B. A. Nilsson
and a Show
Troy Schenectady Road (Route 7), Latham, 783-8188. Serving
lunch Tue-Sat 11-3, dinner Tue-Thu 4:30-10, Fri-Sat 4:30-11,
Sun 1-10. AE, D, MC, V.
price range: $10 (Udon noodle soup) to $26 (Hibachi
small and friendly
B. A. Nilsson
dinners—also known as teppanyaki—are a cross-cultural phenomenon,
making them about as authentically Japanese as any another
ethnic-restaurant mainstay. But if that’s the dinner you’re
looking for, you’re probably not worried about authenticity.
Let that therefore not be an issue.
It’s dinner and a show rolled into one, and, goofy as it seems
as a concept, there’s no end to the fun as the knives flash
and the spatula spins. I’m sure you know the way it works.
Start with a meat. At the new Latham restaurant Sakura, your
choices include chicken ($16), shrimp ($19), two grades of
steak ($19 or $21), lobster ($26) and an economical veggie
array ($14). Not to mention higher-priced combos ($21 to $36).
You’re sitting, of course, at a large table with a griddle
in the middle. Possibly you’re seated with several strangers—it’s
a communal kind of meal. A bowl of hot, easygoing miso soup
starts you off, bits of tofu and scallion texturizing the
An iceberg salad topped with ginger dressing follows, a dressing
my daughter is so nuts about that I’m still trying to replicate
it at home.
Then the show begins.
Sakura opened just over three months ago in space formerly
occupied by Fannie’s, just east of the Latham circle on Route
7. “There are several Japanese restaurants in Albany,” observes
manager Raymond Lee, “but we thought one was needed here.”
The place has been charmingly remodeled, with four hibachi
tables, several booths and a number of seats at the sushi
And, of course, there’s plenty else on the menu. The sushi,
which I sampled as a $7 appetizer plate, is fantastically
fresh, and is also available in its many permutations a la
carte or as a miso soup-enhanced dinner ($15-$21).
Flaming shrimp (or salmon, $17) is one of the provocatively
titled “kitchen specials,” which also include avocado chicken
($17), grilled beef kushiyaki ($19), sakura spicy noodles
(served with meat or veggies, $12) and more. Teriyaki dinners
include the usual meats and range from $11-$21. A selection
of noodle soups gives you dinner for as little as $10, and,
if you’re a fan of the fryolator, several tempura selections
You may be like my wife, whose avoidance of the deep-fried
stuff melts away in the face of these lightly battered, quick-fried
morsels. She enjoyed a dinner of chicken tempura ($13), served
with miso soup and a bowl of rice. The trick to this dish
is its preparation, which not only is a matter of meat prep
and batter but also of oil quality and temperature—all of
which were excellent.
Then the cart approached, wheeled by our cheerful hibachi
chef. Overture: the (by now) traditional fork and spatula
show, a juggling act worthy of the old Ed Sullivan Show.
Fire was added, culminating in the traditional onion-ring
volcano, before the onion was melded into egg-fried rice.
Next, the meat hit the grill with a ferocious sizzle, a good-sized
chunk of beef alongside pale strips of chicken. A flurry of
slicing, flipping, tossing, laughing. Shrimp appeared as if
from nowhere; an array of sliced vegetables was added, one
zucchini strip mysteriously remaining to one side.
Any good server knows that dining out is theater, and it’s
no coincidence that actors thrive in the profession. Here
the preparation is theater as well, dramatizing what’s essentially
a simple cooking technique with energetic flourishes. Peek
into a well-run kitchen and you’ll see chefs so adept at a
very repetitious job that they amuse themselves by developing
flashy moves. Here it’s transferred to the dining room.
That lone zucchini strip? Our chef deftly sliced it into bite-sized
chunks, then launched them, chunk by chunk, into our open
mouths. Sounds ridiculous, if not downright annoying, yet
it made sense as the climax of this crazy show. And it gave
me the chance to summon an old, old skill, developed during
my teenage years working as a movie-house usher. I’d while
way the time during bad films by practicing such useless diversions
as launching popcorn aloft, kernel by kernel, and catching
it in my open maw.
Ideally, the teppanyaki show is shared by a tableful of diners.
You’re forced to share the space with other parties, becoming
a larger, and therefore more enthusiastic, audience for the
show. (That being said, let me note that I’m too misanthropic
to enjoy sharing my table space with anyone. I’m trying to
get over that. It hasn’t been successful.)
And, of course, you can dine at more traditional tables, where
you might want to try a bento box, that beautiful lacquer-plate
presentation of selections like chicken teriyaki, California
roll, shrimp tempura and more ($21), beef teriyaki, a spicy
tuna roll, shrimp tempura and shumai ($23) and other mixtures.
To finish, if the tempura bug really bites you, there are
also deep-fried desserts.
Sakura is a Japanese rose. As this new one blossoms, you can
take advantage of a 15-percent-off special that’s promised
to run at least through March. They still await a liquor license,
but everything else is in place for a highly recommended meal.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Bistro (Clinton &
Broadway, Albany) celebrates its 23rd anniversary
with a special dinner at 6 PM on Friday, Nov 16.
A champagne reception kicks things off, then enjoy
halibut and sole dumplings in a lobster cognac
sauce, arugula and endive salad, and a Trio of
Veal entrée, each course paired with an appropriate
wine. And there’s dessert! Music is performed
by Ed Clifford. Tickets to the perception are
$80 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 465-1111.
. . . Travel to Italy by way of the Adirondacks
when Milano North and the Courtyard by
Marriott host a getaway weekend in Lake Placid
Nov 9-11. The two-night stay includes a wine reception
Friday, two breakfasts, and a five-course Italian
wine dinner on Saturday featuring the wines of
the Feudi di San Gregorio Estate, a winery in
southern Italy’s Campania region. Export manager
Robin Shay will to introduce the wines at the
dinner. Prices are $550 per couple, $395 per single,
taxes and gratuities included; there also are
seats available for the wine dinner only ($75
per person). Call 523-2900 for the weekend, 523-3003
for the dinner only. . . . Liz and Jerry Lavalley,
owners of Manchester, Vt.’s Reluctant Panther
(which includes an excellent restaurant reviewed
here a few months back) were recently named Innkeepers
of the Year by Governor Douglas. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland.
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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..