Restaurant Review – November-December 2012

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Risotto
Italian Mediterranean Fusion

Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 9 • Food  8 • Ambiance  9 • Price – $$$

Located in a small strip mall across from Albany Memorial Hospital, we weren’t sure what to expect when we pulled into Risotto’s parking lot. We had an 8pm reservation on a Friday night. Our plan was to arrive around 7:30 or so, peruse the menu over a cocktail and then head to our table. Instead we pulled in about 7:55.

We were greeted immediately by the hostess and asked if we could relax at the bar instead of being shown to our table. She was completely gracious with an, “Of course! No problem. Right this way. Just let me know when you’d like to be seated.”

Feeling welcomed and relaxed, we sipped our cocktails and took in our surroundings. Our seats at the bar allowed us to see all of the the L-shaped dining areas. The décor is soothing in neutral shades of espresso, browns and tans. The restaurant was about half-full when we arrived – busy, but not noisy.

Once situated at a corner table with our menu choices clearly in mind, we had our first taste of Italian-Mediterranean fusion. Our very friendly and efficient server brought us warm, seasoned pita bread with an olive oil topped roasted garlic spread for dipping. Mark, who typically resists any bread that is served before the meal, dug right in. It was truly wonderful.

We shared an appetizer, the Clams Mojito, described as littleneck clams with fresh mint and lime in rum butter. I didn’t taste the mint in the sauce, which was a little on the sweet side for my taste. The clams (a dozen), however, were steamed perfectly.

All entrees come with a green salad, but we opted to share an antipasto instead. It was a mixture of mixed spring greens, radicchio, cherry tomatoes, red onions, chunks of provolone, red onions, olives, sliced boiled eggs and capicola and could easily have served three, if not four, people. It was good, but reminded me more of a chef’s salad than an antipasto. The acidity of the red wine vinaigrette went nicely with the greens. Each of us enjoyed a glass of Trapiche Broquel Malbec with the antipasto and our dinner.

I decided that it would be silly to come to a restaurant named Risotto and not order the risotto. There is an entire risotto section on the menu, offering varieties such as duck served with blood orange and blackberry risotto, mixed vegetables with spinach risotto, and scallops with sweet chili risotto. I went with the Rack of Lamb for two reasons: lamb is something I typically think of as Mediterranean, whereas risotto is Italian. This combination should showcase the restaurant’s  Italian-Mediterranean fusion. The dish is described as grilled lamb rack served over a baby heirloom tomatoes and rainbow carrot risotto, finished with a mint chimichuri and pink peppercorns.

The risotto was just right – rich and creamy – not soft and mushy and the carrots imparted a sweetness to it. I asked for the lamb to be cooked medium-rare and expected a rack of lamb served with the risotto and finished with the chimichurri and pink peppercorns. Instead, the rack was cut into chops that varied in thickness resulting in some being well-done while others were rare. I was also surprised at how small they were. – just a little bigger than a quarter in diameter and about a quarter of an inch thick. When our server came to check on our meals, I mentioned my surprise over the size. It seems that is a common remark from many customers. The serving of risotto, however, was more than generous and very flavorful.
Mark had the Grilled New York Strip Steak topped with a garlic chive compound butter. He requested it to be cooked medium and it was. I had a bite (or two) and it was super tender. The compound butter complemented the steak nicely. The steak can be ordered with the sauce of the day: peppers, mushrooms and onions, or you can add shrimp to make it surf and turf. It’s served with steak fries and grilled asparagus.

Too full for dessert, we had to pass. All in all, I recommend Risotto. I like its vibe, the service is great and there are things on the menu that I need to go back and try. It is not in my normal travel pattern, but I would definitely return.

The total cost for two cocktails, two glasses of wine, one appetizer, one and two entrees (excluding tax and tip) was $106.

Hours are: Serving lunch Monday – Friday from 11pm-3pm. Dinner is served Monday – Thursday from 5pm-9pm; Friday and Saturday 5pm-10pm; Brunch is served on Saturday from 10:30am-2pm. Risotto is closed on Sundays.

Risotto is located at 320 Northern Boulevard, Albany, across from Albany Memorial Hospital. For more information call 518.RISOTTO (747.6886) or visit www.518risotto.com

Kimberly Hickok has always been passionate about food – farm to table, home cook to restaurant. She resides in Ballston Lake with her husband.
 

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