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Creo: An All Around Success

August 29, 2011

The MHK first visited Creo not long after its much ballyhooed opening near the beginning of 2009 (I’ve always wanted to say “much ballyhooed” – thanks for indulging me); this was way back before there was an MHK. We remembered liking it a lot, and so we were very excited to return this past Friday night. Creo has become a very popular place in Albany, and for good reason. The atmosphere is bright and bustling, but the noise level is not an issue; it just feels like a busy place, but we never felt neglected by our server. And the food is creative, eclectic, and delicious.

The bar was crowded but not overly so at 7PM last Friday, and we had a drink while we waited for our table. Creo has some interesting signature martinis and other cocktails; we tried the blood orange margarita, which featured blood orange puree inside their regular margarita – it was very tasty. Creo has become a regular happy hour hangout, and was voted Best Happy Hour in Capital Region Living magazine.

For those who haven’t been to Creo yet, it’s a very unique building. Made from a lot of recycled materials with a focus on being “green,” the dining room features a lot of bamboo, wood planters, and recycled lighting materials. It’s a very pleasant and inviting space, and luckily the food – including its presentation – is good enough to match.

Creo’s menu features a lot of small plates, plus salads, pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and entrees, along with daily specials. Small plates include items like the chilled lobster and crab plate; crab cakes; ahi tuna spring rolls; fish tacos; blue cheese potato chips; and their signature dish, the lobster and avocado tart. Our group shared the spring rolls, Kung Pao calamari, the lobster tart, and a risotto croquette special. The croquettes were described as being filled with asiago and mozzarella cheeses with the risotto, served with a garlic truffle and basil cream sauce. Texturally the dish was a success – the crunch on the croquettes was perfect, and the inside was creamy and soft, with the rice cooked just right. The sauce was also very good, and complimented the croquettes nicely. But there was basically no seasoning in the croquettes themselves – the inside was very bland, and without the sauce, the dish would not have been too good; it was the weakest dish of the evening. The spring rolls were fantastic – the rare tuna wrapped in puff pastry was sliced to look like Beef Wellington, and the red pepper sauce was very tasty. The calamari was also delicious – the rings and tentacles were lightly breaded and while there wasn’t anything necessarily “Kung Pao” about it, other than the sauce which was Chinese in flavor, it was very appetizing. The lobster and avocado tart looked like a work of art – two nice-sized pieces of lobster meat, lightly breaded and fried, sat atop slices of avocado and tomato, with a round tart supporting it all. The lobster was cooked perfectly, and all the flavors harmonized beautifully on the palate.

Creo’s salads include dishes like the heirloom tomato salad with arugula and mozzarella; the Creo Chop with avocado, bacon and blue cheese; and the one we tried – the goat cheese and berries salad. A very large, breaded round of goat cheese sat atop field greens and fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. The cheese was gooey, creamy and went very well with the sweet berries; it wasn’t the most unique salad, but it was very good.

If you haven’t tried Creo’s pizza, we highly recommend it. Wood-fired pizza imparts such great texture and flavor, and Creo’s new Executive Chef Brian Bowden takes full advantage of this wonderful kitchen tool, offering pizzas like one with yellow tomatoes, basil puree, avocado and ricotta; blackened chicken with blue cheese and red onions; one with wild mushrooms, Taleggio cheese and a fried egg; and one with chorizo and rock shrimp. We tried the blackened chicken pizza – again, not the most unique in terms of the ingredients, but the taste was extraordinary. The smokiness of the blackened chicken really shone through, and the blue cheese was not overpowering. It was a well-crafted and well-executed dish.

We had enough room left for either an entrée or dessert. After looking over the dessert menu, which includes items like key lime pie, crème brulee, and bananas foster bread pudding, we felt like nothing really jumped out at us, so we went for an entrée. Selections include herb-crusted wild salmon, steaks, panko-crusted halibut, a pork porterhouse, and the crispy half duck and waffle. We tried the latter, a modern, upscale take on chicken n’ waffles. The duck was succulent and delicious, with just a light crisp on the outside. The cornmeal scallion waffle left something to be desired – it was very thin and soggy from the tasty sesame soy butter. There was no textural contrast between the duck and the waffle – had the waffle been a bit thicker and not soaked in the sauce, the dish would have been a homerun.

Creo’s small plates range from $6-$18, salads from $7-$13, pizzas from $11-$15, and entrees from $22-$38. If you go with a group and share a handful of dishes, it’s actually very reasonable. Our group’s bill came to only about $40 per person, including drinks; definitely worth it for the quality of the food, service, and overall atmosphere.

The Mouse House Kitchen gives Creo 4 out of 5 stars!

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