Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park, 688-1548. Serving lunch
(buffet) 11:45-2:30 Mon-Fri, noon-3 Sat-Sun; dinner 5-10 Mon-Sat,
5-9 Sun. AE, D, MC, V.
northern and southern Indian
price range: $7 (peas pillao) to $22 (tandoori salmon)
spacious and elegant
the building went up 11 years ago as the Conservatory Grill,
it was in the midst of a spacious wetland area and offered
not only fine dining but also sanctuary from Clifton Parkís
soulless commercial area. Now, the view from the restaurantís
deck is clogged by a skyline that wasnít there a decade ago,
and bears testament to the townís reckless growth (and many
It is an attractive building, its inside rendered all the
more attractive by a careful redesign. It now houses the restaurant
Zaika, which offers top-of-the-line Indian fare. That isnít
surprising: The owner, Sonny Brar, was the manager at Sitar
in Albany for 17 years. The interior design, including curtains,
fabrics and relics from India, was created by his wife, Gauri,
who chose colors that give a soothing feel to the high-ceilinged
Maybe this is the kind of fare that best suits the building.
It is, after all, somewhat exotic for Clifton Park, and benefits
from the provocative aromas. The name itself contributes exoticism:
ďZaikaĒ is an Urdu word for flavor.
Youíll find your favorite flavors on the Zaika menu, along
with some novelties. Tandoori wings ($8.25), for example,
are a nifty twist on an American favorite. Stuffed puri (a
deep-fried, puffy bread for $3.25) is another unusual starter.
Of course there are standard tandoori items, but the idea
of baking salmon in the hot clay oven ($22) is especially
appetizing. Chicken dishes dominate the menu and range from
the rich and creamy chicken shahi korma ($18.50), in which
the meat is paired with cashews, to chicken vindaloo ($18),
one of the spicier preparations.
Lamb is also a strong seller, available in a curry, on a skewer,
and in a more complicated mix of peppers, onions and tomatoes
($18.50 apiece), and in other dishes. (Even though lamb vindaloo
isnít listed, itís something you can request.)
favorite meat is goat,Ē says Brar, who recommended goat bhuna
($18.50), a full-flavored combination of on-the-bone meat
with peppers and onions, finished in a stew redolent of popular
Indian herbs and spices (cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and the
like), served with a side of Basmati rice. Let those who abjure
the thought of eating goat meat stay innocent of the pleasure:
Itís a surprisingly filling dish that I guarantee will yield
another portion or two if youíre careful not to share it at
the table. If you seek a more pungent preparation, itís available
as a curry ($18.50), and Iím sure you can talk Brar into preparing
it like any of the other popular meats.
Palak refers to spinach and is presented as a companion to
several items, especially seafood (with shrimp, $19; cod,
$18). Palak paneer, a favorite with my family, is a combination
of spinach and a light-bodied Indian cheese. Youíll also find
the cheese combined with peas (mattar paneer), peppers and
onions (kadai paneer), or by itself in a cream sauce (shahi
paneer, each of them $12.50), all of which are part of the
dozen vegetarian items on the menu. Iím eager next time to
try baingan bharta, a curry built around grilled eggplant.
One of the best vehicles for the artistry of Indian cookery
is the labor-intensive biryani, a rice dish that demands a
slow cooking process and a deft hand with the spices. Not
surprisingly, goat biryani is featured here ($19.50). A different,
somewhat simpler approach characterizes the pillao, again
a forum for basmati rice and another primary ingredient. Zaika
offers shrimp, lamb, chicken ($19.50, $18.50, $17.50), versions
with vegetables ($9), or just peas ($7).
Less common items include southern Indian fare like dosa,
a crisp (and very large) rice-flour crepe thatís served plain
($7.50) or stuffed with spicy potatoes ($9), in each case
accompanied by an assortment of condiments. Uttapum
is a lentil-and-rice-flour pancake ($7.50), and rice cakes
(idli) and lentil cakes (vada) also are available
Not surprisingly, Zaika serves a lunch buffet. The $10 spread
includes tandoori chicken, basmati rice, fresh naan, and a
changing roster of selections that can include vegetable curry,
mattar paneer, lamb rara (in a spicy tomato stew) and
chicken curry, along with daal, salad, papadum and
dessert. The weekend brunch ($13) is more extensive and includes
a number of southern Indian selections.
As more and more Indian restaurants present themselves in
the area, it gets more difficult to name a favorite. Brarís
many years at Sitar show through his attention to detail in
the comfort of the dining room and in the skilled, attractive
presentation of the food.
It shouldnít be hard at this point to sell you on trying an
Indian restaurant. What adds to the appeal here is the handsome
building and friendly staff, which give a welcome touch of
humanity to the built-up neighborhood.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
(Friday), New World Home Cooking Co. meets
the Hundred-Mile Diet Challenge halfway with the
restaurantís first special dinner for the fall:
a 50-Mile Meal. All of the wine and center-of-the-plate
items come from within that radius of the Saugerties
eatery, and chef Ric Orlando will offer a menu
that includes Storyís pumpkin-panang curry with
Thai basil and local chiles (paired with a Brotherhood
Riesling); Gary Wiltbankís Catskill oyster mushrooms
with wide noodles, huitlacoche and Skipís
poblano chile (Millbrook Chardonnay); Fleisherís
braised pork shoulder in the Roman Style with
Donís yellow polenta (Benmarl Frontenac); and
much more, with vegetarian options available for
all courses. The dinner starts at 7 PM, costs
$55 per person (plus tax and tip) and requires
reservations, so phone 845-246-0900. . . . Schenectady
Greenmarket debuts from 10-2 on Sunday (Nov.
2) in Proctors Arcade, with plans to run every
Sunday all year round. Look for fresh produce,
meat and poultry, dairy products, flowers and
plants, prepared foods, arts and crafts and more,
not to mention the opportunity to socialize with
like-minded shoppers. The market is still looking
for vendors with any or all of the following:
vegetables, fruit, meat, honey, maple syrup, jam,
milk, cheese, eggs, baked goods, bedding plants,
flowers, wine, processed food and high-quality
crafts. More info at schen ectadygreenmarket.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.