Chez Albert: When a Decadent Lunch is On the Menu

Duck Confit
Duck Confit.

I heard the news that Chez Albert is closing up, after 13 years as Amherst’s top restaurant.  I remember when there were crowds waiting to get into their former space on South Pleasant Street, in the space with the big old bank vault that has never been a successful restaurant spot since Chez moved down the street five years ago.

Ed had never been to Chez Albert--and was quite astonished at how good it was!
Ed had never been to Chez Albert–and was quite astonished at how good it was!

The owner came out and said that after 13 years, he’s done working six nights a week. And business has slowed up, so he decided to pack it in.  Sad for us, but I sympathize.  Getting customers to bite on a menu with $24 lunch entrees is a challenge. But today, we went in and indulged in it all.

Choosing some wine from the menu, we selected a Cabernet/Merlot, something I almost never do at lunch. I fear the post-wine crash. But today, Friday, with my good pal Ed egging me on, sure, pour me a glass!  Then appetizers–I’ll take the escargots, sure, garlicky and savory and Ed picked the pate.  And the same waiter who’s been head of the house since they opened, with the charming French accent, whisked away our wine glasses to refill them and brought more French bread to soak up the escargot sauce.

Slow braised lamb shank atop polenta.
Slow braised lamb shank atop polenta.

Oh yeah!  It was lunch, but we plowed on…I ordered duck cassoulet, which comes smothered with caramelized onions and a rich dark sauce.   Ed chose the special, 8-hour braised lamb shank, which sat atop polenta.  Perfect!  He was awed.

“How come I never knew this place was here?” he asked me with incredulity.

I assured him he had seven more weeks to enjoy these savory treats before the place is gone.

The chocolate mousse at the end and the fine coffee was the perfect cap.  A place like this is rare, enjoy it while you can.