315 EATS: The Terrace Café by O’Connor’s – Utica, NY

Editor’s Note: 315 Music is pleased to welcome Jingya Huang as our first restaurant columnist. Periodically, we will feature reviews of restaurants throughout the 315. These will publish on Friday mornings to get you ready for the weekend eats. After all, we all need to eat before the show, right?

For the first food review here at 315 Music, I’d like to start with this recent find – the Terrace Café By O’Connor’s.

I had been interested in this restaurant for a while as their Facebook pictures are very enticing. The first time I went there for a work lunch and the second time for a date, both times I was very happy with the experience.

First of all, it is a true Terrace Café at the Museum by Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (The Terrace Cafe by O’Connor’s » Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute (mwpai.org). You can expect the nice view and vibe of this place. On a beautiful day, it is highly recommended to reserve a table on the terrace, and the tables on the outer side if possible.

The service and the environment are my favorite. After reading so many reviews recently about the negative impact of COVID-19 on restaurant service quality, the service here is such a blessing. I love the genuine desire to serve customers from the waiters here. Both waiters (I only saw 2 waiters on both visits) are nice and you can tell they want you to enjoy your experience here and they really take pride in their work and working at the restaurant.

The first time, I ordered the Fried Deviled Eggs and the Seared Salmon; the second time, Chicken Tapenade and Sweet Curry Chicken Wrap. The flavor and the presentation of the food have been consistently excellent. The portion is just perfect.

The Fried Deviled Eggs is a warm twist of the regular deviled eggs. The preparation is probably quite similar. but instead of just adding the yolk mixture to the hardboiled egg white, the egg white “shell” is deep-fried and served warm. The egg yolk mixture is coarser than the usual kind, and also more refreshing because of the addition of horseradish and Dijon mustard. Well-balanced flavor. For people who do not mind horseradish it is a nice one to try.

Seared Salmon – The Terrace Cafe by O’Connor’s in Utica NY

The salmon was seared perfectly with a nice glazed crust. The inside was still tender and juicy which is the key to a successfully cooked salmon dish. The sweetness in the glaze gave the light dish a beautiful touch. There was a mystery ingredient in the dish that at first, we thought was scallops. It is actually round cornmeal croutons to cleanse your palette. But, it tasted like a spoonful of pure salt! Well, left that one out, this was a great dish.

The chicken had a beautiful flavor and you have to eat the chicken with the mixture on the top – a depth of flavor. However, the chicken was a bit over-cooked so it was a bit dry.

The wrap was served cold and the rich curry flavor is a good option for people who like a bit of a kick but not the spicy kind.

It is interesting that both times there were some hiccups and both times the waiters handled it very well.

The first time, the younger waiter Dylan(?) served us. He is extremely friendly and explained things in good detail. He even told me the story of the restrooms that the small restroom at the entrance of the museum is the first in the area. My fish came with a hair on it and they apologized and took it back immediately. The waiter brought a new dish back and told me they would not charge me and would give me a dessert for free. The way they handled this make me feel very good – not because of the “extra” apology of not charging but the sincere attitude. After this, the waiter apologized sincerely again and again, also told me how bad the chef felt about himself. Hey, things happen and their attitude is golden! Moreover, when I received the bill, they did not charge another mousse my coworker had in addition to my “free” entrée and dessert. Wow. Their service deserves an appreciation from the customer: out of pocket extra tips on top of the “maximum” 20% allowed by our company policy.

The second time, the elder waiter served us. He is also very nice. After I finished my meal, I shared my thought about the overcooked chicken. He apologized and said he would share this with the chef. I thought it ended there – isn’t that the usual case? Before we left, he came back and told me the chef felt sorry and he would be more careful next time. Some would argue that it may be the same and they would not change but my point is that how they handled customer service. Here, the customer service makes you feel you are truly respected.

Speaking of dessert, they only had two available, strawberry mousse or chocolate mousse. Of course, I picked chocolate. Unfortunately, it was not quite to my taste as it was a bit “greasy?” Anyway, I will try something else next time.

Overall, this is a great place to go (however only lunch and afternoon tea time) and I highly recommend it. It is a good option for dating, business lunch, and…Instagram, lol. If you have more time, maybe check out the museum for an art walk that helps you digest the food.

The Terrace Cafe by O’Connor’s » Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute (mwpai.org)

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