Fish Meets Rice
Western Ave., Albany, 438-1144. Serving dinner Mon-Thu 4-10,
Fri-Sat 4-11, Sun 4-9. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
price range: $12 (eggplant parmigiana) to $26 (seafood
long ago, I dined at a well-recommended Spanish restaurant
in Manhattan. I had my mouth set for a traditional paella—that
wonderful rice-based compote of seafood and sausage—and was
disappointed when served a bunch of bland fish over rice delivered
from steam-table storage. The two hadn’t met before hitting
There are hundreds of paella recipes, but they boil
down to a sauté of the components, together, in a wide but
shallow pan, the paellera. And it turned out that I
needed to go no farther than Albany to find it prepared well.
Barcelona for many years was the Michele da Verona restaurant;
it changed hands and name in 1998, to what I then termed “an
earth-colored villa.” Two years ago it changed hands again,
and owners Paul and Minerva Perez have kept the basic look
but ramped up both the food quality and the friendliness.
Although Barcelona positions itself as a Spanish restaurant,
there’s a more continental feel to the menu. Chef Perez was
born in Mexico and steeped in the Oaxacan fare of his boyhood,
but his most recent local gig was in the Italian kitchen of
Paolo Lombardi’s. And he clearly understands that to succeed
in this market, you need to accommodate the tentative.
But the food should win over even the most cautious. The seafood
($26) shamed the downstate batch, arriving with a generous
assortment of fish—including a half-lobster atop the plate,
which my daughter immediately claimed—mixed with chorizo and,
of course, rice nicely redolent of all those briny juices.
Small rings of calamari, baby clams, succulent mussels and
shrimp completed the generously sized dish.
Many seafood entrées give you more than enough to choose from,
including a sautéed trout (deboned) in a lemon-garlic sauce
served with prosciutto bits and saffron rice ($16), salmon
served with white beans, tomatoes and spinach in a lemon white-wine
sauce ($18) and black pepper-rubbed tuna in a Mediterranean
pesto cream sauce ($19).
You’ll find easygoing preparations of steak and lamb—carne
for the carnivorous—and pork tenderloin in a tomato-rich
Mediterranean array ($18). Veal Daniel ($20) turned out to
be a very appealing pasta dish, with medallions of battered
veal sautéed with mushrooms and prosciutto, with a touch of
bourbon in the dark tomato cream sauce that made an excellent
linguine accompaniment long after the meat and veggies were
I have to confess that I’m finding bruschetta a tiresome
appetizer. If you’re going to mess with Italian bread, I reason,
just slather it with garlic butter and be done with it. Trying
to balance little chunks of tomato atop a dry bread slice
is ever-hazardous to my shirts.
But Barcelona offered a bruschetta appetizer that put me in
no such peril: the bread was topped with a thin, creamy layer
of an artichoke-spinach combo that worked well, and, at $8
for four slices, made the house a sweet portion of dough for
Eggplant rollatini ($8) is an appetizer that would work equally
well as an entrée. A ricotta and spinach filling was seasoned
to give it more depth of flavor than I would expect; with
a marinara-mozzarella topping, it was like a gourmet eggplant
Other starters range from the Spanish, like grilled chorizo
($9), to the Italian (mozzarella and tomatoes, $8), to the
bastardized Italian (fried mozzarella sticks, $7). Stuffed
mushrooms, fried calamari and grilled portobello mushrooms
also fall in that price range, and I recommend the opportunity
to try the caracoles ($7)—escargot served on Italian toast
with a white wine pesto sauce.
These recurring items—pesto, the Mediterranean combo of tomatoes,
olives and garlic, the wine-based sauces—these are among my
favorite flavors, and chef Perez combines them so skillfully
that the effect on the palate is a joy.
And he positions some of his most innovative dishes under
the “salads and light entrées” menu heading. Salad Barcelona
($12) puts fried calamari atop a mesclun mix with a lemon-oil
dressing; vegetarian ($12) gives you the glory of the rice
stew without all that messy meat. Spiced rice and beans ($12)
reads simply enough: “sautéed black and white beans with saffron
rice and marinated vegetables,” but those vegetables turned
out to be an unexpectedly tasty array, squash and broccoli
and cauliflower among the components. For once I believed
the promise that they were marinated.
Just as there’s much tradition and variation among paella
recipes, so too does flan tend to change. The Barcelona recipe
($5.50) adds some cream cheese to give it a thicker texture—not
what I expected, my own preparation being more of the custard
variety, but a worthy dessert when you’re accustomed to it.
A reasonably priced and wide-ranging wine list offers by-the-glass
choices as well. Service couldn’t have been friendlier, and
was reasonably attentive—but my wife had to go prowling for
milk to accompany her tea before the stuff got too cold. Nevertheless,
Barcelona remains on our short list of places to revisit even
though I won’t get reimbursed by the newspaper, and that’s
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
chef Eric Masson’s French heritage, the Saratoga
Lake Inn and Bistro offers its Fête des
Rois (Festival of Kings) menu Jan. 20-23.
The four courses include an appetizer (your choice
of crepe stuffed with ham and mushrooms, escargot
sautéed with wild mushrooms or quiche Lorraine),
salad or soup, an entrée of chicken and vegetables
in a velouté sauce, petit filet mignon du chef,
or sole amandine—and a special “Cake of the King”
dessert. Dinner is $29 per person (before tax
and tip), and you can make reservations by calling
the restaurant at 587-8280. Hours are Wed-Fri
5-9, Sat noon-10, Sun noon-8. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
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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..