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Mediterranean and More
By B.A. Nilsson

BFS Restaurant & Catering

1736 Western Ave., Guilderland, 452-6342. Serving lunch Mon-Sat 11-4, dinner Mon-Sat 4-9. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: Mediterranean and then some

Entrée price range: $13 (dolmas platter) to $18 (Mediterranean sampler platter)

Ambiance: bright and cheerful


A good Mediterranean restaurant by default is well-positioned to offer healthy fare: The tradition of the many seaside cuisines that comprise this category is to cook with fresh ingredients and olive oil and an array of bold-flavored extras.

So it only made sense for Shaw Rabadi, chef-owner of BFS Restaurant, to stress the heart-healthy items on his menu. But he did more than that. He devised a regular array of such items to feature on a separate menu page.

If the chicken florentine ($17) is any indication, this menu might give healthful food an even better name. You’d swear it was deep fried, but the crisp coating is baked onto the bird and topped with a glaze of pomegranate jelly for a mouth-filling combination of flavors. Inside the breast is a creamed spinach mixture; under the breast is a fat-free sauce that’s nevertheless full of persistent appeal. Basmati rice laced with pine nuts and a big slice of spanikopita finish the plate.

Other items on that menu page are a shrimp-and-scallops mix over ziti ($16), grilled swordfish steak ($16), beef and shrimp kabobs ($16) and an $18 Mediterranean sampler that gives you hummus, tabouleh, spanikopita, baked kibbee, moussaka, stuffed grape leaves and more.

This has long been a BFS specialty, these Mediterranean items. Hummus, which I tasted as part of the appetizer menu’s mini maza sampler ($8), has a garlic-infused freshness about it, and you’ll use up plenty of the pita wedges served in lieu of bread. (It’s presented with some butter containers, but you’ll want to dredge the pita through the dish of olive oil spiced with zataar and sesame seeds for better flavor—and health.)

The appetizer sampler also includes a ball of kibbee, which features sautéed ground lamb within a hard shell of lamb and bulghur wheat, an amazing confluence of flavors. A spinach pocket is just that: a pastry shell with a seasoned spinach filling; a couple of stuffed grape leaves, some salad greens, and a traditional tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt) sauce finish the plate.

Any of those items serves as an individual appetizer, along with such delights as baked brie or goat cheese ($6.75 apiece), grilled portobello mushrooms ($7), and even a trio of different hummus styles ($10).

Lunchtime features an array of sandwiches, hot and cold, familiar and abstruse, for $7 or $8. A page of stuffed wraps range from hummus, tuna or deli meats to roasted leg of lamb, battered eggplant and much more.

Other lunch specials fall into the $10 range, including a grilled vegetable platter, a shawarma (gyro) platter built around a kind of meatloaf made with lamb and beef, spanikopita, ziti, lasagna, a falafel platter and more.

Falafel is another BFS specialty. Deep-fried mashed chickpeas are served with a seasoned tahini sauce in pita bread or over salad greens, and I sampled it in the guise of a salad ($7.75). This is the basis of a wonderful meal all by itself, with the crunchy falafel pieces strewn across a plate of crisp, fresh lettuce.

A dozen more salads help fill the page, including Caesar salads with different additions, antipasto salad and much more, good enough for lunch or dinner right there.

Rabadi left a long career as an accounting consultant to turn an on-the-side catering business into a full-time storefront-based activity. It started life as a deli, but so great was the clamor for tables that he soon moved down the street to a larger location with a dining area.

“We no longer carry all of the deli items and imported goods we used to have,” he says, “but there are some things people always insist I carry.” I know the feeling: I’m a big fan of the tahini you find at BFS.

The place also could persuade me to turn vegetarian—at least temporarily. Although most of the menu categories feature meatless items, there’s also a full page of vegetarian fare. For kabob fans, there’s a skewer of eggplant, peppers and mushrooms ($14) that’s grilled and served over rice.

Five different pasta sauces are available for the pasta sauté ($16): Mediterranean, pesto, pomodoro, puttanesca and creamy Alfredo. Under the fish listing are traditional items like seafood stuffed sole ($16) and more adventurous dishes like a baked shrimp casserole prepared in a Greek style ($16).

Greek eggplant and lamb casserole ($16), or moussaka, mixes savory and sweet with a pudding-like béchamel sauce baked atop the more pungent casserole. Roasted red potatoes with a hint of garlic and a pile of excellent steamed vegetables finished the dish.

“I think our plate presentations could be better,” Rabadi insists, but I think he overstates his worry. Mediterranean food has such an array of color to begin with that the food itself is artistic however you arrange it.

And you’ll have plenty more to sample on the entrée page, including enlarged versions of some of the appetizer items as well as roasted leg of lamb ($16), chicken parmigiana ($14.59) and Moroccan chicken ($16), the last-named baked with onions, olives and lemon.

A new wine list is a BFS feature worth checking out, a helpful pair of pages sporting reproductions of the labels as well as descriptions of the well-chosen array. And a calendar of takeout items includes a rotating list of daily specials to keep dinner interesting if you depend on the place for your evening (or lunchtime) meal.

Dining within is pleasant, and warm weather adds some patio tables. Servers are knowledgeable and efficient, and I’ve never been disappointed with any of many visits I’ve paid here over the years.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Chef-owner Damon Baehrel of The Basement Bistro (776 Route 45, Earlton), a wonderful restaurant south of Albany, is offering a cooking class at 7 PM on Apr 28. The theme is Early Spring Vegetables, and featured ingredients are expected to include morel mushrooms, sorrel, asparagus and spring chives, subject to availability. The cost is $40 per person, and registration is required, so reserve space by calling 518-634-2338 or visiting www.sagecrestcatering.com. . . . The Brown School’s annual gala takes place from 6 to 10 PM Saturday (April 9) at the Edison Club, 891 Riverview Road, Rexford. The theme is the Roaring ’20s, and the event features silent and live auctions, music for dancing by the TS Ensemble, and a full dinner. The menu includes chicken picatta, pecan-encrusted salmon and roast prime rib of beef. Tickets are available at $55 per person by calling Meighan Rask at the Brown School at 370-0366. . . . 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...

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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



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