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PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

International Triumph

Avenue A

544 Delaware Ave., Albany. 434-2832. Serving Tue-Fri 11:30-10, Sat 4:30-10, Sunday brunch 11-3. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: Asian-inspired international

Entrée price range: $19 (Korean chap chae) to $24 (steak au poivre)

Ambiance: casually elegant

 

By B. A. Nilsson

Named for its previous Albany street address, Avenue A hit the road a while back and turned up on Delaware Avenue, in the space once occupied by the Bagel Bite. One of the most charming aspects of its earlier incarnation was the oddly configured space, with two different dining rooms; in its new location, the restaurant sports a similar charm thanks to a careful redesign that brings out the comfort of the space. In fact, shortly before my visit, the restaurant installed ceiling-hung baffles to correct a reverberation problem.

Avenue A remains what it’s always been: a place for gourmet dining, with many an international twist to the cuisine. Chef Un-Hui Filomeno has a passion for bold flavors, and she once more reigns triumphant in the busy restaurant that’s been open since May.

Look for her son, José, on the floor, and he’ll be happy to offer background info and menu recommendations. Which is not to slight the other servers, all of whom are well-spoken and eager to help, and so ensure you’re so well attended that you can concentrate fully on the dining experience.

You can see the range of items on the lunch menu, where a bowl of miso soup is offered alongside the Portuguese caldo verde ($4 or $6, depending on size), and where an Asian hamburger ($9.50), spinach fettuccine with shrimp ($12.50) and a portobello and artichoke heart quesadilla ($7) are but a few of the offerings, along with an extensive panini list. Lunch eases into (and overlaps with) dinner service in the late afternoon, and then you’ll see a one-page, two-column listing of even more varied offerings.

Signature entrées range from steak au poivre ($24) to Korean chap chae ($19), the latter a mix of beef, sweet potato noodles, mushrooms and vegetables. An Italian chicken breast preparation pairs the meat with prosciutto ($22); mustard-glazed salmon is served with couscous ($23); and pork loin medallions are braised and served in a mango-plum chutney ($21).

Two of my favorite rice dishes—jambalaya and paella—are featured, and I reluctantly settled on the paella ($22); all reluctance swept aside when the compote of shrimp, clams, calamari and New Zealand mussels hit the table. For once the presence of saffron was unmistakable, and the chorizo—a spicy Spanish sausage—that finishes the dish was outstanding.

But you won’t want to dive right into an entrée without trying one of Filomeno’s starters. The tapenade, a mix of minced olives in a Mediterranean blend of capers and anchovies, is enhanced with eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes, among other ingredients, and served with garlic bread ($9.20).

Antipasto ($13) gets you a variety of greens in addition to the usual meats and cheese, and the broiled brie ($15) includes a fresh fruit array.

At the head of the list are Korean shrimp-and-vegetable pancakes ($10), which will redefine your view of the humble flapjack. Look for a range of piquant flavors spurred by onions, carrots, peppers and, of course, shrimp. The morsels are well matched by a ginger-honey dipping sauce.

How do you feel about dumplings? I suspect those feelings will change when you try the pan-fried yakimandu ($10). They’ll make a convert out of you. The dumplings themselves are thin and crisp, the filling juicy, with cream cheese, chicken and scallions. And, of course, there’s a delicious dipping sauce.

What’s rapidly becoming one of Avenue A’s most signature dishes isn’t even on the menu. At least not yet. It’s a casserole of lobster meat and bowtie pasta, baked with five types of cheese (cheddar, Swiss, ricotta, mozzarella, fontina) that blend together deliciously. I sampled the dish—it’s a rich, large portion—and was amazed at the complexity of flavor lurking behind all the creaminess. (If you finish the plate, you get a free dessert. Good luck.)

A variation on that dish is part of the new brunch menu: an omelet made with lobster meat and the aforementioned cheeses.

Dine at one of the sleek, roomy tables, or take a seat at the expansive bar. A well- chosen beer and wine list makes this a great place for a casual rendezvous; the complexity of the dinner menu is perfect when you’re looking to impress a date. Desserts are also made in-house, and include tiramisu ($8), mocha chocolate mousse with raspberry Chambord sauce ($7) and the best carrot cake (topped with mascarpone-lemon sauce, $7) I’ve ever tasted.

We’re lucky to have this restaurant back, and it’s better placed than ever.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

It’s pretty much Christmas from now till the end of the year, a good time to enjoy a holiday wine dinner at Parisi’s Steakhouse (11 N. Broadway, Schenectady). It’s a five-course dinner that takes place at 7 PM on Monday (Dec. 3), and features a collaboration with Cornell’s Restaurant, which is sending chef Armondo Cioccke to join Parisi’s chef Steve Morgan to craft a meal paired with an appropriate selection of wines. Courses include sliced tenderloin crostini with roasted-tomato vinaigrette, sesame-encrusted salmon served over a bed of spring mix, a surf-and-turf risotto and more. And save room for tiramisu. Dinner is $60 plus tax and tip, and reservations are required— call 374-0100. . . . Champagne will be on tap (so to speak) at a special dinner on Dec. 7, 7 PM, at New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties), where chef Ric Orlando has created a menu that includes duck broth with Asian greens and scrambled duck egg (paired with Langlois Estate Cremant de Loire), lobster tamale with corn smut crema (Iron Horse Vintage Brut 2002), hot smoked salmon (Taittinger Brut La Francaise), pheasant Kiev (Charles Heidsick Brut Reserve) and more. It’s $85 per person, by reservation only, so call 845-246-0900. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.


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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