and a Show
well-traveled friend assures me that the combination of high-tech
and old tradition mingled in the restaurant Koto would not
be completely out of place in downtown Tokyo, although it
might seem terribly old-fashioned because there’s not quite
enough of the high-tech end of things. “You’ve got to stop
thinking of Japan as something quiet and quaint,” he insists.
antiquated image derives mostly from cookbooks that stress
the simplicity of both the food preparation and the proper
setting. Nowhere in my collection is teppanyaki mentioned,
that compelling fusion of theater and grillwork that has popped
up all over the Capital Region in recent years, augmenting
what once was the singular province of Hiro on Central Avenue.
Koto occupies the spot once held by Peony and the Silver Pavilion,
although the place has been so extensively refurbished that
it looks nothing like its predecessors. The vertical fountain
of a pebbled wall that greets you at the doorway, the word
Koto inset with contrasting rocks, suggests something of the
whimsy of old Japan, but an oversized flat-screen TV blaring
from behind the sushi bar brings you back to the current century.
The tourist experience prevails if you’re lucky enough to
share a teppanyaki table with another party. My daughter and
I were placed with a birthday-partying party of seven who
approached the experience with a certain amount of uncertainty,
although I give them credit for choosing this venue in the
first place, especially as the birthday child was young enough
to prefer a place with only primary colors in the decor.
Once the dinner gets started, it’s theater, of course, a well-worn
formula practiced with skillful insouciance by our tableside
chef, Peter, who whizzed his spatulas into blurry motion,
danced eggs from a spatula to his high-topped hat and chopped
our sizzling ingredients with great precision at fantastic
The resulting dinners are never less than delicious (you pay
from $14 to $20, more if you want lobster or filet mignon),
but they’re so rich with butter and soy sauce that it’s not
surprising. With soup, salad (topped with a ginger-citrus
dressing) and a few grilled shrimp to get you started, it’s
a lot to try to eat.
Although the front room of the restaurant is dominated by
those teppanyaki tables, there is plenty of room for simpler
dining, as we learned when we stopped by on a busy holiday-season
evening. The place seemed jammed full, but we were led well
into the back where a few empty tables awaited.
Even there, you can order full meals of the tempura and teriyaki
selections, with soup and salad as the additional courses.
Tempura is deep-fried food that doesn’t seem deep fried because
the batter is light and the frying is done quickly enough
and at the right temperature to prevent too much oil from
collecting in the crust. Shrimp and vegetable tempura ($15)
proved the artistry of this venture, with a generous array
of ingredients fanned across a decorative plate.
Teriyaki refers to a marinade that gives a puckery tang to
whatever is cooked with it, in this case the usual components
of sirloin, shrimp and chicken along with salmon, eel or mixed
seafood and even tofu, priced from $11 to $22.
The best deal is the bento special. The name refers
both to a type of meal typically eaten while traveling and
to a black lacquered box in which it’s carried. At Koto, the
meal is $17 for your choice of tofu, chicken, steak or seafood,
with teriyaki and tempura versions available. Rice, salad,
a California roll and a few steamed dumplings accompany your
selection, although the dumplings threatened to steal the
show, so finely crafted and tasty are they.
If you don’t mind that large television dominating your field
of vision—and who (besides me) does in this day and age?—the
sushi bar offers another dining option, where you can enjoy
seeing your meal prepared (if the TV isn’t too distracting).
A selection of sushi-based dinners offers soup or salad with
the meal and slightly more generous (for sushi, at least)
We sampled the sushi during both of our visits, and can report
great satisfaction with the spicy tuna roll ($6) as well as
the Alaskan roll ($7), an oversized compote of salmon, putative
crabmeat, avocado and cucumber. These are served on attractive
rectangular plates with the usual accompaniments.
I like the teppanyaki show and enjoy a good serving of sushi,
but nothing tops a fine bowl of noodle soup. Priced from $12
to $20, they feature a range of components (lobster tends
to make things costly), but the $14 nabeyaki udon
also got me a few sticks of shrimp tempura alongside a large
serving of delicious broth with chicken, egg and vegetables
swimming with the thick, slurpy noodles.
My only reservation about this restaurant is the corporate
feel about it. It turns out to be part of a small family of
such restaurants dotted about the Northeast, which makes it
unsurprising that there’s a cookie-cutter feel about the design
and the service. You’re typically under the care of one server,
which makes it tough to get a check when the place is hopping.
Several management types seemed to be less than fully occupied
when I was studying the place—it would be nice to see more
cooperative activity on the floor.
But careful (and costly) refurbishment has made this an attractive
destination, certainly worth a shot when you want your steak
served a little differently.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, authors of The
Book Club Cookbook, will be at the Schenectady
County Public Library (Clinton and Liberty Streets,
Schenectady) from noon-5 PM Sunday, Oct. 17, to
discuss and sign their book. The event is a fund-raiser
for the Capital Campaign to expand the downtown
library to include a new children’s center, gallery
and performance space. Samples of food made by
area restaurants from The Book Club Cookbook
recipes will be offered for sale. Gelman and
Krupp interviewed book-club members all over the
country to see what they were reading and eating;
the result is a collection of 100 entries, each
focusing on a literary masterpiece. . . . The
Hudson Valley Council of Girl Scouts will
hold its third annual Cookie Cuisine event from
6-9 PM Tue, Oct. 26 at the Italian-American Community
Center (Washington Ave. Ext., Albany). Honorary
Chair Carmine Sprio, Ric Orlando and a host of
talented culinary teams take on the challenge
of preparing gourmet entrées and desserts using
Girl Scout cookies. This year’s participants include
the Arlington House, Aromi D’Italia, Capital District
EOC, Carmine’s, Crowne Plaza, Magnolia’s, New
World Home Cooking, Real Seafood, SUNY Cobleskill
and 333 Café. Tickets are $35; pony up $75 and
you’ll be part of the honorary committee. For
reservations, call Sharon Smith 489-8110, ext.
105. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..