Restaurant review: The Kitchen Table in Albany – Times Union

Crisp-skin pork belly is served simply, with roasted apples in a vinegar shrub at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
The former New World Bistro Bar, on Delaware Avenue in Albany, has been rebranded at The Kitchen Table, with the same owners and a new-last-year chef.
Windows offer a view into the bright kitchen parts of the dining and bar areas at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Duck confit is served over vegetable cassoulet at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Carrot-juice risotto topped with a slice of sticky raclette at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Clockwise from top left at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar: olive-oil drenched focaccia basted with lemon preserve and marjoram, the Cranberry ’95 cocktail and a winterf salad with dinosaur kale, radiccho and nostril-clearing fresh horseradish.
Fried sunchokes have translucent batter shells, to be dunked in piquant pear mustard at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Apple crumble a la mode at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Looking in to the raised bar area at the center of The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar. 
The Doctor’s Orders cocktail contrasts bittersweet marmalade with smoky mezcal at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Arancini with a smoked-mozzarella core are served with tomato jam at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar.
Though the pannacotta at The Kitchen Table in Albany, the new identity for the former New World Bistro Bar, is too firmly set, but dehydrated orange-peel slivers add superb bittersweet crunch.
Perhaps you know the children’s party game where a wrapped present is passed in a circle, and any time the music stops the holder removes a layer to reveal more wrap underneath. It goes on like this until the final layer is removed and that child wins the gift. I’m beginning to feel like this about New World Bistro in DelSo, on Albany’s Delaware Avenue, which was rebranded last year as The Kitchen Table in new shiny gift wrap. 
Many of you will have eaten here since its original 2009 opening under owners Annette Nanes and Scott Meyer, with chef Ric Orlando on the pans. Or maybe you were inspired by the change in guard during the pandemic, when the young married chefs Zach and Hannah Welton moved from Texas to put a fresh perspective on upstate farm food. But here I am, for my third review, and having a lovely time. 
In spite of the lamentably uninspired new name, The Kitchen Table is comforting, partly for its familiarity but also thanks to food as cozy as a sweater. The lights are dim, new murals grace walls, and you can watch the silent Noh play movement of chefs in the stark white kitchen behind glass. As always, the bar area in the center of the restaurant is elevated and partially enclosed with brick walls for a more intimate space. And the takeaway is that cocktails are creative, food substantial and service friendly. Perhaps it’s not surprising for what, at least in restaurant years, is a veteran operation. But with chef Ian Brower leading the kitchen since April, it might simply be a case of the right marriage at the right time. 
Brower has worked alongside creative chefs at Peck’s Arcade and the original Donna’s Italian in Troy. His boundary-pushing chops were on display as executive chef at Lost & Found, with dishes not always executed smoothly, but pushing the envelope, Sean Brock-style, in combos hard to find elsewhere upstate. At The Kitchen Table, it seems as if his skills have met a calmer ambition focused on hyper-seasonal ingredients but letting fire, acid and time deploy their flavor-boosting ways. 
It’s why a slew of regional farms are name-checked, an in-house pickle program is served on a plate, and all elements of a charcuterie board are house-made. It’s why a two-finger slab of house-cut pork belly is luscious and fatty with crispy gold crackling, an ideal simply paired with fried sage and roasted apples in a vinegar shrub. Fatty richness and orchard sweetness are cut by the acid — nothing more needed. 
The carrot-juice risotto is stained beta-carotene orange in a gloriously vivid bowl swirled with sticky raclette, thrumming garlic and plump arborio rice swirled to a precise al dente. In general, risotto is a good measure of kitchen patience — underdone, overdone — but I could eat this every day for a week. It’s bitter cold outside, which makes it hard to choose between house-made pappardelle with short rib ragu, house-made pecorino-parsley sausage with soft polenta and Calabrian chile, or corned pork — pork! — and cabbage. These are the rib-sticking plates of winter. And with St. Patrick’s Day not far off, the last is a variation I want to try.
We crack breaded arancini rice balls with smoked mozzarella at their core and dunk hunks in an oddly sweet tomato jam; we munch olive oil-drenched focaccia basted with lemon preserve and marjoram. A mound of fried sunchokes, the delicately flavored root of a sunflower, sport translucent batter shells and resemble golden orbs as we eat them with piquant pear mustard. As much as I crave the citrus salad in honey, mint and chile oil, we pick dinosaur kale purely for the nasal-clearing potency of freshly grated horseradish — a brilliant underused player for a winter salad. 
Since we’re dining early, we see tables fill and servers carefully space out two- and four-tops like a checkerboard. We appreciate the technique. Cocktails are anchored by ginger-honey syrups, vinegar fruit shrubs and various amari. A Doctor’s Orders makes clever use of bittersweet marmalade and smoky mezcal; the rye and red wine Queen of Hearts would be a New York Sour if not for the earthy sip of Pellegrino amaro. There are nearly two dozen beers, no- and low-ABV among them, and an inspired wine list priced to move yet including carignan, barbera and even negroamaro rosé in a dozen options by the glass. A beautiful thing.
The truth is I’d happily come here solo any night for the cold roast beef with celeriac remoulade and toast, Le Calzone with stracciatella and red sauce (hello, Donna’s) or a grass-fed double burger topped with fried egg. But we still have more food coming: a vegetable cassoulet with confit duck leg not as softly tender as hoped, but the stew cuts a rustic winter mood with thick lengths of smoked skin-on carrots, navy beans, sliced celery root and mushroom caps left whole. Take this one home to eat by a fire. 
Only desserts seem to slip: An apple crumb a la mode runs diabetic-shock sweet, and a blood orange panna cotta is set so tight it’s close to cream cheese. But all credit for the dehydrated orange peel slivers that add superb bitter-sweet crunch. I’m often asked where in Albany to go for a good, consistent meal, one that won’t break the bank, with decent cocktails or wine. Turns out, in its newest unwrapped version, it’s The Kitchen Table.
The Kitchen Table
(formerly New World Bistro Bar)
Where: 300 Delaware Ave. Albany. Rear parking lot. 
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday 
Price:  Food, $3 to $32; cocktails, $12 to $15; beer, $4 to $9; wine by the glass, $9 to $13. Wine list available.
Info: 518-694-0520 and thekitchentablealbany.com    
 
Award-winning food and drinks writer and longtime TU dining critic, Susie Davidson Powell, has covered the upstate dining scene for a decade. She writes weekly reviews, a monthly cocktail column and the biweekly e-newsletter The Food Life. Susie has received national awards for food criticism from the Society of Features Journalism and served as a 2020 James Beard Awards judge for New York state. You can reach her at thefoodlifeTU@gmail.com and follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thefoodlife.co

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