New Scotland Ave., Albany, 320-8684. Serving Mon-Wed 3-10,
Thu-Fri 3-midnight, Sat noon- midnight, Sun 11-5 (brunch 11-3).
AE, D, MC,V.
price range: $6.50 (grilled cheese with bacon) to $19 (Avenue
party of five tumbled piecemeal into the restaurant on a recent
weeknight, gusts of the outside chill roaring into the warmth
each time the door opened to admit another. The room remained
cozy, its warmth echoed in the golden wood of tables and bar.
As is Albany’s characteristic, the room filled early, with
most of the tables taken by 7 PM.
At least, so it was in the room we occupied. There’s another,
slightly more austere space with room for larger parties,
but we opted for the society of those in the street-facing
bar, even if it meant competing with a too-large TV beaming
silent but closed-captioned sports programs.
Two members of our group, Al and Sharon, had been to the restaurant
before and had good things to say about the food. I’d also
heard the place praised by others, including the friend who
volunteered to mind my child in exchange for leftovers.
The building, at the corner of New Scotland Avenue and Ontario
Street, was an after-hours gambling hall and saloon that had
slipped into disrepair. When Nancy Kupiec bought the place
three years ago, she had work enough just to stabilize and
recondition it; to make a restaurant out of the place, she
brought in Ronan Tiu as her partner, and he embarked, as of
a year ago, on the job of fine-tuning its look and figuring
out a menu.
Tiu grew up in Clifton Park but has spent the last 15 years
in New York and Chicago, going to college and then beginning
a business career that included restaurant consulting. “We
had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do with this place,”
he says. “We started with a summer menu of panini and a few
appetizers, and by autumn we added the entrées and doubled
the appetizer list.”
And what a variety that list presents! Forget about your typical
fried cheese and wings lineup: Here, the wings combine teriyaki
and jerk sauces, and they’re roasted, so it’s much spicier
(and thus more interesting) than what we’ve come to expect.
($9 fetches a good-sized platter.) A special appetizer of
calamari ($10) also lacked the breading (and, thus, the attendant
oil) but made up for it with great flavor and a tasty fra
diavolo sauce around it.
Another retake on a classic, the stuffed mushrooms ($9), features
a heap of turkey sausage made, like everything else, in house,
with an added flavor of cornbread. A Tuscan meatball soup,
the day’s feature, boasted a mouth-filling confluence of notes
of basil and oregano around the rich broth, while veggie chili,
a regular menu item, is built around the musty deep flavor
of portobello mushrooms. Another regular soup is a corn chowder
that’s milky, not thick, and plumped out with potatoes. (Soups
are $4 for a cup, $6 for a bowl.)
You can make a dinner out of the appetizer of marinated shiitake
mushroom and spinach quesadillas ($6.50), a good-sized portion
enhanced with melted cheddar and served with sour cream and
We didn’t explore the sandwich-panini page much, except for
Sharon’s order of a smoked turkey and cheddar panini ($9),
a concoction pushed over the top by the addition of bacon.
Chipotle-brightened mayonnaise is another nice feature. Other
sandwiches include variations of roast beef, ham and cheese,
even grilled cheese, although I’m most interested in trying
the Avenue A Cubano ($8.50) next time I visit: It’s a mix
of smoked turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and garlic mayo.
Five salads and seven entrées are dubbed signature dishes.
Al was expecting more in the salad department when he ordered
the broiled salmon and baby spinach salad ($15). A layer of
greens decorated the plate, but the salmon dominated, helped
by poached pears and a zippy papaya vinaigrette.
(beef brisket) stew ($13), paella ($19) and meatloaf ($15)
are items I wish I’d tried, but I was delighted with chap
chae ($17), a Korean-inspired dish in which sweet-potato
noodles are tossed with sliced beef, shiitake mushrooms, scallions
and vegetables, and plenty of good garlic. Homemade kimchee
arrives on the side, as it does for the bulgokee ($18),
which lets you wrap broiled sirloin tips in lettuce with rice
and hot sauce.
There’s a twist to the tempura, literally: The $16 dish sports
big, battered shrimp along with curly clumps of vegetable
slices, knotted into a lacy array.
Chef Un-Hui Filomeno was most recently at the Ginger Man;
adding her to the staff was serendipitous, says Tiu, because
she followed up a rumor that a chef was sought and “turned
out to understand exactly what I wanted to bring to Albany.”
While naming the restaurant Avenue A is a tribute to the East
Village, where Tiu lived for a while, he also likes the cosmopolitan
flavor of the name. “I wanted to offer something different
to the area,” he explains, “with plenty of personal touches.”
Our sole complaint of the evening was the excess time our
appetizers took in arriving—a product, he says, of so many
orders hitting the kitchen at once. “We don’t have heat lamps
back there. Everything is finished and served right away.
But we’re working on pacing things more effectively.”
With no official grand opening and practically no advertising,
the restaurant already has attracted a large and loyal following,
which isn’t a surprise. It’s an ambitious place that’s already
delivering nicely on its promise. As our party returned to
the cold street, I regretted bargaining away my leftovers.
By Taylor Eason
it comes to wine bottles, bigger can be better
our culture of excess, more is better. And if you’ve got a
houseful of people during the holidays, having more wine is
definitely better, if only for sanity. Bottles measuring 750
ML (the normal size you see everywhere) fail to fit the bill,
so why not buy the big jugs? These family-size 1.5-liter helpers
can save you money, and you’ll have enough to dive in yourself.
isn’t all the stuff in big jugs swill?” you might ask.
Actually, no. And, to further muddle the issue, there are
two grades of big bottles: affordable ($10 to $20) and high-end
($80 to offensive). High-end big bottles age well and collect
dust quite effectively. Wine ages better and slower in big
bottles due to the volume, but these highly coveted items
are seldom available for sale except at wine auctions (many
state laws prohibit sales of them, for whatever idiotic reason).
Large-format bottles are so special that they even have their
own lofty-sounding names, defined by how many 750-L bottles
are contained in them: Mag num: two bottles; Jero boam: four
bottles; Reh oboam (rare): six bottles; Methuselah: eight
bottles; Salmanazar: 12 bottles; Balthazar: 16 bottles; and
Nebuchadnezzar: 20 bottles. Wine geeks haven’t lived until
they’ve seen one of the mammoth bottles in person. Makes you
want to move into one.
Low-end, affordable large-formats are sold simply for convenience,
like buying milk in gallons instead of quarts. And, incidentally,
the wine in the big bottles is the same stuff in the smaller
ones. No fear that they’re filling the big jugs with wine
mopped off the bottling floor.
The big bottles are easy to find at wine-selling stores across
the country, and most fall around the $12 mark. American wineries
had drifted away from marketing the 1.5 in recent years—probably
because of the negative jug-wine image—but it seems they’re
back on the rise. The Aussies had been kicking our ass, per
usual, but we caught on to their usefulness.
To deliver you the best of the big, I convened a panel of
judges to serve as 1.5-liter guinea pigs. No one knew they
were judging jugs, since I poured the wine from 750-L bottles
and hid the labels. Our results follow.
2003 Chardonnay (California) Laced with apricot, sweet
vanilla, ripe peach, and goes down real smooth. An easy drinking
wine, to be sure. Sweetness = 3. $20 for 1.5 L.
Vendange 2004 Chardonnay (Calif ornia) Sweet peach, tangerine
and easy acidity define this light, refreshing chard. I didn’t
think it was a chardonnay at first, and it caused one person
to exclaim, “I might have to rethink my chardonnay bias.”
Excellent value. Sweetness = 3. $10 for 1.5 L.
Barefoot Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (California) “Dee-lish,”
fruity and full of bright cherry. “Very drinkable,” a good
everyday wine. Sweetness = 2. $11.
Tail Shiraz (Australia) This triumphant brand out of Australia
took America by storm a few years ago, and it’s still captivating
people. Tastes like spiked cherry Kool-Aid, but has a rosy,
elegant fruit-bomb character. Sweetness = 1. $12.
Lindeman’s 2004 Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon (Southeast Australia)
For those looking for a bigger, heftier big jug. Flirts with
black cherry and tobacco, then opens up with ripe raspberries
and smoky red currants. Sweetness = 1. $12.50.
Alice White 2003 Cabernet Shiraz (Southeast Australia)
Juicy, mellow and friendly. “Sitting up, talking-trash-at-my-friend’s-house”
wine. Oozing dark cherry, some dirty blackberry. Sweetness
= 2. $12.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
recently celebrated the grand opening of Villa
Italia Pasticceria in a beautiful new building
at 226 Broadway. It signals the rebirth of an
institution that served the city for 40 years
from its former space in Rotterdam. The Mallozzi
family (which also runs their namesake restaurant
in Rotterdam) is positioning itself to be part
of the rebirth of downtown Schenectady itself,
characterized by the expansion of Proctor’s and
the expected arrival of several new shops and
restaurants. The new Villa Italia totals 7,200
square feet, five-sixths of which is given over
to the commercial bakery, producing breads, pastries,
fancy cakes and much more; the retail shop also
features sandwiches and homemade gelato. And the
display cases, true to the family’s roots, were
imported from Italy. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail email@example.com).
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..