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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Restaurant Weekend, Part One: Carmine's

Today and tomorrow I'm checking out restaurants new and (slightly) old. Today's entry is too new to review, but too appealing to ignore.


Carmine’s Brazilian Grill 
4 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, NY, 518-729-4477

The passadore arrives at your table with a long skewer in hand on which is speared one or more chunks of meat. With a few deft flicks of the knife, generous portions are carved onto a plate. You help yourself to as much as you’d like.

The bacon-wrapped turkey tenderloin is moist and smoky, and you’d like a few more medallions of it, but you know there’s more to come. And soon enough the roast lamb comes by, followed by the mustard-rubbed pork tenderloin, followed by a chicken legs osso buco, followed by flank steak. And there’s still more to be sampled at the starters table.

The official opening is March 22, but the doors already are open, which is how I got a look at and taste of Carmine’s Brazilian Restaurant. My official review won’t occur for at least another three months, in order to give the place time to get running smoothly.

It’s a gold mine of a concept. Although he made his name locally with Italian fare, this time Carmine Sprio has filled a conspicuous hole in the area’s range of cuisines. His eatery is a churrascaria, which is a Brazilian style of steakhouse. You’ll find one at Turning Stone Casino, and in larger cities, but it’s a first for Albany.

The $32 fixed-price menu gives you starters at a help-yourself bar where cheese, roasted beets, marinated olives, gazpacho, a salad of orzo and chickpeas, white bean salad, roasted potatoes and asparagus, shaved meats and much more await.

When you’re ready for the meat procession, flip a marker at your table to green side up. You’ll already have chosen your side dishes, such as mashed or fried potatoes, black beans, polenta, or various vegetables.

And you’ll have done so in a hip, savvy manner, using an iPad that not only lists the selections but offers a video introduction to the restaurant and its fare. Social media is an important marketing tool, and Carmine is working on several angles to keep the buzz exciting, including the ability to blog your experience right from your table.

We saw the state-of-the-art rotisserie that dominates the kitchen, still being fine-tuned during pre-opening week. “We had some hot spots,” Sprio explained, “that the manufacturer is continuing to work with us on adjusting. They’ve been wonderfully cooperative.”

Excellent service was a hallmark of his previous restaurant, so it’s no surprise that he’s been busily working with the new staff. He noted that those working as passadores (termed gauchos for us gringos) this evening will swap out with the other servers the next night, so each member of the floor staff can easily cover for one another.

A tasting menu also will be available, and there will be à la carte pricing. “We have a couple of vegetarians in tonight,” he said. “With what we’re offering on the starters table, they’ll have no problem.”

The dining room has been handsomely finished with earth tones and tile; the bar, which looks out on Sheridan Ave., is roomy and comfortable. I predict a great success, and look forward to my official return.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. Exceptional food and atmosphere. We are lucky to have such a talented restaurenteur in Albany