Photo by: B.A. Nilsson
4465 Route 30, Amsterdam, 842-7399. Serving
Mon-Tue 4-close, Wed-Sun 11:30-close. AE, D, MC, V.
continental with a touch of Italian
Entrée price range: $16 (chicken parmesan) to $27 (blue-cheese-encrusted
Ambiance: warm and pleasant
Clientele: upscale Amsterdamians
told that you have to go back to the early 19th century to
understand the gulf that separates Schenectady County from
its western neighbors. The Capital Region heads in that direction
only when it’s traveling some distance: “Let’s go shopping
in Amsterdam” is a phrase that probably never has crossed
an Albanian’s lips.
Yet the highway that runs north out of Amsterdam—Route 30—has
sprouted a series of strip malls over the past few years,
supplanting thousands of acres of farmland with the macadam-fronted
sprawl of big-box stores and their little satellites. On a
clear night you can see the lights of this development from
many miles away.
Route 30 wanders north, and the sprawl diminishes into noncontiguous
businesses and the occasional residence. Cross the town line
into Perth and you’ll soon see Michael’s Restaurant on the
right, where it has flourished for five years.
Before Michael and Barbara Russo bought the place and took
over, it was the kind of cocktail lounge that didn’t even
bother to offer food. But the Raindancer, a well-known area
steakhouse, is just down the street, and this is the direction
in which the area is expanding. And the Russos have brought
together the elements both scientific and intangible that
make a fine-dining operation appealing.
Michael grew up in the business. His family owns and operates
Russo’s Bar and Grill in downtown Amsterdam, one of the best
and friendliest pizza venues in the area, and he pursued his
dream of offering fancier dining by studying at the Culinary
Sometimes I feel like I’m visiting restaurants just to trip
them up, to catch them offering bad service or lousy food.
Those are the easier experiences to write about, because,
as any Rush Limbaugh listener knows, it’s easier to mock and
tear down a subject than it is to come up with constructive
My first visit to Michael’s was so unexpectedly pleasant that
I elected to return on a busy Saturday night. Despite a busy
bar and crowded tables, the staff—most of whom have been with
the restaurant since it opened—was just as attentive. Green
wallpaper, dark paneling and dried flowers contribute to the
dining room’s elegant farmhouse look, a very comfortable place
in which to sit.
Let’s look over the appetizers. They’re priced at about $8
apiece, and you’ve got a dozen to choose from (fewer at lunch).
Yes, the loathsome chicken tenders are there, as are the redoubtable
mozzarella sticks, but you also can get fresh mozzarella with
roasted red peppers. Deep-fried artichokes stuffed with Boursin
cheese also are a regular menu item. During one of our visits,
we were treated to a special of salmon lollipops ($7), a clever
construction of smoked salmon wrapped around Boursin and impaled
on a skinny breadstick, presented atop an excellent green
salad with slices of grilled eggplant.
Given the chef’s background, it’s not surprising to find a
listing of greens and beans. It seems a pricey starter at
$8, but it also sports a generous addition of spicy sausage,
and the overall flavor is robust enough for an entrée, enhanced
by lots of tasty garlic. The portion is huge: What I brought
home needed two soup containers.
I’ll confess that I ordered the escargot appetizer to gross
out my daughter—isn’t it fun to find a 7-year-old’s buttons?—who
nevertheless examined the critter with care before issuing
sounds of disgust at my enjoyment of the beast. Not that they
burst with dramatic flavor. It’s more about the texture of
the thing as your teeth close over the . . . but you don’t
need me to go on. Michael sautées them with tomatoes and artichoke
hearts and plenty of garlic.
Both soups we sampled—seafood bisque ($3.50) and French onion
($4)—were more than usually good, the sign of good soup stocks.
Entrée selections present beef, veal, chicken and seafood
in a variety of guises, with breaded pork tenderloins ($17)
as well. And you’re directed to ask your server for vegetarian
Not surprisingly, Russo knows his way around the Italian aspects
of the menu, and has crafted an excellent sauce for the chicken
parmesan ($16) that I usually can persuade my daughter to
eat in lieu of the dreaded chicken fingers.
But you have to start with good supplies. The cut of sirloin
used for the garlic lemon steak ($24) was excellent; the flavorings,
while almost superfluous, were well suited to the grilled
meat. And the sides—garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable
medley, with spears of fresh asparagus and sweet potato crisps
as decorations—were excellently done.
We weren’t prepared for the expanse of the seafood medley
($22), on which an outer layer of shrimp and crabmeat guards
a filling of calamari, scallops and clams, all of which gets
a white-wine butter sauce touched with tomato over a bed of
linguine. We got two more meals out of that portion.
The colorful eggplant ravioli ($16), a special, had grilled
chicken and a spinach cream sauce alongside the asparagus,
an unusual array that set this dish apart. Another special,
sesame-encrusted yellowfin tuna ($19), was cooked rare, as
I prefer it, and was enriched with teriyaki seasonings and
a vegetable stir-fry.
Service, as noted, is attentive and friendly. There’s not
much to complain about here, unless it’s the distance you
may have to travel to get here. But we’re talking about Amsterdam,
so it’s closer than you think.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
want your feedback
you eaten at Michael’s
Restaurant, or other recently
reviewed restaurants? Agree
or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for Nicole's Bistro Gift Certificate.
me again B.A. The Chain Restaurant loving
fat guy who loves big, heaping helpings
of prepared, marketed fried things. Even
could care less about Daniel's at Ogdens
to be perfectly honest. I read the review
mostly because my office stares right at
it's front door and we all watched as the
refurbishing was done. My problem here today
is with your first two paragraphs.
kind of news article that bugs you is what
percentage of Americans spend 30 minutes
or less preparing food!?!? You know what
kind of news article bothers me? "Remains
of a woman found stuffed in a barrel......"
or "....Albany Police Lt. dies from
injuries sustained in shootout with suspect."
I realize food and it's service and preparation
may be the all consuming obsession in your
life, but please tell me you have a bigger
heart than that.
the reason "44 percent of weekday meals
in the U.S. are prepared in 30 minutes or
less.." is that some people work 2
or 3 jobs. Some people may be a single parent
with young children, who may only have less
than 30 minutes to spare.
I promise you this, the next time I get
35 minutes or so.........I'll order some
Kobe Beef, puff pastry, shitake mushrooms
and the ingredients to make a proper buerre
blanc....dim the lights, put on a bowtie,
apron and plenty of snotty attitude and
invite you over for dinner.
Chicken Fingers ok for an appetizer?
really love this guys knack for picking
"the best kept secrets" in the
Capital District. Way to go B.A.! Keep up
the good work!
Leon's review was wonderful. Her descriptions
of the various selections made me hungry.
I am saving the review and putting it on
my refrigerator to remind me to take a busman's
holiday to Great Barrington for melitzana.
eaten here twice- I agree with all said
by Nillson- HOWEVER- No authentic Mexican
place should be totally rated without mention
of their Margarita quality -which is superior-very
limey with just the right ingredients- and
their selection of Mexican Beers-Tecata-Negro
Modello and Dos Equis Dark and Amber. Excellent
Selection. Another mark of good Mexican
cuisine is the freshness of their pico di
gallo-the true MEXICAN salsa- again excellent.
If it were not for the diner atmosphere
I would have rated it 4 stars- and yes-
please bring back the star rating system
which I relied on heavily.
surprisingly nice effort for a city which
seems to only allow Italian restaurants
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!