Choice Caribbean Cuisine
Fulton St., Troy, 272-4544. Serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2,
dinner Mon-Sat 11-9. MC, V.
price range: $7.50 (tripe and beans) to $15 (snapper)
First of all, the lunch buffet is one of the best values in
town. For $5.50 you get a choice of jerk or curried chicken,
or a robust chicken stew, peas and rice, steamed cabbage,
fried plantain and a vegetarian dish like ital stew (mixed
vegetables cooked with plantains in coconut milk). The buffet
runs from 11:30 to 2:30.
The dining room is casual, with a dozen or so tables and booths
in the cheerful space, its ambiance livened by reggae and
the many images of Bob Marley on the walls.
We get along with others much better when we dine at their
tables. This isn’t simply true of otherness characterized
by ethnic or geographical differences: I dine often with known
conservatives and thus maintain close friendships with them.
When seeking to understand other countries, nothing bridges
cultural and philosophical gaps like good cuisine. We all
enjoy what’s satisfying and delicious, and shared food engenders
shared trust. So why is it that college students tend to be
the best gustatory ambassadors? Is there a hidden food mandate
in the American Dream, something on the order of: Graduate,
Get a Job, Settle Down, Henceforth Eat Only Hamburgers and
In the three years that Ricardo Brown has been running First
Choice Caribbean in downtown Troy, he’s noticed that business
slows a little during the summer when the students go home.
Nevertheless, there was business afoot during my couple of
recent visits, including some customers clearly unfamiliar
with the cuisine but willing to take a chance on the affordable
buffet. Brown was happy to help, pointing out what was what
and explaining how it was made.
He’s a native of Jamaica who has a hand both in the kitchen
and in running the floor, and who likes to keep that personal
touch part of the restaurant’s identity. “We make our own
jerk seasoning,” he says, referring to the pungent blend that
combines the heat of Scotch bonnet peppers with the sweetness
of nutmeg and allspice.
It’s a seasoning—and cooking style—thought to have originated
with the Cormantees, the runaway slaves of the islands, in
conjunction with an Arawak Indian method of preparing pork.
And pork was, at first, the favorite meat for this process,
first bathed in the seasoned marinade, then cooked in an earthen
pit. Now it’s a recipe applied with equal success to chicken
and other meat, and the chicken at First Choice sports an
excellent mix of flavors that adds just enough fire to keep
it lively without searing your lips.
The chicken curry, on the other hand, leans in the milder
direction, although there’s no lack of flavor complexity.
My young daughter, whose spicy food tolerance threshold is
growing ever more accommodating, named both dishes as favorites
(and would dine here daily, given the chance).
You can get chicken wings here ($5.75), or a cheeseburger
($3.50) or even a plate of fish and chips ($6). But why bother?
For $9 you can enjoy a jerk chicken dinner, which comes with
peas and rice and a salad. (Keep in mind that “peas” is a
term for beans, “red peas” for kidney beans.)
A variety of beef cuts are on the menu, including pepper steak
($11), stew beef ($8.50), roast beef ($12) and some variety
cuts like tripe and beans ($7.50) and oxtail ($10). I’m quoting
the full dinner prices, by the way; most of these items are
available without salad and a side for a dollar or two less,
and those that make it to the lunch menu are less expensive
Traditional jerk pork is available at both lunch ($5.50) and
dinner ($8.50). I made a point of trying the curried goat
($5.50/$9) because it’s a meat I haven’t enjoyed in a while
and I was pleased to be reminded of its inherent sweetness,
a nice compliment to the complicated spice mixture surrounding
Don’t forget the seafood offerings: Your generic fish dinner
is $12; if you make it snapper, you’ll pay $15. Curried shrimp
Another signature dish is callaloo ($9), a thick soup based
on the large, heart-shaped leaves of the dasheen plant, which
also has a tuber that can go into a mix that also includes
carrots, onions, salted beef and a bunch of okra, all of it
cooked in coconut milk.
Obviously, one of the benefits of a meal here besides the
good food is that sense of dining in an exotic locale. True,
there aren’t any palm trees or ocean-scented breezes to enhance
your tropical experience, but I can guarantee that you’ll
be a little disoriented when you open the door at your dinner’s
end and find that it’s only downtown Troy staring you in the
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
beer is back at the Van Dyck (237 Union
St., Schenectady), with 60 kegs of ale already
in the fermenters and another 20 being brewed
this week. The first batches, now on tap, are
an unfiltered pale ale and a full-bodied brown,
with a blond ale to follow next week. A porter,
amber and wheat beer will be on tap in the weeks
to come. Troy’s Michael Beauchea is the Van Dyck’s
brewer, and the brewery itself is the only true
German brew house in the Capital Region, with
the precise temperature control necessary for
the production of pilsner-style beer. Brewery
tours will be available, as well as beer tasting
for private and corporate groups. The Van Dyck
is open 4-11 Tuesday-Thursday and 4-midnight Friday-Saturday;
for more info, call the restaurant at 381-1111.
. . . Also in Schenectady, the Farmer’s Market
continues until the end of October, with local
farmers selling their wares Tuesdays at St. Luke’s
Church at 1216 State St. and Thursdays at City
Hall on the corner of Franklin and Jay streets.
You’ll find everything from vegetables to flowers
to handcrafted candles, and there’s even a chair
massage available. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
want your feedback
you eaten at any
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.
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..