Plaza, Albany, 489-4288. Serving lunch daily 11-4, dinner
daily 4:30-9, brunch Sunday 10:30-3. AE, D, DC, MC, V.
price range: $13 (fettuccine Alfredo) to $24 (strip
steak with shrimp scampi)
The café, as owner Marifrances Fahy terms the outdoor dining
area, remains open through as much of the year as is possible;
last year it didn’t close until mid-November. So you have
an excellent chance of enjoying the same sense of an urban
al fresco experience as I found during a couple of recent
visits to this Stuyvesant Plaza eatery. It didn’t hurt that
I lucked into a couple of clement days, but much of the charm
is generated by the restaurant itself.
That said, there were contrasts. Service fell apart during
my evening visit, but couldn’t have been better at a subsequent
lunch. The food also was better the second time, which led
me to suspect that something specific to that evening was
at issue, a suspicion that Fahy confirmed.
Because it was a personnel matter, it’s not worth detailing
here; what’s sufficient is to note that Fahy hurried in that
night to rectify the problem, but only as my own visit was
winding down. The long waits I experienced are not at all
typical, Fahy assured me.
I want to get this part of it out of the way in order now
to laud the place. Fahy bought it just over a year ago from
former chef-owner Ron Furan, who won it a splendid reputation
during his tenure. Fahy was a server in his employ for a decade,
and leaped at the chance to take it over.
gave me the advantage of already knowing the customer base,”
she explained, “and we preserved a number of Ron’s recipes.
So it remained a familiar experience for our regulars.”
The restaurant is tucked into a short stem off the western
side of the plaza’s northern strip, one of several eateries
that dot the plaza. Conventional restaurant wisdom holds that
a strip-mall location is the kiss of death; this is assuredly
not the case here, says Fahy. Conventional wisdom also insists
that the best thing for a restaurant is to be in an area rich
with restaurants. This one, she says, holds true.
Inside is an intimate, cheerful space set off with artwork
and mirrors; outside is an expansive patio area with umbrella-topped
Dinner will be what you make of it, ranging from light fare
that doubles as appetizers to an extensive range of inventive
entrées. I like the fact that pasta is offered in smaller
portions, $8 to $13 depending upon what meat you choose to
top it with, if you so top it all. The five selections thus
offered are $13 to $16 as entrées, and range from fettuccine
Alfredo to a tortellini dish that mixes mushrooms, peas and
prosciutto with cheese-filled pasta in a cheese-rich cream
This was an entrée I sampled, and its flaws were those of
a rushed kitchen—the tortellini needed more time in its hot
water, the sauce needed more time to reduce. Likewise, the
veal and eggplant special I ordered, in which the items are
Napoleonistically alternated and served over pasta, topped
with tomato sauce, needed to hit a hotter skillet to assure
a crisper finish.
But I’ve passed along these comments already, and Fahy insists
that these, too, were problems of the moment, that she insists
Although lunch may not seem so mission-critical a meal, I
deliberately ordered an omelette to see what the kitchen might
do. In effect, the kitchen shrugged and said, “No problem.”
Anything good will automatically taste better with the addition
of bacon and Swiss cheese, but this—a seemingly simple egg
sauté—was as fluffy and flavorful at its edges as in the busier
middle, worth every bit of its $8.
Lunch offers a panoply of sandwiches, from fancy grilled ones
to clubs and burgers ($7-$9). The burgers you build yourself,
which gave my daughter the chance to choose a veggie model
(chicken breast and ground beef also are available) with smoked
Gouda, sliced apples and a spicy apricot mustard on sourdough
bread. The textures were excellently achieved: Where my omelette
had a side of well-browned sourdough, the bread for this one
had a lighter finish so that it wouldn’t be all about the
A varied salad selection is offered for both meals, with the
Thai steak spinach salad ($10 or $13) one of the most popular
such items. In the starters realm, the artichoke-spinach dip
($8 or $9) is one of the handsomest presentations of this
dish that I’ve seen, a simple ramekin of a chunky compote
surrounded by toast points garnished with feta and carrot
I’m going to have to go back for seafood: It dominates a page
of the dinner items, and, with titles like pecan-crusted tilapia,
lemon-pepper seared tuna, ginger-nut salmon and salmon Florentine,
you know there’s a more original approach in progress. And
there are daily specials, priced from $19 to $22.
Beef Stroganoff is one of the more unusual meat entrées, but
it’s a house favorite; among the chicken dishes is jambalaya,
although Jamaican jerk chicken is another one I’m happy to
see and soon, I hope, to sample.
make it from scratch,” says Fahy, “and try to source products
locally whenever possible. One of the changes I made when
I took over was to get better meat products, so we’re serving
Angus beef now, for example. Our food costs have gone up,
but I think it’s worth it.” In partnership with her brothers,
Robert and Stephen, she’s adamant about pleasing her clientele,
which includes closing the place for special parties (she
hosts, for example, monthly get-togethers of the lovelorn
Too many restaurants these days present a market-researched,
paint-by-numbers face that assures consistent blandness. Fahy
is a restaurateur with a mission, and she has more than convinced
me that my future happiness depends upon repeated visits to
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
André Begnaud, who served as executive sous chef
at two of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, will cater
the Ninth Annual Music Haven Community Gala
celebration in Schenectady’s Central Park
from 5:30 to 7:15 PM on Monday (Aug. 28). The
menu includes smoked brisket, barbecued chicken,
green beans with pecans, corn maque choux, Cajun/Creole
potato salad, Louisiana slaw, and dessert beignets.
The Gala marks the last concert of the summer
series, which features zydeco master Geno Delafose
and French Rockin’ Boogie on the Music Haven stage
at 7:30 PM. The Gala’s $55 ticket includes VIP
seating for the concert, the pre-show Louisiana
bayou-style barbecue with dinner entertainment
by the Ramblin’ Jug Stompers (Michael Eck &
Greg Haymes), and post-concert café du monde dessert.
The concert itself is free to the public as usual.
For more information, visit www.music havenstage.org
or call the Central Park office at 382-5152 or
the Chamber of Schenectady County at 372-5656.
. . . Chameleon on the Lake (251 Stafford
Bridge Rd., Saratoga) is hosting a SPAC Food and
Wine Fundraiser at 6:30 PM on Sept. 7 at the restaurant,
which perches picturesquely on the northern inlet
of Saratoga Lake. The event includes not only
creative food and wine pairings but also Latin
music and a complimentary dance lesson. The menu
includes mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola and
sausage, paired with Sheldrake Chardonnay from
Australia; coconut-crusted halibut with a Thai
curry sauce, together with a Joseph Carr Sauvignon
Blanc from the Napa Valley; and coulat steak with
a morel cherry sauce paired with Joseph Carr 2002
Cabernet Sauvignon. The price is $110 per person,
inclusive, and you can reserve a seat by phoning
the restaurant at 581-3928. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail:
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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..