Albatross

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I can’t hear the word Albatross without thinking of John Cleese walking among the audience at the Hollywood Bowl trying to sell an albatross to the crowd like it was beer or peanuts.

Nonetheless, Gail and Carol Scott and I went to Danville to try out the new restaurant there, Albatross.  It’s a shame they don’t have the bird on the menu; who could resist?

Albatross has a gorgeous facility just across the street from Lunardi’s.  Bright and airy, with plenty of outdoor seating for the clement months and a very colorful, modern looking bar.

We started with the “crispy artichokes”, which weren’t really crispy and didn’t have much artichoke.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That little tiny stem sticking out of the bottom of the pile is a small slice of artichoke.  The rest is endive and spinach leaf, burrata cheese and pistachio gremolata.  The three of us shared 2 portions of this, and while we enjoyed it, kept looking in vain for more artichoke.  A $13 dollar dish should have more of the first item mentioned in its name.

Carol had the Jidori Chicken.  That’s just a brand of chicken, not a style of cooking.  Adding brands (like Niman Ranch Beef or Frog Hollow Farms peaches) is good marketing–makes the food look “special” and you can charge another $3.

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This was a serious failure of presentation.  Carol loved her chicken, but not how it was served.  There was an indeterminate mass of white stuff, which turned out to be Country Friends Polenta (more branding) mixed with wild mushrooms, some nameless greens and perhaps the rest was broccoli rabé.  The polenta was very thin, white not yellow and pretty tasteless.  She ate the chicken.

My dinner was more interesting.  I had the green garlic cacio e pepe, a pasta dish with cheese and pepper.  It is supposed to include morels, but I put the kibosh on that quickly.

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Apparently, you can’t get out of culinary school these days if you don’t cover everything with arugula.

The pasta here was a thick, al dente bucatini, which is not my favorite but stands up well to the thick cheesy covering on this dish.  The green garlic is not a strong flavor but gently leads the pasta in taste. I got my veggies from the fresh peas that gave flavor and pop to this very pleasant meal.

Service was friendly and helpful.  Gail asked for 1/2 glass of the Chardonnay and was told the house doesn’t do that.  Then a 1/2 glass appeared, which is as it should be.

I thought there was a considerable wait between the first and second courses, on a night the house was less than half full.  Makes me worry about what it will be like on a warm summer evening.

I have to call this a mixed experience, but we’ll most likely give Albatross another chance. The facility is too exciting to miss when we can eat outside and bring Claudia.  I want the cacio e pepe again, and we’ll try some other dishes.  Hope they can find more artichokes and improve that dish–it had such good intentions, just not enough of the star ingredient.

And I still want to try some of that albatross John Cleese is hawking.

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