Central Ave., Albany, 453-6258. Serving Sun-Thu 11-11, Fri-Sat
11-midnight. D, MC, V.
price range: $4 (wonton noodle soup) to $13 (conch
with scallops); some daily seafood specials priced higher
As the old-style Chinese restaurants in the area pack it in,
they’re being replaced by Chinese buffets. Back in the day,
your standard Chinese restaurant was a place of linen-topped
booths, big yellow napkins and little ornate teacups, a constantly
refreshed stainless teapot steaming beside the bowl of fried
noodles. This was a restaurant that accommodated an increasingly
sophisticated American palate as Szechuan and Hunan cuisine,
and later other Asian varieties, were added to the bill of
And then that sophisticated palate was overtaken by an increasingly
girth-expanding American populace in search of the quick,
fatty and cheap. Buffets landed, seemingly overnight, in every
strip mall in the region.
My first recent taste of Ocean Palace’s fare was a cup of
hot and sour soup. Now, I wouldn’t be able to write of the
buffets if I, too, weren’t one of the endomorphs trolling
the steam tables. I usually steer myself from the egg rolls
and crab Rangoon by starting with a cup of said soup; the
difference between Ocean Palace’s brew and any of the buffet
offerings was enough to convince me to avoid the latter from
here on in—especially if I’m anywhere near uptown Albany.
Ocean Palace is on the ground floor of an office plaza near
Everett Road, an unattractive building that captures the storied
soullessness of state-type work. How nice, then, to see the
ornate door that welcomes you into the restaurant.
It’s been there for nearly a decade, replacing a succession
of shorter-live enterprises, and, as its name suggests, stakes
its reputation on seafood offerings. And owner Peter Chan
is nuts about seafood. A large, inset tank displays a goldfish
and its outsized cousin, a koi, the acquisition, care and
feeding of which he’ll lovingly describe. Sensing a fellow
ichthyophile, he also showed us another tank of fish, most
of them for customer consumption—but featuring a couple of
(not for consumption) turtles, one of which he rescued from
The day’s specials are described on pages that hang near the
bar, and I suppose it’s a good sign that most of them are
in Chinese characters only. We were about the only Occidentals
dining there early one evening early in the week, and (I think)
the only ones who didn’t study the specials board beforehand.
I asked Chan for recommendations, and he happily rattled off
a list of fresh seafood items (some of which, like sea bass,
can be priced rather high) and reminded us that they have
good quick-frozen fish specials as well.
How intrepid do you wish me to be in pursuing exotic foodstuffs?
I don’t want to recoil with American tourist-like fear from
something I’ve never before eaten, but I wasn’t prepared to
commit my evening meal to conch with duck feet (number 97,
$13), for example. I’ve enjoyed conch in the Caribbean; it’s
the duck feet that worry me, based on my experience sampling
chicken feet during a lavish dim sum feast in Manhattan’s
Chinatown some years ago. They were—you don’t need to read
about it here.
My party was primed for at least moderate adventurousness,
however, and we amassed a sizeable collection of dishes, none
of which we finished, all of which provided many subsequent
meals. (And Chan was insistent upon pointing out that we were
ordering way too much food.)
Expect the usual Chinese restaurant items—the egg rolls, lo
mein, beef with broccoli and the ubiquitous (and domestically
invented) General Tso’s chicken, none of it priced over $9
for dinner and in the $5 range for lunch.
But the menu goes way beyond that. Noodle soup, for instance.
We sampled the roast duck fun soup ($4.35), which includes
big chunks of chopped-up, crispy (or formerly crispy) duckling
swimming in a rich-flavored broth that it shares with noodles
and an assortment of Asian vegetables.
A very different broth surrounds the mixed seafood with noodle
(number 154, $10), drawing its flavor from the combo of shrimp,
scallops, surimi and squid. More noodles, more veggies, more
to bring home with us.
The menu’s seafood list seems to go on forever; the numbering
system makes it easy to count that there are 50, abetted,
of course, by specials. One of which was peppers with salty
scallops, a new concept to me, in which sliced sea scallops
are lightly breaded and sautéed with a lot of salt enhancing
the flavor. But it feels right, even as it tastes salty, and
it’s a style that also can be applied to shrimp, crab and
We chose a lamb hot pot from a list of casserole dishes ($9),
each of which is served over a flame to nice effect. The broth
in this has a curry flavor, and the meat, while bony, is tender
and spicy, surrounded by an appropriate vegetable medley.
I’m guessing that business is unpredictable enough to warrant
the cost-cutting measures we saw: no table linen, and paper
napkins (cloth napkins were arrayed around the large tables
on the other side of the room, obviously set up for presentations
by the likes of pharmaceutical company reps). But service
was quick and cheerful—and everybody in the place waited on
us at one or another. The food here is so much better than
the buffets that I’ll happily sacrifice all those choices
for a few choice Chinese dishes.
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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..