Being that I live ridiculously close to Troy, I figured it was time to seek out a relatively new place in Troy to try. Being that there has been a significant buzz on the Times Union Troy blog about the re-opening of The Illium Cafe under new management, I decided to try it. Bear in mind, I have no prior knowledge as to the business before I entered.
In a nutshell, I would classify Illium Cafe as a good coffee/sandwich shop. The menu is not particularly overwhelming. I went for dinner, so my eyes went right for the Sandwich portion of the menu. All of the selections reflect things that I would order either as is or with minor substitutions. I decided to be simple and order the Cherry Marinated Pork Panini, which is described as “Smoked ham, shaved pork tenderloin, gruyere cheese with a cherry grilled pineapple cilantro aioli on grilled ciabatta,” with the homemade dill potato salad on the side.
The sandwich was excellent. I ate the first half as a sandwich. I felt there may have been a little too much aioli because it was difficult to manage. So I decided to eat the second half with a fork and knife. After scraping away some of the excess aioli, I started deconstructing the sandwich. Each of the components has a very distinct flavor, and being able to taste that level of quality was very reassuring. Overall, I really enjoyed this sandwich, I just wish there was less of the aioli (which I also thought was very good, just in excess).
The potato salad was slightly disappointing. It just seemed undercooked, under-seasoned and on the bland side. I was surprised because I sometimes find dill to be an overpowering herb; in this case, I could barely taste it.
Cassie ordered the mozzarella chicken melt, which could easily have been twice the size of my sandwich.
After I made my mind up on my sandwich, I had another look at the menu, and I saw selections under the heading “Sushi.” I had to order something from that part of the menu. There are only four rolls, none of which have real raw fish. Being that I grew up working in an Italian Salumeria, I quickly decided on the Antipasto Roll, which was advertised to contain fresh mozzarella, cappicolla, sopressata, salami, roasted red peppers & roasted garlic vinaigrette. I thought there was a good possibility that it was just those items rolled together and sliced into bite-sized pieces. I was wrong.
It was all of those components (plus artichoke hearts) wrapped in nori and sticky rice, served over a balsamic reduction and with a couple of dollops of sriachi. It was good. I’m all about combining ideas, and this is actually a great idea, overall. Execution-wise, the rice was a little overpowering and overly mooshy. I saw another guy in there who ordered a sushi roll while I was there, so I’d say this is a reasonable concept, and probably something that people will remember walking out of the place.
The pastries and coffee selection looked and sounded delicious.
Being that I live equidistant from Illium Cafe and Panera Bread (Latham), I would say that 10 out of 10 times, I would go to Illium instead of Panera. I only make this comparison because the business models are similar: cafe, soup, salads, sandwiches. Illium has a cute interior that is inviting and could probably be a nice quiet place to work at the right time of the day.