On a whim, we stopped in to The Hollow in Albany (79 North Pearl Street) for dinner one Friday evening. We made a reservation online, but the restaurant only seemed about half full.
Inside, the restaurant is decorated with lots of Mason jars. It’s a cute little touch, and something that they take as far as their bar menu. Some of the bar drinks are actually “jar drinks.”
I decided to start with a beer flight for $10. I had the liberty of selecting 4 tasting portions of everything on their list for just $10. The rub was that all four of my first picks were tapped out. We came up with a few that were in stock, and I was good to go.
There is really only one appetizer on the menu, so we ordered it (SEARED POLENTA, GRILLED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, HOUSE-MADE GARLICKY BLEU CHEESE DRESSING – $8). [Aside: it’s a little puzzling that the appetizer menu is so small; it seems like a missed opportunity. Bar + snacks = $$$]
It was a strong dish. The mushrooms were cooked nicely, and the blue cheese helped to elevate the earthiness. The polenta was perfectly shaped, leading me to speculate that it’s not a scratch-made product, but, for the price, the portion was decent.
The salad I selected was their signature salad (ARUGULA, GRILLED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, SHAVED ASIAGO,
TRUFFLE OIL – $8).
This was not bad at all. Usually, I shy away from dishes containing truffle oil, but I figured I’d give it a shot; it was barely detectable, and added another layer to the shitakes, which were of the same variety as the appetizer. The one thing missing from this dish was a hit of acid, which would have helped cut the richness of the oily greens, mushrooms, and shaved Asiago cheese.
For my main course, I had The Hollow Burger (FRIED EGG, HABANERO KETCHUP – $10) [Aside: There is also a “Signature burger” (LETTUCE, TOMATO, RED ONION – $9) on the menu; wouldn’t the signature burger be named after the house, aka The Hollow?]
I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the size based on the price, but the burger patty was considerably smaller than burgers served in close-residing restaurants; the relatively low price was reasonable for the size burger. I ordered it medium-rare; it came well-done.
I didn’t send it back, but when the server came to check on us, he must have noticed that I was a little disappointed and asked if he could fix anything. I was stewing just a little over that and the soggy sweet potato fries that I was served, but I really didn’t want to wait for a re-fire of the dish. So he must have picked up a little of my disdain.
Flavor-wise, the burger is great. For $10, it’s a great deal, and the habanero ketchup is really a great addition to the burger (actually, mine arrived without it and the server noticed and brought me a cup on the side). As far as burgers in downtown Albany go, this one doesn’t have the execution to compete with the better burgers, but since it’s priced 30-40% lower than what I consider the better burgers, I don’t think it’s any travesty.
Issues with execution aside, the experience was positive. I’m a pretty big fan of most of the menu, so I’d be willing to check out some other dishes some time.