Times Union, Albany NY
By RUTH FANTASIA, Food editor
When dining out, many people choose to order something they can’t cook as well at home. It’s these same people who usually don’t want anything too exotic, like sweetbreads or foie gras, either.
For these people, the Mountain View Brasserie in Greenville is perfect.
Perched high in the Hilltowns just over Albany County’s southern border, the Mountain View Brasserie opened in May, the latest project of Ben and Terry Buel; they co-own the restaurant with chef Max Suhner. The trio is beginning to make a habit out of rehabbing old Greene County restaurants: They purchased the Freehold Country Inn in 1999, rebuilt it and ran it until 2006.
The atmosphere here, even in the barroom, which is well separated from the dining area, is subdued. Fine linens and Wedgwood flatware grace the tables, and exposed beams and French-country accent pieces accessorize the room, where soft jazz plays in the background.
Even the servers are reserved, watching the tables from a discreet distance yet taking care of every need. Despite the conservative atmosphere, there’s no need for men to don suits and ties. All the guests were comfortably dressed, some in clean and nicely fit jeans. The food is a step up from home cooking, but nothing too fancy. The menu is Continental, and much of it, including the shrimp cocktail and rack of lamb, is commonplace.
Three of the four of us started with appetizers, choosing from a list that includes stuffed portobello mushrooms, lobster bisque and fresh mozzarella with tomatoes.
Two Maryland crab cakes ($11) were made with blue crab meat and contained very little filler and nothing that would detract from the taste of the crustacean. They were served on a pool of lobster sauce, a cream-based concoction that always seems to be flavored more with aromatic vegetables and cognac than lobster. A serving of French onion soup ($7) came bubbling hot and oozing with Swiss cheese. The broth was light and not overly salty.
Goat cheese on salad ($9) is ubiquitous in restaurants these days. Suhner’s version has the chevre coated in chopped hazelnuts and gently warmed before being served over fresh mixed greens with a light vinaigrette. Although we found them all quite enjoyable, you needn’t spend money on appetizers here just to feel full. Dinners are served with warm bread and a choice of soup du jour or salad.
The Sunday night we dined, the salads, although unremarkable, were fresh and crisp. The soup was the better choice, a Mediterranean seafood chowder. It was a tomato-based broth scented with saffron and fennel enveloping halibut, tuna, shrimp, scallops and mahi mahi.
Our meat entrees, pork tenderloin with an apple cider sauce ($24) and prime rib ($28 for a 16-ounce cut), were perfectly cooked, juicy and tender. Served with a starch and vegetables, they made hearty meals for the big guys in our foursome. My husband wished only for a bit of au jus to add a little more dimension to his beef.
The lobster sauce served with the crab cakes was also on one of the night’s specials, a salmon filet with crab-meat crust ($24). The fish was some of the finest we’ve had, with a taut flesh and a clean flavor.
But perhaps the favorite of our main courses was the vegetable risotto with shrimp ($21). The creamy rice was rich and hot and studded with broccoli florets, zucchini and summer squash, carrots and onions and then topped with seven meaty, perfectly cooked shrimp. The dish is also available with chicken for $18 or without meat for $15.
We finished by sampling Suhner’s chocolate mousse, a decadent, dark-chocolate version flavored with orange liqueur, and the dessert special for the night, the last of the summer strawberries enveloped in rich, flavorful English vanilla cream. ($6 each).
Dinner for four, including a bottle of pinot noir ($33), coffees, tax and gratuity, came to $240.