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photo:Shannon DeCelle

Yessiree Kabob
By B.A. Nilsson

Anatolia

880 2nd Ave. (at 125th Street), Troy, 237-8888. Serving daily 11-10. MC, V.

Cuisine: Mediterranean and pizza

Entrée price range: $$5 (gyro, ziti) to $15 (mixed shish-kabob plate)

Ambiance: fancy pizzeria

Several levels revealed themselves during the course of a visit to Anatolia. First, and simplest, is that of a pizza joint. Pies emerged from the oven, flew into boxes, headed out the door. Then there’s the family-dining eatery. People were schlepping their kids in and out. Pasta and wings were served, sodas chugged. As befits the building’s legacy as the onetime Colonial Restaurant.

We were there because of rumors of Mediterranean fare, rumors well confirmed when my urfa kabob arrived. It’s a skewered sliver of lamb and beef, ground and seasoned and grilled ($10). It’s served on a plate dressed with tasty rice pilaf, alongside another, yellowish pilaf with a contrasting flavor—more nutty—that turned out to be bulghur.

Alongside was a puffy loaf of lavash bread, with a garlic-yogurt dipping sauce. If this sounds like Ali Baba, the wonderful Mediterranean restaurant on Troy’s 15th Street, it’s no coincidence: Anatolia owner Max Baikal worked in Albany alongside Ali Baba owner Huseyin Cakal a few years ago, and Cakal urged his friend to start his own place.

So don’t be surprised by the similarities. A major difference, and this was yet another level revealed, is the friendly comfort of the place. It’s a little fancier than its southern neighbor, although it’s really the difference between casual and very casual. But Baikal has decorated his restaurant with fabrics and artifacts from his native Turkey, and the items, revealed to us during a tour of the place, are beautifully crafted.

The kitchen is pretty much out in the open, and the main dining room gives you a view of the culinary proceedings. There’s another adjacent room, although we avoided it because it featured a long table set for many and sporting a reserved sign, and there’s no dining hell worse than being stuck beside a party of a dozen or more, all clamoring to be heard at once.

As it turned out, both rooms remained relatively subdued while we were there, which was just as well: Baikal was working the floor himself; keeping up well with the orders, it’s true, but not able to pause for too long.

Because dips like hummus (based on chickpeas) and baba ganouj (based on grilled eggplant) are such staples of the cuisine, they feature both as independent starters ($4 and $5, respectively) and as part of a mixed appetizer plate ($8) that serves as an excellent place to start. Add some stuffed grape leaves, redolent of mint and parsley, a grilled eggplant salad and a red kidney bean stew (pilaki) and you’ve got plenty to work with. The hummus was light and unusually refreshing; the baba ganouj had an unexpectedly smoky flavor to it that caused it to be consumed quite quickly.

We sampled hot appetizers as well, starting with another classic bean-based dish: falafel ($5). It’s usually served as a sandwich in pita with lettuce and onions and a yogurt sauce, but here as a starter the fried chickpea patties are served atop their brethren of hummus. Excellent textures, too, with an herb-rich flavor that lingered.

You may be used to the phyllo-wrapped baklava, a crunchy dessert of honey-sweetened walnuts (available here for $4); phyllo is also used on the cigar boreks, a hot appetizer ($5) that arrives looking like cigar-sized cookies; they’re filled with seasoned feta cheese, and leave such banalities as fried mozzarella sticks in the dust.

An Anatolian salad ($5) for the table sets off the hot stuff nicely. Along with an array of greens are tomatoes, red cabbage and green peppers, in an olive-oil-and-lemon-juice dressing.

We completely skipped the portion of the menu dealing with pizza and wings, but noted that gyros (the real thing) are available for $5. But we did sample a pizza-like pide, in which the pastry is shaped like a pointy Italian loaf, available with a variety of meats and cheeses ($8). The chicken variety included tomatoes and green peppers—and we added cheese for $1. Otherwise, look for ground beef or even, bringing more of the Mediterranean together, pepperoni.

The meat for a gyro is traditionally a seasoned loaf of lamb and beef that is slow-cooked on a rotisserie before it’s scraped onto a big round of pita. You can also get it as a doner kabob plate ($10), where it’s topped with a rich, dark sauce and accompanied by the pilafs mentioned earlier.

They also complete the shish kabob plates, which feature chicken, beef, vegetables or lamb; we sampled the last-named ($13) and couldn’t get over how good the meat was, very much showing signs of a good marinade and a charcoal grill.

There’s much more to explore here; if you live in Lansingburgh, you’re lucky to have it near you. This is a cuisine of which I never tire, and the pricing—and wonderful hospitality—makes it an appealing stop for repeated visits.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The Gramercy Bistro in North Adams, Mass., recently was awarded a three-diamond rating by AAA, an honor given only to the highest-caliber restaurants. In addition to the new AAA rating, the restaurant was rated 4.7 out of 5 at Fodors.com and was given four stars (out of five) on NYTimes.com in 2004. Gramercy Bistro is a chef-owned and -operated restaurant that serves creative American cuisine with a focus on local, farm-fresh ingredients. The restaurant is located across from the MASS MoCA campus at 24 Marshall St. Call (413) 663-5300 for more info. . . . Brush off your palate for a dinner and wine-tasting event at Parisi’s Steakhouse (11 N. Broadway, Schenectady) at 7 PM Monday (June 6). Featured are Wine Merchants’ Picks for the Summer, with Wine Merchants representative Joe Benny to guide you through the selections. It’s a six-course meal with five wines; they include blackened chicken with parmesan risotto paired with a White Haven (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc; grilled summer vegetables & chorizo with a Frei Brothers (Russian River Valley, California) Pinot Noir; and a Frei Brothers Merlot to highlight grilled swordfish with beef steak tomato and peppered vinaigrette. The event is $50 plus tax and tip, and reservations are required. Call 374-0100. . . . The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets’ Pride of New York program kicks off a series of farm-to-table dinners tomorrow (Friday) at Howe Caverns Restaurant in Schoharie County, which will continue every Friday in June and September. Menus (created by Howe Caverns executive chef JoAnne Cloughly) will feature Pride of New York products while members share recipes and product samples with attendees. For more info, call 457-3136 or visit www.prideofny. com. . . . 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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