Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jack's Oyster House

At 42 State Street, near the corner of State and Broadway, in Albany, NY, stands Jack’s Oyster House. The restaurant was established in 1913 by Jack Rosenstein and continues to be operated by the same family. The current menu was developed by Chef Luc Pasquier, a French Certified Master Chef.

I had a pleasant excursion at Jack’s the other night, as indulging in oysters has recently become a favorite pastime. The building is currently being renovated, but meals are still served in the main dining room. We were seated in a booth even though we didn’t have reservations—always a plus. The dining room is classic and simple—there is plenty of room and historical photographs of Albany line the walls. The service was also top notch—we were treated cordially from the moment we entered to the moment we left. Even though this restaurant is well established, respected, and offers a sophisticated menu, there is no sense of pretentiousness at Jack’s.

We began the meal with creamy butter slathered on an array of delicious, hot rolls, including white, wheat, and some kind of herby, oniony bread. Then came the oysters…

We split a plate of raw Blue Point Oysters from Rhode Island, accompanied with a glass of bubbly, sparkling Martini & Rossi prosecco. The oysters were succulent and oceanic—the sea channeling through each little, delectable mollusk. They were served with Tabasco sauce and horseradish, but I prefer my oysters with just a squeeze of
lemon. I’ve also rejected the cute, tiny forks, and instead lift the shells to my mouth and let the embodiment of the ocean slide right in. Delicious.

After the oysters, we moved on to the main course. My dining partner opted for the Manhattan clam chowder, which he described as creamy with a hint of heat, and a huge Caesar salad that was loaded with romaine hearts, croutons, and topped with a creamy dressing and complete with salty whole anchovies. My entrée was the carved rack of lamb with a cured lemon and honey glaze, perched atop a bed of mashed potatoes that was sprinkled with mint-pea couscous and summer vegetables—asparagus, grilled tomatoes, zucchini, and squash.

The flavors in this dish were incredible—the only disappointment was that the lamb was a little overcooked. After ordering it medium rare, I expected to cut into the meat and find beautiful red rubies of flesh, but alas, it was cooked through with only a hint of pink. Having eaten the lamb at Jack’s before, I have confidence that they generally cook it appropriately and this was most likely a fluke. Besides the doneness of the meat, the flavors of the lamb and its accompaniments were splendid. By the end of the main course we were much too full for dessert, but again, from past experience I know they can be quite a treat.
Jack’s Oyster House is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the Capital Region and want to get your oyster fix and taste a little bit of local history. The website and menus can be viewed here:

Jack's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

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