One place we really enjoy eating is New World Bistro in Albany. We’ve even made reservations for the last two New Years Eves to celebrate there. The main reason we like the restaurant is because of Chef Ric Orlando’s influence on the food; I also like the occasional cocktail. Lately, it’s become a little trendy and sometimes difficult to get a table, so we haven’t gone in a while.
When brainstorming ideas for where to celebrate Cassie’s birthday, I offered up the “hell yeah” idea of taking an hour-long ride down I-87 to visit Ric’s flagship restaurant, New World Home Kitchen (1411 Rt 212, Saugerties, NY). I made a reservation for the Saturday evening after her birthday.
We arrived five minutes short of our 6:30pm reservation and were seated immediately among the packed dining room. The decor of the restaurant is rustic American with a modern twist. It reminds me of a very brightly lit lodge. There is a lot of energy in the dining rooms, and, being a busy restaurant, that’s a great thing. The crowd on the average is a little older than New World Bistro, but this is your older crowd that likes to eat interesting things.
The menu evolves through the seasons and relies on ingredients and flavors from all over the world. Ric is kind of a big deal when it comes to the way he works with ingredients; you’ll see things from Thai green curry to Calabrese cherry peppers to harissa and even some Jamaican flavors. Lots of things on the menu are spicy, and there is even a “Ric-ter scale” to describe the level of heat.
One thing I wanted to try for the first time was Ric’s smothered eggplant balls (with red sauce and four cheeses – $8).
This dish was a regional finalist in US Foods’ “Next Top Product”, and I supported the cause by voting whenever I could. According to Ric’s facebook page, they didn’t win in the finals, but at least he got to compete.
Having the dish finally in front of me was a true delight. Although a little on the thick side, the tomato sauce has all of the brightness you want for tomato sauce and some very subtle heat. The (not so secret) recipe for the eggplant balls indicate that they’re made just like meatballs but with eggplant. It’s actually a really clever and very old-school Italian idea, as they can be served in a classic Italian manner (like they’re presented on the menu) to sort of mimic eggplant parm, or they can be adapted into different sauces.
Inside, these were moist. The cheeses on top really elevated this dish. In addition to some pecorino and fontina, I detected something a little more funky (like a gorgonzola).
Cassie ordered a beef shawarma special appetizer for $8 that easily had half of a pound of robustly flavored and grilled beef atop a modest flatbread. I stole a few bites and really enjoyed the tahini sauce on top and had the delight of eating all of the homemade harissa (since Cassie isn’t big on spicy foods). It was all absolutely delicious.
I wanted to have a small salad before dinner. It took me some time to decide, but I chose the NWHC kale salad (curried cashews, local chèvre, apple chutney – $8).
It was very clean in that what was in the description was what was on the plate, but the very light amount of curried dressing that the greens were tossed in was outrageous. It almost eclipsed how great the chèvre and chutney were. I was kicking myself a little for not ordering the slightly larger portion, because I really loved this.
For dinner, I went with a special of the evening Calabrese chicken thighs (Browned and braised with pickled hot cherry peppers and garlic, plated with polenta, and grilled squash- $20). It was a natural thing for me to order, given that my dad’s Calabrese.
Given that the dish was a 5 (out of 10) on the “Ric-ter” heat scale, it was a very pleasing dish. It was also very assertively seasoned. The braising sauce had a very strong roasted garlic flavor and also had a good amount of vinegar from the cherry peppers. The flavors in the chicken came together almost like a good Buffalo wing, but with a whole lot more depth and richness.
The polenta was a nice base for the dish, but mine had a few dry clumps. And the grilled acorn squash really brought this dish into the season. The size of the portion was very surprising. Three whole thighs were served atop a good half pound of polenta and squash. I could and should have taken half to go. But I finished the dish…
…even though I knew I was getting an insane amount of dessert.
I had a peek at the dessert menu on the back of the main menu before I ordered. When I saw the “Ultimate Stoner Chocolate Experience” (A big kitchen sink sundae of fudgie brownie, killer chocolate ice cream, warm chocolate-coconut ganache, cocoa nibs, chopped chocolate, and whipped cream – $10) on there, I already made up my mind. Cassie and I split this.
For good measure, we also had the awesome creme brulee of the day (which was maple flavored $5) and I had a double espresso to prepare for the long ride.
If there is a thing as too much chocolate, this dessert skates the border. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the chocolate ice cream. I was a big fan of everything else on the plate, though. It was certainly a terribly rich dish to have on top of such a modest meal. But, with a name like that, how could you not order it!?
Although there was a bit of a cost involved in gas and tolls to get down there, for just under $100 (before tip), we ate like kings and queens. If I lived closer, I’d be there very often.