end of the meal is would we return. In the case of the Point, the answer is yes, indeed.
The Point Restaurant and Lounge is operated by BMT Management Co. whose holdings include the Cafe Madison and Juniors in the same Albany neighborhood and Spinners. There is live jazz at the Point on Thursdays — which happened to be the evening we visited. And if you’re lucky, you might also catch bagpipers and drummers rehearsing behind the restaurant at the Albany Elks Lodge.