Monday, August 31, 2009

New World Bistro Bar

It’s pretty easy to feel good about what you eat at New World Bistro Bar, located at 300 Delaware Avenue in Albany, New York, both because of the sources of the ingredients as well as the way that Chef Ric Orlando combines and cooks them up.

The menu changes with the season, and it is always filled with regional, organic, and sustainable ingredients. They buy local produce and purchase their meat from the Northeast Family Farm Cooperative and Niman Ranch, their chicken from Freebird, and their seafood comes recommended by the EcoFish and Monterey Bay Sea Watch.

New World Bistro Bar serves dishes in the realm of “Global Soul Food.” It’s a menu that brings American regional cuisine together in interesting ways and spices it up with the flavors of other countries, such as Italy, Thailand, and Japan. The dishes often bring together a variety of ingredients that might seem at odds on paper, but flow together effortlessly on the plate.

My mother joined me for this particular meal, and we began with an order of CAGE Pan Blackened String Beans with Creole remoulade sauce. We also indulged in my favorite drink at New World: Hendrick’s gin with cucumber lemonade. The string beans were lovely, spicy, and smoky and were accompanied with the perfect dipping sauce. There is a nice amount of heat to this dish (they gain a rating of 6 out of 10 on the “Ric-ter” scale of spiciness). The string beans are the ideal start to a meal at New World and are great for sharing as well, with the option to order a small plate or a party platter depending on the size of the dining party.

The cucumber lemonade with gin is light and refreshing and is not bogged down with too much sugar like so many cocktails. The cucumber lemonade is simply wonderful—I’ve tried to replicate it at home, but I just can’t seem to reach that same delicate balance as at New World. 

After visiting New World Bistro Bar a few times, I decided it was time to venture into the “Forbidden Pleasures” menu. Items on the Forbidden Pleasures section of the menu include roasted beef marrowbones, duck liver mousse pate, and Egyptian-style sweetbreads. I opted for the Chile-Garlic Glazed Pork Belly with grilled leek salad. I had my questions about the pork belly, but having seen people swoon over it on TV several times I thought it was worth a try. My concern was that the pork belly, which is taken from the belly of the pig and is often used for bacon, would be overly fatty or have a squishy texture. I also wasn’t sure how close it would be to bacon—although I absolutely love bacon, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a plate of bacon covered in a chile-garlic glaze. But it wasn’t like bacon—it was like heaven. Whatever fat was in the pork belly had melted into the succulent meat, adding flavor and richness instead of greasiness or an odd texture. The sauce that coated the meat was Korean style with a bit of spice. The grilled leek salad that accompanied the dish complemented the pork belly and sauce perfectly. Just as the heat of the sauce would build in intensity, a little bite of the leek salad offered a cool relief. This dish definitely qualifies as a forbidden pleasure, and I think everyone should indulge at least once.

While I fell in love with the magic qualities of pork belly, my mother enjoyed a refreshing, cold cantaloupe soup. It was smooth and creamy, and the initial coolness and sweetness of each spoonful gave way to a subtle and soft flow of heat across the palate.

For the third course I tried the New World “No Crash” Mushroom Risotto, which contains organic brown rice, portobello, oyster, and crimini mushrooms, sweet peas, leeks, and sage. The risotto was smooth and creamy and came with a little drizzle of delectable olive oil lining the plate. The richness of the dish almost made that drizzle unnecessary, but it elevated the dish from delicious to decadent. The rice was lovely and nutty, the mushrooms added a savory, earthy flavor, and the vegetables provided the perfect amount of fresh flavor to the dish. Absolutely amazing.

My mother, the vegetarian, ordered the Blue Corn Crusted Seitan Medallions with chimichurri, black beans, brown rice, grilled veggies, and greens. It was all piled atop a pile of olive oil mashers and sweet potatoes. For those of you not privy to the world of vegetarian ingredients, seitan is a wheat gluten meat substitute. Not cooked right, seitan is very unpleasant, but, of course, New World does it right. New World actually has a menu that does not exclude vegetarians or relegate them to one or two dishes—and the dishes are so good, you’ll be tempted to order them even if you are not a vegetarian.

We finished the meal with an order from the dessert tapas menu. By the end of the meal I’m usually too full for dessert, but New World offers the perfect cure for this dilemma: teeny, tiny desserts! We both ordered a shot of lemon curd with Maine blueberry compote. It was the perfect amount of a cool, citrus, and fruity flavor without the heaviness of many dessert options. It was a lovely end to a lovely meal.

New World Bistro Bar is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Albany. Chef Ric Orlando has created a dining experience that is delicious and satisfying in a warm and inviting setting.

For those of you who live south of Albany, Ric Orlando has another restaurant in Woodstock called New World Home Cooking Café—another great dining experience.

Be sure to check out my other posts on New World Bistro Bar:
New World Oysters
Thanksgiving Eve at New World
Thalamus Anyone?

New World Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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