B. A. Nilsson
dining-out population can be divided into two species: Those
who patronize chain restaurants, and those who do not. Those
who patronize chain restaurants do so with a limited awareness
of the impact on the local economy and oneís own culinary
sensibility. According to my highly unscientific study, the
principal motivations behind chain-restaurant fealty are laziness
and fear. Chain joints plop down where the big-box stores
spring up, giving the unimaginative goods seeker a sort of
Stepford shopping-and-dining environment. Effort is required
to discover the goods outside the garden path, and a spirit
of adventure to depabulumize the palate. We want wheat loaves,
not white bread; brioche, not biscuits.
So hereís a bakerís dozen of the best of the places I visited
during the past 12 months. They run the gamut of pricing and
cuisine; theyíre near, theyíre far. Youíre covered.
Only a couple of weeks ago I shared my impressions of Avenue
A (289 New Scotland Ave., Albany), a new, casual eatery with
an anything-but-casual menu. Different cuisines swirl around
from plate to plate, with a menu that ranges from meatloaf
to Korean bulgogi. Albany traditionally is about 20
years behind food trends the hipper parts of the country enjoy;
Avenue A pares the gap to 10.
Back at the beginning of the year, I visited Koto Japanese
Restaurant (260 Wolf Road, Colonie), still thriving in a spot
that has housed a variety of Asian eateries. Here you have
high-tech meeting the old traditions, with LCD screens over
the bar even as the special dinners arrive in quaint lacquer
boxes. A room of teppanyaki tables provides entertainment;
a subdued back room gives you peace.
A combo of Japanese and Korean fare is offered at San &
Bada Sushi Bar (1800 Western Ave., Guilderland), where Eddie,
the sushi master (formerly of Lathamís Ginza), plies his magic.
The menu doesnít venture beyond what (seasoned) area diners
would expect, but youíll find an excellent soup called
gji gae, which mixes kimchi, a rich broth and pork or
tofu. Teriyaki, tempuraóitís all there.
Also in Guilderland, we revisited BFS Restaurant & Catering
(1736 Western Ave.), where chef-owner Shaw Rabadi continues
to offer excellent Med iterranean dishes along with a continental
menu that features some of the best heart-healthy and vegetarian
dishes Iíve tasted. But itís the falafel, those deep-fried
chickpea patties, that I canít resist.
Which is one of the reasons I also revisited the Hidden Cafť
(180 Delaware Ave., Delmar). Still tucked into its corner
of Delaware Plaza, the place has transformed in obvious and
subtle ways, dressing up inside even as the menu has gone
beyond its core of Middle Eastern dishes to include chef-owner
Joseph Solimanís inspired versions of continental classics
as well as his excellent original dishes. Itís worth visiting
for the marinade on the lamb kebab alone, but Iíve never had
a less-than-excellent dish there.
this Middle Eastern cookery is a local trend. I devoted a
piece early in the month to three such places in Troy. Ali
Baba (2243 15th St.) is a long-lived stalwart where Turkish
fare reigns (including some wonderful pizza variations) and
the durum wrapped kebab (akin to a gyro) is the areaís best.
And donít forget the puffy loaves of lavash with garlic
sauce. Marmora Cafť (203 River St.) is a breakfast-lunch place
that features the cooking of Moheb Habib, whose Egyptian-inspired
specialties are served alongside classic deli sandwiches and
amazing soups. Donít forget a slice of baklava. And Iíve been
back a few times since to Al-Baraki (184 River St.), where
Paul Chedrawee produces specialties from his native Lebanon;
get the sampler plate and youíll be hooked; try the garlic
spread and youíll go out of your mind.
Head nearby to Latham for the best taste of India in the area:
itís at Karavalli (9B Johnson Road), where youíll be able
to sample items from more of the countryís provinces than
is typical. Such as dosai, a paper-thin lentil and
rice confection served with aromatic dipping sauces and a
side of dal, and chemmeen pappas, from Kerala,
flavoring shrimp with coconut, chili and coriander. The staff
couldnít be more gracious.
Schenectady hosted yet another Italian restaurant, but this
one, Lorenzoís (1733 Van Vranken Ave.), raises the bar. Danny
DeLorenzo takes a gourmet approach to northern Italian fare,
and you can tell by his creamy polenta and crispy chicken
alla forno that he knows what heís doing.
Meanwhile, the Bearís Steakhouse (Route 7, Duanesburg) approaches
40 years in business, relentlessly turning out the best steaks
in the Capital Region in the most accommodating house hosted
by the nicest family on the remotest stretch of road you can
Saratogaís restaurant scene is relentlessly aswirl, with enough
changes in store for 2006 to keep us very busy. A couple of
recent arrivals proved impressive: Tiznow (84 Henry St.),
named for a racehorse, galloped through its first summer with
ease. Owner John Costanzo has recreated the feel of his favorite
Manhattan bistros, while the menu reflects an upscale, French-Asian
The Artisan opened a few blocks down Caroline Street from
Broadway, mixing fine dining with an artistic sensibility
(note the changing displays). Start with something like the
fried eggplant Napoleon and enjoy the way the house-smoked
tomato sauce infiltrates the component veggies and cheese;
go on to the Chilean sea bass because of the caramelized fennel
and leek that comes with it.
Our farther-flung favorites included New World Home Cooking
Co. (1411 Route 212, Saugerties), where chef-owner Ric Orlando
continues to defy convention and coax amazingly wonderful
flavors from the freshest ingredients, and Rodizio at Turning
Stone (5218 Patrick Road, Verona), where you can seek respite
from the slots and roulette at the Brazilian-inspired churrascaria.
Itís gimmicky as all get-out, but the food is terrific, including
an excellent salad bar of exotic side dishes and an endless
procession of grilled meats. Itís worth a gamble.
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 Proctorís 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 familyís roots, were
imported from Italy. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail email@example.com).
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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..