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We’re on Tapas


Midtown Tap & Tea Room

289 New Scotland Ave., Albany, 435-0202. Serving Tue-Sat 11-11, Sun 11-6. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: continental tapas

Entrée price range: $4.50 (cured olives) to $15 (pâté and cheese board)

Ambiance: airy


By B.A. Nilsson

‘I’m a baby boomer,” says Nancy Kupiec, “and I’m getting older. When I go out, I don’t want to eat too much.”

So she considered the possibilities for a restaurant in a building she owns on New Scotland Avenue, something to succeed the departed Avenue A. “When I was talking about this to (chef) Doug Waldmann, he said, ‘How about tapas?’ That was it!”

Waldmann was last seen in this area as executive chef at Cowan and Lobel; he since has worked his away around the country, with a lengthy stop in New Mexico. He’s back home putting out the excellent plates at Midtown Tap and Tea Room, and you’ll see him framed in the pickup window as you tour the handsome space.

Open for a scant three weeks, Midtown is a bit puzzling to a first-time visitor. Seating options include high and traditional tables in the room that faces New Scotland Avenue, as well as bar seating a little beyond that room. A muted hallway takes you past the kitchen’s pickup window, past a baby grand piano (where Alan Thomson was playing standards in his engaging way) and into another, tavern-like room with large windows opening on Ontario Street.

Sit anywhere. It is pleasing to the eye and ear, as Kupiec fine tunes both the appearance (it required a wall removal to open the space, and the skylights will be unveiled soon) and acoustics. She has owned a construction business for many years, and thus brings an experienced hand to this work.

The service staff is easygoing and knowledgeable and made our visit that much more relaxing.

A list of 22 tapas dishes is priced from $4.50 for a serving of cured olives to $15 for an arrangement of cheese and pâté. Most popular is the pan-seared sea bass with polenta ($9).

My threesome settled at one of the high tables and ordered a plate of hummus with eggplant caponata ($6) while studying the other possibilities. Coupled with a glass of crisp pinot grigio, this defined the moment when the work portion of the day ended and the relaxation hours began.

Hummus, with its garlicky smoothness, benefits from a companion like the vinegary caponata, and the plate made its way around the table quickly. (You’ll also appreciate the handsome servingware.)

Fresh mixed greens tossed in a dressing of lemon and dill give foundation to a few (too few, I thought) slices of smoked salmon in a $9.25 salad that’s also dressed with tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and red onion. What with the other plates we simultaneously sampled, we actually couldn’t finish the greens (the fish vanished in a fingersnap).

Other salads include grilled chicken and shrimp on a Caesar or taco salad; a goat cheese salad with carrots and apple slices; a Mediterranean array of feta, artichoke hearts, dolmades, and capers with the greens; and even a plate that adds sliced sirloin and portobello mushrooms, all priced from $8.25 to $11.

Soup is another mainstay, and the $7 portion could be its own meal with the bread served alongside. We opted for the $4 portion, and enjoyed a tomato-rich vegetable array with a bonus of added steak slices.

With a glass of pinot noir to complement the fuller flavors of subsequent choices, I sampled the following: fried Spanish sardines ($7), which reminded me of the spicy richness sardines can have when they’re not crammed into oily tins. Four large filets were lightly breaded and sautéed.

Chickpeas with andouille sausage ($5.25) was a plate of miniatures; small, fried garbanzos arrayed among same-sized sausage portions on a veggie-dressed plate. Clams steamed and stuffed ($8.25) put two clams in each shell, one of them moist and hot, the other hidden in a tasty breading.

We passed up chicken croquettes, lobster ravioli, crab cakes, and greens and beans, all contenders, but I was delighted with what’s menu-described as “goat cheese with honey and caramelized onions” ($7) and turns out to be three large cheese patties, fried to an exterior crispness, gooey within, drizzled with honey, excellently matched with the sweet, dark onions.

Order two of these plates and you’ve got a meal—and you still haven’t spent 20 bucks. Order one and you may well be satisfied. We brought home the remains of many half-finished plates.

While I was exploring wine, my wife and daughter seized the tea list. For two bucks you get a cup and a half of tea in a French press; $3.50 brings a three-and-a-half cup pot. The blends include black tea from China, green tea, decaf tea (including Earl Grey) and a bunch of herbal infusions. I was a bit startled when my child ordered what’s called “Mother-to-Be,” but, of course, it’s raspberry (a midwife-recommended item, we learned back then).

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a long time,” says Kupiec, “and this is exactly the kind of place I’d want in my neighborhood. Once we get the regular menu under control, we’re looking at adding Saturday and Sunday brunch. We’re already developing quite a good following.”

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


In this space last week (May 31), we incorrectly reported that the cost of Nicole’s Bistro’s annual Cucina Sinatra—celebrating the late singer with music and his favorite meal from Jilly’s Restaurant in Manhattan—is $100 per person plus tax and tip. Rather, the $100 includes tax and tip. The event will be on June 14; call 465-1111. . . . Milano (Newton Plaza, Route 9, Latham) features an exceptional winemaker dinner at 7 PM on June 14, featuring Roberto Stucchi Prinetti of Tuscan-based Badia a Coltibuono, a winery in the heart of the Chianti region. An appropriately Tuscan menu will feature a variety of antipasti paired with Badia a Coltibuono Roberto Stucchi Chianti Classico 2005; enjoy duck confit with forest mushrooms alongside a Cancelli (Sangiovese/Syrah) 2004 and a mustard-herb-crusted Berkshire pork rack with a Chianti Classico Estate Riserva 2001 and an acclaimed 2000 Sangioveto. Dinner is $65 per person (plus tax & gratuity), and you can reserve seats by calling 783-3334. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at

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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

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

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


Elaine Snowdon

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

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

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