Revisited: Capital City Gastropub – Albany, NY
I’ve been a long-time fan of the Gastropub since it opened. Among other things, their burger has become one of my favorite guilty pleasures in the area. I’ve been pretty vocal about how much of a great deal I think it is.
Recently, the management changed (the former owner sold it to former manager and a business partner), and the interior was renovated.
I have been back since the management change, but not since the renovations. One Tuesday night, we stopped in for a burger.
The menu has been redesigned and is a little brighter and easier to read. Another thing that is bright is the kitchen, almost overwhelmingly bright (the contrast between the dining room and kitchen reminded me of those police lineups). The seating has been changed so that there is now pew seating along the walls (no joke, they used actual church pews, which appear lower than the chairs at the same tables), and it appears that there is a larger “communal table” in the center, and different parties are seated there on opposite sides. The acoustics in the building have changed. I don’t know if it’s because there’s little decorating the walls, or the overall expansion of the ceiling, but every bowl or pot that gets banged in the kitchen resonates loudly through the restaurant; at times, it was difficult to have a conversation because of this.
As a starter this evening, I went with the Baby Greens ($8 – baby lettuce, bread crumbs, creamy beet vinaigrette).
Let’s be perfectly clear: it was just lettuce, dressing, and toasted panko bread crumbs…and it was amazing! The dressing was (as advertised) creamy and had a whole contrast of flavors going on. Sweet. Acidic. Earthy. The lettuce was bright and crunchy and was very lightly finessed with the dressing. I even tasted some contrasts of flavor within the lettuce; sometimes, a bite of the lettuce had a subtly detectable licorice flavor. The panko bread crumbs magnified the crunchiness (I’m stealing that idea!).
On this go-around, the burger was described as follows: Tilldale Farms Burger – bibb lettuce, onion, tomato, garlic aioli, house frites ($15). (The description varies from time to time.)
The appearance was very disappointing. I’ve had the burger there dozens of times. I’ve brought people in from out of town for burgers there. Aside from the very obvious disparity of size between the beef and bun, the fries on the plate were unfortunate; it was a scant portion, and they were all dry.
The bun of the burger was very soft; in the past, I’ve seen consistency issues with the bun, but I’ve never seen it soggy like this. The center of the burger was medium rare, as requested, but some spots on the surface of the beef were completely and thickly charred.
The most troubling thing on the plate was the homemade ketchup, which I’ve loved there in the past but couldn’t eat this time due to an overwhelming amount of curry powder muddying it.
While the salad was very good, the burger came well below the precedented standard; in general, I expect a $15 burger to soar, especially one that has a track record. This time, it was a bit of a flop.