Chez Mike - Sept 2015
6.87 – 7.5, 7.25, 7.2, 7, 6.5, 5.75
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A fine-dining haven in a strip mall in East Greenbush? Sure enough, just as the sun was setting, we found such a contradiction as we wound our way over the Dunn Memorial Bridge and out Routes 9 & 20 to Chez Mike.
          Self-described as Eclectic American, the menu proffers a satisfying range of appetizers and entrées, most of the entrées clustered in the low-$20 range, salads not included.

The salad/app course choices this evening:
--> Caesar Salad (Chay, Deb T, Kriss, Ken: all deemed very good)
--> Arugula salad special, with roasted beets, pickled red onion, goat cheese, pistachios, port wine vinaigrette (Deb K: very good); Deb T had a version of this with her entrée
--> Chilled Corn Soup, with lime cream and chili oil (Don: a worthy try, interesting, but thinner than expected)

From the entrée list:
--> Corn/Cheddar Risotto, with Cajun spiced shrimp and local country ham (Chay: very good)
--> Pork & Peach Milanese: breaded thin pork cutlet, roasted peaches, arugula, feta, roasted red onion, balsamic (Deb T: very good, typical pork; the sides complemented well)
--> New England Style Seafood Chowder, with little neck clams, shrimp, haddock, sea scallops, dice potatoes, bacon (Deb K: good, fresh, not her chowder consistency, a bit salty, wanted more filler)
--> NY Strip Au Poivre special, with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, haricot verts, brandy-green peppercorn pan sauce (Ken, Kriss: both ordered medium-well, one with sauce on side, both very good to excellent
--> Grilled swordfish special, with sweet potato hash, sautéed corn, poblano pepper, braised black beans, salsa verde (Don: excellent, meaty, with the sides adding layers of flavor)

The drink list included a bottle of Casa Lapostolle 2012 Carmenere (a very infrequent choice on restaurant lists) and two water/sodas.

We bided our time for dessert decisions, with little jumping out at us. One person ordered a scoop of ice cream, instigating three to follow. The ice cream was advertised as  made on-premise and, for a change, home-made ice cream tasted as good as it should.
          Deb tried the cinnamon-pecan (loved it, I tried but not my pleasure zone); Deb K the marshmallow (she moaned); very berry (Don: excellent, with good flavor and chunks of fruit); a
          Kriss ordered the chocolate. Ohmyohmyohmy. Viscuous but not cloying, fudgy but not thick, with chocolate explosions from tip of tongue to back of throat. Don and Kriss v
          And Ken ordered the only “real” dessert – the lemon tart, with a side of strawberries and cream. (good, I think he said, but our ice cream sounded better)

At dinner’s beginning, two wire, cloth-lined baskets arrived with diagonally sliced French bread, accompanied by Kalamata olive softened butter. Bridget warned us the butter was as good as crack, not that she knew anything about crack, provoking an early laugh.
          The bill, per couple, with tax, tip, and drinks came to exactly a C-note.

Service by “Bridget” fit our group quite harmoniously. A bit shy and diffident at first, in almost a conspiratorial presence, warmed to us, giving advice as asked for, adding information in manageable chunks, maintaining Ken’s coffee fix, and checking in without being obtrusive.
          She, with other waitstaff, brought out orders, not my favorite method if the other waitstaff has to ask where orders go but Chez Mike got it right, with one exception, quickly re-positioned. Water glasses were filled regularly and plates whisked away appropriately. Good service is easy to assume, but we do not take it for granted, as we have observed over the years.
          We got off to a slow start, mostly our fault. Bridget came to take orders and we were focused on our calendars, checking for DP8 dates for the rest of the year. We motioned to come back in a minute, and it took ten. But, when things started, the pace kept a comfortable schedule, and we actually left Chez Mike a bit short of two hours.

Ambiance was…. interesting. The room was classic strip-mall store floor space, decorated as nicely as can be, with a chest high wall dividing the main restaurant space from a small bar and sitting area in the rear, which one would not see unless visiting the bathrooms.
          A dark paneled, sound proof ceiling created a closer feeling. Seven booths lined the right side, a wall length banquette lined the left, and about ten tables filled the center. Two of the sturdy, dark-wood tables were pushed together for us, with Chay and Ken anchoring the ends. A cloth-wrapped set of a knife and two forks, along with a small plate, marked each place. A combination of panel wainscoting on the one side matched the rose pastel of the banquette side. The semi-high noise level abated as the evening went on, and the cool air AC current settling over one end of the table eased within ten minutes. Soft music filled the background, audible only toward evening’s end.
          Lighting was the classic recessed store ceiling type, with the more interesting sets of six sconces of red/white swirl glass along the side walls.
          One would not tout the ambiance of Chez Mike as outstanding but credit is given their efforts.

The evening started at the Teator house, on a late September afternoon warm enough to avail ourselves of the deck. Plates of crackers, salsa, hummus, two kinds of pizza bites (from the new Freehold pizzeria), cheese, and grapes awaited, accompanied by a Finger Lakes wine, two gin & tonics, and IPA.
          Topics of discussion at the house, in the car, and at the restaurant included:
No fill-ins for the evening, leaving us at DP6; Deb’s pastel gallery in the sunroom; a sale or two of a painting; a Cranwell expedition by the Karneses; Minnie Brynnie, or the second bundle of joy for the Monteverds; quiet street tensions; a Teator trip to Deerfield and Manchester; dwindling summer; the Notar trip to Alaska, and now somewhere else, running competition with the Wexlers and Adamses; the Adamses’ month in Paris and environs; Denman, out in the wilds some place; the Quinn kids and college and work; no politics; no religion, except for the Pope in NYC; the Monteverds’ new Florida house and details; post hole digging and fence building across from the Teator house; driving 787 vs I90/87 for the Freehold/East Greenbush connection; departure dates for Florida or elsewhere; DP8 dates until January; Deb taking a green peppercorn from Ken’s plate (gasp)...; and other topics that have eluded my bear trap memory!