Midtown Tap & Tea Room
New Scotland Ave., Albany, 435-0202. Serving Tue-Sat 11-11,
Sun 11-6. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $4.50 (cured olives) to $15 (pâté and
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
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
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).
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.”
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
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 banilsson.com).
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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..