Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Comment
   Looking Up
   Reckonings
   Opinion
   Myth America
   Letters
 News & Features
   Newsfront
   Features
   What a Week
   Loose Ends
 Dining
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
   Leftovers
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
 Music
   Listen Here
   Live
   Recordings
   Noteworthy
 Arts
   Theater
   Dance
   Art
   Classical
   Books
   Art Murmur
 Calendar
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
 Classifieds
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
 Personals
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 AccuWeather
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad
Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Dinner and a Show

A 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.

My 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 speeds.

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) pricing.

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.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Judy 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 (e-mail food@banilsson.com)


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

Your Name:
E-mail Address:*
Location:
Rate It:
Comments:


* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
   

 

0104_116E
In Association with Amazon.com
Process your (secure) HTML forms for free
Pick7_120x60
 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.