The latest buzz in the Capital District food scene is all about Troy Kitchen, which officially opened this weekend after a successful soft opening in late February. The self proclaimed “luxury food court” is a novel concept for the region: four stalls owned by independent restaurants will serve from limited menus, and customers can gather and eat at long communal tables. Judging by its hours, Troy Kitchen appears to be geared at both the weekday mealtime crowd and the late night crowd. In addition to the food stalls, there will be a wine and beer bar, a coffee bar, and a stage for live performances.
I am intrigued by this concept for a couple of reasons. For starters, the mini-restaurants are an interesting mix of cuisines (lobster & seafood, salads, Korean barbecue, and Mexican). I like to mix and match different types of food, and it’s a nice option if you’re out and about with a group that doesn’t necessarily agree on what to eat. Not to mention that lobster and Mexican food are two of my favorite things.
I also like the idea that Troy Kitchen could serve as a sort of incubator for up and coming restaurants. They can build a customer base, get their name out there, and not have to worry about all of the immediate overhead associated with starting a new restaurant. Perhaps there will be some turnover here, in a good way. The businesses can move out once they are a bit more steady, and new food options can keep rotating into the space.
The Mexican stall was not open on Friday night (it will be Magdalena’s Menu from Valatie, which you may also recognize from the Troy Farmers’ Market), but the other three were up and running. We decided to try Troy Lobster and K-Plate, the Korean barbecue option. One minor critique of the setup is that the lines really did not move at the same pace. The lobster stall was the most popular by far, and also the slowest service. If one person ordered from a different stall, they had to sit and wait for everyone else (for probably at least twenty minutes).
We tried the hot-plate from K-Plate, which is spicy marinated beef sirloin, served over rice with pickled radish and lettuce. We added some kimchi to the plate for an extra charge.
At only $6, this plate was a pretty good value, and the stall churned it out quickly. My first impression was that the “spicy” version wasn’t particularly spicy – more of a medium than “hot.” The spice did start to build after a few bites, but nothing unmanageable by any means. The beef was tender and flavorful, and we enjoyed the (relatively small portion) of kimchi. I felt like the lettuce was a bit of a throw-away to fill space, but the little bit of crunch was a nice contrast to the rest of the textures in the dish.
Once we got through the lobster line, we ordered a Maine lobster roll and a cup of seafood chowder. The menu had a few other creative choices that I would love to come back and try another time, including a salad with lobster, caramelized peaches, burrata, and heirloom tomatoes and a shrimp BLT roll.
This lobster roll was definitely worth the wait. Although not cheap at $16, it was packed full of tender chunks of fresh tasting lobster tail. The mayo didn’t have an overpowering presence, and the roll was perfectly toasted and buttery without becoming a mess.
The seafood chowder also had a good portion of meat (including lobster and scallops), and the broth was thick and creamy. It had a nice buttery richness to it. Delicious, although probably not the healthiest soup option.
I was a little worried that Troy Kitchen might be too packed on opening weekend, and we wouldn’t be able to find a seat. There was a decent crowd, but the space felt open and roomy, and the long tables had enough space for almost everyone. I liked the general vibe, but I did feel at times like the music was a little on the loud side. The seating area had more of a nighttime feel to it, which would work well for anyone who is interested in the live performances or stops by after going out for drinks in Troy, but less so for someone who wants to have an intimate conversation. The space is nicely renovated and felt modern and inviting despite a slightly bland exterior.
Final Rating: 8.5/10. I like the varied restaurant choices, and the two that we sampled this weekend were lovely. Troy Kitchen also gets points for a creative concept that is different than other neighboring establishments. Lots of potential here for small restaurants to grow while providing some quality food. A welcome addition to Troy!