ALBANY Friends invited us to dine with them at Hudson Harbor Steak & Seafood, and we looked forward to the evening because they had raved about the food.
The date we chose, however, was during Albany Restaurant Week — not the best timing because Hudson Harbor had only three entrées available during that period. I’m not sure whether that’s what they always do during Restaurant Week or whether the flood damage they experienced in the recent storms had influenced their decision.
The restaurant is in an architecturally interesting 19th century building, clearly Dutch-influenced, that stands alongside the magnificent building housing SUNY’s headquarters on Broadway, near the river and the busy convergence of I-787, Route 9 and the South Mall Arterial.
There’s a touch of faded glory about the place — crumbling concrete steps boarded up in front, peeling paint here and there and a patina of age that hints at a long and illustrious life. Not surprising considering this was the home until the late 1990s of L’Auberge, the popular French restaurant which for decades specialized in haute cuisine dishes for its well-heeled and celebrated guests.
Hudson Harbor Steak & Seafood
WHERE: 351 Broadway, Albany, 426-5000
WHEN: 5-8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
OTHER INFO: All major credit cards accepted. Not handicapped accessible.
The dining room where we were seated features dimmed lighting, muted music, expanses of dark wood, tasteful art, and when we arrived there was a fire blazing in the fireplace.
The place was shuttered when the Lampheres — Stanley and Denise — purchased it in 1997. They named it Hudson Harbor Steak & Seafood after the place they ran at a marina in New Baltimore.
Hudson Harbor is not L’Auberge by any means, but based on our limited experience, it’s a reliably good place to find contemporary American cuisine, notably meat and fish dishes, as its name suggests.
It’s a family business. On the night we visited, Denise was greeting guests, Stanley was in the kitchen, Stanley Jr. was our server and his sister was our barkeep.
Stan Jr. apologized when we asked him for a wine list, saying they didn’t have one right now because they were in the process of selecting a new line of wines. They did, however, have a merlot, a pinot grigio and a pinot noir by the glass, and we made do.
For openers, the prix fixe menu — the three-course meals were $20.11 each — offered a choice of stuffed mushrooms or the soup of the day.
The soup was pure comfort food — cream of turkey with rice and corn — a great starter on a fall evening.
The mushrooms were delightful — caps stuffed with a dressing of onions and more mushrooms in white wine blended with herbs and a Cheddar cheese topping.
From the three entrées, I chose the Prime Rib and Beverly selected the Shrimp André. We then shared our dishes with each other to create an improvised surf and turf which made both of us happy.
The 16-ounce rib was a perfect medium rare and was accompanied by mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley that was a tad overcooked for my taste. The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were first-rate.
At least one in our party asked for an end cut and was presented with a prodigious piece of beef, half of which she carted home with her.
Beverly’s shrimp dish featured Gulf shrimp sautéed in sherry with fresh garlic, sliced mushrooms and herbs and finished with a rich sherry sauce and served over rice. The flavor was reminiscent of a Newburg sauce, thanks to the sweet sherry.
(The third choice, which enticed none of our party of six, was Chicken Italiano — medallions of chicken sautéed with onions, peppers, mushrooms in a tomato sauce and served over pasta.)
There were two choices for dessert — the Double Chocolate Cake and the Lemon Bundt Cake, and we chose one of each.
The chocolate cake was moist and rich and topped with chocolate sauce and a generous dollop of whipped cream.
The lemon cake — moist and lemony — was likewise served with whipped cream.
We had no complaints about the desserts. They were exactly what they were supposed to be. We finished our evening with coffees — they do not serve espresso — and then made out a survey at Denise’s request to rate the restaurant’s service and food.
They received mostly good marks from me, but I left wishing I’d had an opportunity to sample their actual menu and scolding myself for visiting during Restaurant Week.
I think it’s a sad commentary on the times when a restaurant has to put “real” in front of “mashed potatoes” on its menu. If it’s not a diner, we have a right to expect that we’re not being served freeze-dried spuds.