for a Day
By B.A. Nilsson
10 Wolf Road, Colonie, 591-0628. Serving Sun-Thu 11-11,
Fri-Sat 11-midnight. MC, V.
Hong Kong via Chinatown
Entrée price range: $7 (noodle soup) to $17.50
Clientele: buffet weary
first appeared as Emperor’s Palace a decade ago at Lark Street
and Madison Avenue in Albany, where it boasted a greater Hong
Kong—style authenticity than other such area establishments.
Just over a year ago it relocated to Wolf Road and shortened
its name, taking up residence alongside a daunting number
of more mainstream eateries, with chain outlets galore as
neighbors. This was the home of the Kansas City Grill a while
ago, and before that it was Ellie Mae’s Country Fixins. But
as home to Emperor’s, it offers the new restaurant something
it never really enjoyed on Madison Avenue: parking.
True to its original vision, Emperor’s still offers a more
varied menu than you’ll find at any other Asian restaurant
around here—especially as so many succumb to buffet blandness.
You may remember the fish tanks at the original location.
They’re here in the new space, although barely stocked during
our couple of visits. The dining room is comfortable without
being fancy, a generous amount of tables with simple coverings
and functional serving ware.
Service is brisk, personable and low-key. Too low-key in one
case: When I noted that an order of scallion dumplings ($6.25)
was marred by still being slightly frozen on the inside, the
server nodded and said, “Should have been heated up a couple
more minutes,” but did nothing to rectify the problem.
On a return visit, we tried the vegetable dumplings ($5).
Like the scallion dumplings, they’re enclosed in a sticky,
almost translucent rice-based wrapper that interacts more
tastily with the supplied dipping sauce. And these were heated
through just fine.
The spring rolls ($3.25) are light and crisp and nicely seasoned;
while we’re on the appetizer list, beware the roast pork ($9)—it’s
a meal in itself, abetted by a sweetish sauce, that should
be shared by a large party.
The voluminous menu is supplemented by a specialties page.
As of a couple of weeks ago, several entrées based on Chilean
sea bass were listed, along with a handful of shrimp-and-scallop
combo specials (even including a General Tso’s shrimp and
The General Tso business, as I’ve noted in earlier columns,
started in this country. As a menu item, it first appeared
40 years ago in a Manhattan restaurant. The meat-stuff in
question, typically chicken, gets a cornstarch coating that’s
crisped by deep-frying, and then it’s served in a sweet orange
sauce. This is my daughter’s one and only reason for visiting
an Asian restaurant (okay, she likes dumplings, too), and
we indulged her this fancy during one visit (it’s $10).
Typically prepared with a sprinkling of red pepper hulls,
I asked for a mild version. It arrived bristling with hulls,
which I transferred to my plate. Otherwise, I was transferring
meat from a hot pot, a preparation of satay beef ($14)
that was pungent and salty, but not nearly as spicy as I’d
hoped when I asked for the temperature to be raised. At least
I had those hulls.
Back at the regular menu, noodle soups are another specialty
here, running $7 for the standard size. Soy-sauce chicken
fun soup combines cleaver-cut chicken breast portions
with a filling broth and rice noodles, a dish that works well
for any meal, and probably, based on the portion size we saw,
also will provide an extra meal.
Plenty of lo mein dishes are available for the faint of palate,
and all of your favorite chicken, beef and pork dishes are
here—along with many less-familiar preparations. The list
of seafood items is longest, and runs from the unsurprising
(shrimp with lobster sauce, $12) to specialty items like conch
with duck feet (seasonally priced).
With so much to choose from, my wife zeroed in on fried bean
curd with vegetables ($9), a tofu stew with a mix of bean
pods, carrots and the like in an easygoing, gelatinous sauce.
A little too low-key for my taste.
I persuaded my daughter away from General Tso by ordering
shun fah golden chicken from the specials list ($15),
and then ended up eating most of it. Crisped bits of chopped
garlic decorated a plate of deep-fried chicken with crackling
skin, in a pungent sauce livened with sweetness (and garlic,
This was in trade for my order of beef stew and white turnip
with curry sauce in a hot pot ($14), although we both had
to learn to trim the gristly fat from the meat, which appreciably
reduced the portion size. Good seasonings, though, with a
curry mix complicated enough to please me and spicy enough
to please but not dismay my daughter.
Even with the criticisms I’ve noted, this remains one of the
top Asian restaurants in the area. The variety is astonishing—and
reassuring. If there’s one thing American culture is good
at, it’s taking anybody else’s culinary art and tempering
it into blandness. We see this in too many popular ethnic
restaurants, so let’s celebrate one place that’s still holding
on to its own identity.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
a tour of the food and wine of Spain at Nicole’s
Bistro at the Quackenbush House (Clinton Avenue
and Broadway, Albany) on Sept. 18 at 6 PM. Chef
Daniel E. Smith has assembled a menu that includes
gazpacho, seafood ceviche, pork tenderloin with
orange- chipotle sauce and flan with black mission
figs. Each course is paired with an appropriate
wine (Marques de Grinon Rioja with the pork, for
example), and the evening begins with tapas and
Rose Brut Marques de Monistrol. It’s $65 per person,
and you can reserve seats by calling the restaurant
at 465-1111. . . . A fall wine-tasting dinner
is featured at Ferrandi’s French Restaurant
(Route 67, Amsterdam) Sept. 18-21, during
which chef-owner Eric Masson, a native of France,
will serve a four-course meal paired with three
glasses of wine. Appetizer choices include coquilles
St. Jacques in a curry and saffron wine sauce,
smoked duck breast salad and an escargot and wild
mushroom casserole; entrée choices are sliced
filet mignon sautéed with shallots, mushrooms
and smoked ham; poached salmon in a Pernod beurre
blanc and a lamb shank confit with garlic,
tomato and fresh herbs. Dinner is $40 per person,
and you can get more information (or make reservations)
by calling 842-6977 or visiting www.ferrandis.net.
. .Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
fax info to 922-7090)