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Illium Cafe

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Illium Cafe is located in Troy, on Broadway, which is around the back side of where the outdoor Farmer's Market is held. The restaurant is not a restaurant per se, but a breakfast and specialty sandwich place. The decor is a bit rustic, but also nice and open. When I arrived, it took a few minutes for me to be seated. As it turned out, the one server on staff was also doubling as host, and was in the back at the time.

Since I was dining solo, I had to be creative in ordering my menu sampling. For my "dine-in" meal, I ordered the Cajun Pork-belly & Crispy Prosciutto Open Faced Panini. For "to-go" items, I ordered the Chimichurri Surf & Turf Sandwich, and Crispy Peanut Butter & Jelly Pain Petite.

The theme of my experience is "almost perfect." Each dish, while wonderful in many ways, was just "one off" from being perfect. Take the Cajun Pork Belly, for instance. What can go wrong with a sandwich of bacony goodness? Sadly, the misstep here was with the savory bread pudding. It really wasn't savory at all. There was a sweetness, and maple flavor, that really didn't go well with bacon, eggs, and cheese. The bread pudding would have been best served as its own menu item because it had great flavor. Just not a flavor that went with the rest of the dish. Also, the construction of the sandwich made it impossible to cut through with the butter knife that's provided. It really needs a steak knife. However, the other components (brie, bacon, eggs, spinach) were absolute perfection. The hollandaise sauce had no flavor, so I'm kind of negating its presence for the most part.

My "to-go" items were sampled soon after, to ensure freshness for my review. For the Surf & Turf, the filet was absolutely divine. It was tender, juicy and flavorful. I was skeptical that a filet, served on a sandwich, would actually be tender. I was happy to have been proven wrong. My main critique was that the blue cheese really overpowered the dish. In general, filet and blue cheese go really well together. However, with marinated flavors in the filet, and a pesto dressing that comes with its own competing cheese, adding blue cheese to the mix was just one step too much. Again, a great sandwich, but just one step away from perfection.

The PB&J was dessert on a sandwich! I'm normally not a peanut butter person, but throw chocolate hazlenut, marshmallow, and jam, and even I'll turn into a believer. The one component that made me sad was the condition of the marshmallow. It was so warm that it basically bled underneath the sandwich, making the eating of it a challenge and ridding the inside of much of the marshmallow flavor. The makings of a great sandwich, but a misstep on part of the execution.

One highlight I do have to make is the bread. Whether it was the savory bread pudding, the foccacia, or ciabatta, the bread was some of the freshest, and moist I've had. Along the same lines, their homemade cole slaw was very, very good.

My server was very pleasant, and friendly. However, I believe he may have been new. His tone of voice was so low, I found it difficult to hear him. He also wasn't too familiar with ingredients. I do give him credit for going back to the kitchen to ask. Since the open floorplan gave direct view of the kitchen, it wasn't difficult to overhear the conversation transpire between the chef and the server. I was somewhat disappointed to hear the tone of the chef. She didn't really seem overly willing to help answer a simple question.

All in all, would I return to Illium? Yes. The individual flavors were that good, even with the execution missteps. I'm intrigued to see what their other offerings taste like.

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Cajun Pork-belly & Crispy Prosciutto Open Faced Panini Chimichurri Surf & Turf Sandwich
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Crispy Peanut Butter & Jelly Pain Petite