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Table Talk: 15 Church Street

By Blaze Marshall

Sunday, June 7, 2015

You know how I love to seek out new dining destinations.  If I hear it’s good enough and not too far, I am there!  A great new restaurant’s reputation travels fast in the North Country.  Being a native of Saratoga Springs, I consider that my stompin’ grounds as well.

            No culinary journey is too far if it’s good.  Better yet, great!  Such a place is Thomas Burke and Paul McCullough’s 15 Church Street in downtown Saratoga.  A tiny little building nestled in back of the old post-office and across from Saratoga’s new Bow-Tie Cinema.

This beautiful restored historic building houses a surprising Manhattan style bistro that opened almost one year ago.  You need to find parking at an open lot across the street or at the two story parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue.

Arriving when they are busy guarantees wall-to-wall people.  The bar is only steps away from the front door and just a few tables are located near the front windows.  A large glass wall to the left makes the room look much larger than it is, but hidden in the back are 6 – 8 high-tops booths away from the hustle and bustle of the front bar and room.

Companion and I met Mr. Banker and Ms. In the Know.  A hostess inside the front door had our table waiting although we were at least 15 minutes early.  No other tables were open and the place was jammed.

We were seated, our coats taken to places unknown and menus handed to us, as Michael arrived to offer tap or sparkling water.  He was back in a flash to recite the nightly specials including a hanger steak with crisped spinach.  He deftly recited every single ingredient and preparation by heart of at least three other offerings including an Ahi tartare appetizer.

Executive Chef Brady Duhame’s menu is a la carte, creative and challenging.  The latter, because of its meticulous variety of intriguing dishes from starters to sides to entrees.

But first, a wondrous wine selection with numerous choices by the glass including Brooks Winery “Janus” 2011 pinot noir, Sancerre sauvignon blanc and Domaine Champalou Vouvray.   All my personal favorites.

Companion would celebrate her birthday with a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc brut from the champagne region of France.  Ms. In the Know, a Trefethen chardonnay from the Napa Valley.  Mr. Banker and I preferred our usual cocktails.

Chef Duhame’s menu features starters of crispy oysters, prime steak tartare, ricotta gnocchi bolognese, hand crafted cavatelli pecorino and cauliflower veloute.

Entrée selections include a Brady’s burger with cave aged gruyere, bacon, caramelized onions and hand cut fries.  You can add a farm egg on top and I would. It’s delicious!  There is also a filet with gorgonzola, duck breast, chicken “Under a Brick,” arctic char and tuna with sticky rice.

Side dish selections are broccoli rabe, hand cut fries with Russian dressing, brussels with bacon, wild mushrooms, whipped potatoes and rainbow chard.

We were served a basket of warm, hard crusted peasant bread and softened butter with roasted garlic.  I easily could have made a meal of just this.

Mr. Banker opened with crispy sweetbreads, thinking he was going to get some pieces of fried dough with cognac cream sauce.  We were amazed when we found he did not know he was devouring thymus gland of veal, a prized delicacy.  They were very firm, creamy smooth and had a very delicate flavor.  He loved them!

We also shared a smooth and creamy chicken liver mousse with quince chutney, cornichons and grilled rounds of that wonderful bread.  It was served in a cast iron crock.

The ladies, at Michael’s suggestion, shared a wedge salad with crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, crispy onion and dressed with gorgonzola dressing.  It was declared “Delightful.”

It was my salad however, that stole the show!  Four mounds of a horseradish crema and chevre cheese topped with diced pickled beets and sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts.  In the center, a wedge of soft boiled egg that blended perfectly with duck crackling.  An amazingly delicious combination.

Birthday girl chose a perfectly poached Chilean sea bass accompanied by Swiss chard, ginger, pieces of duck crackling and soy yuzu aromatic sauce.

Ms. In the Know delighted in a platter of scallops served with cauliflower-apple puree, brussel sprout leaves and warm bacon vinaigrette.

Mr. Banker and I hankered for and chose a generous portion of braised short-ribs.  Fork tender, finished in red wine and sprinkled with a gremolata of minced parsley, lemon peel and garlic.

We also had a cast iron tureen of Yukon whipped potatoes with fresh chives and a side of brussel sprouts with bacon, onion and horseradish.

Although satisfyingly full, you can’t help but to continue to get even more of a good thing.  Thus, dessert.  We finished with six cinnamon coated balls with a donut texture accompanied by two pouring bottles of vanilla and caramel sauces.

As we began to devour this magnificent, delectable dessert, the owner; Paul McCullough, came by with a small complimentary carafe of Ouzo liquor for each of us.  Generous and appreciated.

Well, by now you can tell 15 Church Street is not your average bistro.  The ambiance, service and presentations are exquisite and rarely found in most restaurants.  The attention to detail admirable and the service is unhurried, friendly and impeccable.  Most notable, the presentation of every dish is eye popping and creative.

15 Church Street is not for the faint of heart or pocketbook.  It is a bustling, somewhat loud atmosphere that surprisingly makes you want to linger, wondering what the next course will bring.

Worth the trip from our neck of the woods?  You betcha!  Put this dining destination right at the top of any list!

15 Church Street, Saratoga Springs, (518)587-1515, www.15churchrestaurant.com

Open  Mon. – Thurs. 5 – 9:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5 – 10 p.m.

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