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PHOTO: B.A. Nilsson

In Full Flower

 

Plum Blossom

685 Hoosick Road (Route 7), Brunswick, 272-0036. Serving Mon-Thu 11-10, Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10. AE, D, MC. V.

Cuisine: pan-Asian

Entrée price range: $9.25 (Kung Pao tofu) to $20 (Tsing Tao beef)

Ambiance: airy and elegant

 

By B.A. Nilsson

It’s difficult not to begin with an appraisal of the decades-long work-in-progress that is the Plum Blossom, but the superior food quality—a constant over those many years—shone through on a pair of recent visits, including a pre-Thanksgiving dinner visit that found the place packed.

It was two nights before the big holiday, and a line of people waited by the door. (“It will be even busier tomorrow,” owner Steve Chang confided, “because people don’t want to cook on these days.”) Mine was a party of six, but we were seated fairly quickly. It was a lengthy wait after that, but once we ordered, the wheels started turning—slowly, it’s true, but not to a point of discomfort. To the restaurant’s credit, they didn’t try to fill every seat and thus tax themselves all the more.

My daughter and I returned the following week for lunch, and, although the restaurant was thrumming, service was back to the brisk and extremely friendly level we’ve grown to expect over the years.

Twenty-five years is an eternity in restaurant years, yet Chang not only has operated this place that long but also put it through three different remodeling phases, the last, and most ambitious one turning it into an elegant Chinese courtyard inside—but a courtyard dressed with Moorish and Indian influences.

The interior woodwork is astonishing, wrought with beauty and precision; the confluence of color and light, the artwork adorning the walls, the bright parquet floors—all of it imparts a sense of well-being even before you take your seat.

The menu, too, is a confluence of Asian cultures, the kind of menu you’d find in contemporary Hong Kong. Recipes have been gathered from throughout China; added to that are dishes from Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The pupu platter, although taking its name from the Cantonese, emerged during the Polynesian restaurant craze of the ’40s and ’50s, when restaurants like Trader Vic’s invited you to dine in thatched-hut booths. Plum Blossom’s version ($15) is served on the traditional two-tiered platter with a sterno-fired grate at its peak, over which you can reheat the honey-glazed barbecued ribs and selected fried items, such as chicken wings, spring rolls, and deep-fried bread. With excellent soups and other terrific appetizers like the grilled satay skewers ($7) and shiu mai (fancy dumplings, $3.75), I’d go pupu only with a large, hungry party.

I also sampled the lime shrimp salad ($9), described as featuring “blushing fresh wild shrimp,” those little coquettes, with lemongrass and lime juice setting off a minty mix of fresh greens.

On another visit, we found the chicken coconut soup ($3.25; $2.49 for lunch) to be an excellent meal in itself, if what you seek is something light, sweet and refreshing, yet filled with tasty chicken and garnished with peppers and mushrooms.

That also gave us a shot at the fried dumplings ($5; $3.45 for lunch), which were wrapped and filled as is usual, but served with a tastier sauce than we expected, sparked by a tangy hit of ginger.

The soup realm is typical: wonton (as expected), egg drop (far too gelatinous), hot and sour (excellent!), with a tasty, mushroom-and-tofu-enhanced miso soup borrowed from Japanese cuisine.

From Thailand comes a curry bowl ($4) and pad Thai ($11), among others; we sampled the latter, which combined noodles and shrimp with a citrus-infused peanut topping. A classic dish.

Char-grilled lemongrass pork chops ($15.85) suggest a meat dish that should be more tender than what we received; I suspect it fell victim to too long a wait, because the meat had subsided to room temperature, also reflected in the state of the accompanying green beans. Which means it probably was a victim of the busy-ness of the day. And it certainly was tasty enough for us to keep without complaint.

Indonesian beef randand ($13) is a cheery preparation of flank steak that puts it in a coconut milk sauce with peppers and sweet potatoes—an unlikely sounding combo, but a pleasing one.

Roasted duck “Chinatown style” ($17) proves to be an ambitious platter of dark, crisp meat, somewhat challenging to negotiate because it’s cleavered into pieces that still are fully bone-intact. But the flavor is worth the effort.

Plenty of vegetarian choices are offered, from dishes based on string beans or eggplant, to curries, stir-fries and a toothsome array of fried bean curd and peanuts in the kung pao tofu ($9.45).

At lunchtime, choices are smaller and less expensive, still with a good variety. With a bowl of soup and a side of rice completing the dish, the $6 to $8 entrées are a bargain. Pork with Thai eggplant in a spicy garlic sauce ($7), for instance, has an expansive flavor, dark and rich, to complement the crispy pork and squishy eggplant.

If a restaurant works well under pressure, you’re usually assured that it will present outstandingly on normal days. We got to see Plum Blossom weather a gale and do fairly well; we saw them at their typical best. And it remains one of the high points of Asian dining in the Capital Region.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Preview the new year with New World Home Cooking Company’s 10th annual Champagne Dinner, which takes place at 6:30 PM on Dec. 14. Chef Ric Orlando and Michael Weiss, wine instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, join forces to present a seven-course meal paired with seven wines. Start with a clam foursome—raw littlenecks with mustard sauce, cherrystone ceviche with cilantro, razor clam spicy Asian barbecue, and Manila clam paella with peas and chorizo—and continue through a meal that includes a trio of lamb (lamb filet mignon, sweetbreads with strawberry-chipotle sauce, and crepinettes with tomato jam) and much more. It’s $79 per person, plus tax and tip, and you can reserve seats by calling (845) 246-0900. The restaurant is at 1411 Route 212, Saugerties; check out newworldhomecooking.com for more info. . . . 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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