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photo:Teri Currie

Japan-ease
By B.A. Nilsson

Dining divides into two major categories: with children, and without. Since I last took a pounding for this opinion, some 14 years ago, the situation has worsened. Gone is the look of furtive guilt that might cross a parent’s face as little Brittany pitches potatoes across the room; now it’s an expression of oblivion, worn while ineffectually chanting, “Brittany, honey, stop that.”

I can only conclude that a generation of babysitters has been thrown out of work.

Thus it was that we recoiled from the hibachi table we’d been shown to during a recent visit to the newly relocated Miyako Japanese Steak House. There’s enough space in this spot, at the corner of Western Avenue and Route 155, to locate those tables in a room separate from the regular tables and the sushi bar, but that only added to our feeling of being trapped when we were placed with a pair of young parents and their three dynamo charges.

Ironically, my wife and I were there with our 9-year-old, whose many years of dining out have persuaded her that it’s worth behaving well to visit nice restaurants. As parents, we were uncompromising on that score.

There’s an added problem with hibachi (also known as teppanyaki) table displays. Some of the more fiery components are dropped when small children are there, and we like it all, right down to the onion ring volcano.

Feigning a more robust interest in tempura and nabemono, we slunk to the other dining room. It’s handsomely appointed, a tribute to the Japanese facility for dressing up a boxlike room into a welcoming salon.

For the record, the hibachi meals are priced from $14 (vegetable dinner) to a deluxe $29 seafood mix that includes lobster and salmon; most hover near $20 and can include any of the most popular meats or fish.

In the other room, you might start with miso soup ($1.75), a gentle soybean-based concoction that warms the palate; there’s also onion soup for the same price, and a $5 seafood soup. Salads can include avocado, tofu or seaweed, among other ingredients; a house salad is served with most entrées, however.

My wife believes that tofu is the key to health and happiness, and thus orders anything that contains the flavor-free bean curd. She got a little more than she bargained for with the appetizer age-dashi-tofu ($5), but that was because of the flavor imparted by the added fish flake. Not unpleasant; just unexpected.

While I awaited sushi, I nabbed a dumpling from my daughter’s gyoza ($5); the full-to-bursting dumplings contain a creamy shrimp and vegetable filling that barely needs the accompanying vinegar sauce.

A sushi roll called “Spicy Dynamite” seems a large bow to western silliness (ditto the ones termed “Spicy Key West” and “American Dream,” the latter working shrimp tempura into the mix.) “Spicy Dynamite” ($5.50) adds “super spicy sauce” to scallops, with the result being . . . kind of wimpy. My wife says I’ve burned out my heat sensors; I’ll leave it to you to decide.

One thing I can’t argue with is her predilection for noodle soup, so charmingly celebrated in the movie Tampopo (the soup, that is; not her predilection). Her bowl of nabeyaki udon ($13) in size alone reminded us how foolish it is to order an appetizer if that’s on the radar. Shrimp tempura is served alongside, which isn’t always the case with presentations elsewhere of this soup; chicken slices and lots of vegetables float alongside the thick noodles in a mild broth that continues to pick up flavors as you make your way to what seems to be the ever- retreating bottom of the bowl.

One way we persuade our child to behave is to let her order stuff you really might want to carefully ration, like tempura. You can’t beat it for crunchy goodness, but it is deep fried, with the attendant fat calories. So we helped solve that problem by insisting that she surrender some of the choicer bits of chicken and vegetable that arrived on the $13 plate.

Tempura, available in combos of vegetables, chicken, shrimp or other seafood, is batter coated; agemono is breaded and fried, and can be ordered with chicken, pork or seafood. Vegetables, meat or fish are also available seasoned with teriyaki sauce and broiled, always a nice way to enjoy a piece of steak or salmon. I opted for a different salmon approach, however, choosing nabemono, or hot pot dish.

Ishikari nabe ($19) is another take on the noodle soup approach, but substitutes tofu for noodles while still including a generous array of vegetables and huge chunk of the seafood. It’s a tribute to chef-owner Toshi Yamaguchi that every dish we received was cooked with care and presented beautifully.

The closely supervised staff is very attentive, and service never flagged even as the restaurant filled. It’s nice to see this longtime Albany favorite has settled so well into its new location.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Ben Franklin turned 300 a couple of days ago, and in celebration of that signal event, Brown’s Brewing Company (425 River St., Troy) has made a commemorative brew. Head brewer Peter Martin joins more than 100 craft brewers across the nation who are also tapping their versions of “Poor Richard’s Ale.” It’s sponsored by the Brewers’ Association, a national nonprofit trade association for craft brewers that has partnered with one of Franklin’s descendants to create a recipe for the participants. According to Martin, the recipe includes molasses and corn, two items that were abundant during Colonial times. The brew will be available throughout the month. For more info, call the brewery at 273-2337. . . . It’s an easy transition from Franklin to France, although Dr. F may have been too egalitarian to enjoy La Fête des Rois (The Festival of Kings). Nevertheless, it will be celebrated at the Saratoga Lake Inn & Bistro (511 Route 9P, Saratoga Lake) Jan. 27 and 28. The festival is a French tradition that dates back to 1311; to celebrate, chef-owner Eric Masson’s menu offers a choice of appetizer (ham and mushroom crepe, escargot sautéed with wild mushrooms, or quiche Lorraine), mixed greens with goat cheese or a country soup with green cabbage and ham, and an entrée (chicken and vegetables with a velouté sauce, sirloin steak Bordelaise, or sole amandine). Dessert features a cake called Gallette des Rois with a hidden surprise. Dinner is $29 per person plus tax and gratuity, and parties of six or more will receive a chef-selected complimentary bottle of wine. Reserve seats by calling 587-8280. . . . New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties) is holding a July in January weekend Jan. 20 and 21, a tropically themed event that features summer food, exotic music and a free island drink for those who dress for the beach. Among the menu items: Cayman conch chowder, callaloo soup, sweet plantain pasteles, conch fritters, curried goat, Haitian griot of pork and much more. Friday night enjoy the world beat of Tumbao Blue; Saturday Night gets even hotter with the Afro-Cuban dance band Los Taino. Make reservations by calling (845) 246-0900. . . . 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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