by: Chris Shields
By B.A. Nilsson
DeJohn’s Restaurant & Pub
288 Lark St., Albany, 465-5275. Serving
dinner Sun-Thu 4-11, Fri-Sat 4-midnight. Sunday brunch 11-3.
AE, MC, V.
Entrée price range: $11 (Vegetable stir-fry) to $20
(blue cheese-crusted sirloin)
Ambiance: handsome and festive
Clientele: handsome and festive
can go anywhere to get a good steak, or pizza and wings, or
to have a beer. So I have to give them a reason to come to
DeJohn’s,” says John DeJohn. “The reason is hospitality. I
make this restaurant an extension of my home, and that’s why
I put my name on the building.”
A former waiter and restaurant manager for many years, DeJohn
took the plunge into ownership when the former Lulu Café was
offered for sale. After extensive remodeling, most of it designed
by Monika DeJohn, John’s wife, the place opened last August.
Although the three-level design is unique enough to remind
you of it former incarnation (not to mention its even older
days as 288 Lark), the change is otherwise sweeping. The downstairs
bar area feels comfortable and intimate even as the room sweeps
back along windowless walls. Beyond it is an outdoor-dining
Upstairs, the walls are red, interrupted by a giant mirror
that gives an illusion of greater space. Even so, the tables
are roomy, the room uncramped. What used to be the third-floor
gallery is now a banquet and music room, with tall, dark green
walls and a stage at one end. Coming soon is an outdoor dining
deck that should offer a spectacular view.
The staff couldn’t have been friendlier on the two visits
I paid. It’s got to be tough monitoring a two-floor operation,
but we never felt neglected.
Chef Noel Goldberg offers two menus: one for the fine-dining
patrons, the other offering lighter fare. The latter comprises
burgers (veggie or beef, $8), a couple of fancy chicken preparations
and even a hoagie of pulled pork, all in the $8-$10 range,
fries a buck extra.
Fine-dining patrons, who typically choose the second-floor
room, have a short list of items to consider, an excellent
mix that ought to provide something stimulating to your palate.
Two of the clear winners, assuming this can be viewed in a
wholly unnecessary competitive fashion, are the shrimp and
andouille sausage cakes ($10) and the brie bruschetta ($8).
A twist of the familiar crab cakes recipe, the shrimp-sausage
cakes pack an unexpected and delightful flavor into the breaded
patties, a generous enough portion to give you a take-home
snack. Garlicky red pepper-laced mayonnaise fills out the
flavor; a side of coleslaw adds crunch.
Baked brie usually strikes me as silly (and way too gooey),
but this presentation adds a sprinkling of roasted garlic
cloves, guaranteed to win my affection, and a not-too-sweet
raspberry sauce. Best of all, the thick toast points stand
up to the heft of the cheese while also supporting the flavor.
Ginger chicken egg roll ($8) gives another original spin on
a popular Asian dish; the filling is much more dramatic than
typical egg-roll ingredients, which is welcome, but the item
struck me as being more greasy than necessary. Greens and
beans ($6), another garlic-rich mainstay, has added roasted
red peppers and, although the portion is small, the flavor
French onion soup ($5) is a mainstay, while the soup of the
day changes; we sampled tomato-basil ($3.50) and were very
impressed with its freshness of flavor.
Salads aren’t offered as entrée adjuncts, but there’s a range
of them available, beginning with a $3.75 house salad (field
greens, tomatoes, cukes, you get the picture) and topping
out with the large Oriental steak salad ($9), mixing sliced
tenderloin with greens and veggies in a soy-ginger dressing.
Caesar, spinach, and soba noodle salads also are available.
Seven entrées and five pasta dishes complete the menu. The
lone beef item is a small sirloin crusted with blue cheese
and black pepper ($20), which, if you’re restricting yourself,
is probably the most toothsome cut of beef. And it pairs its
flavor with the blue cheese and pepper so nicely that it’s
hard to imagine enjoying a sirloin any other way. My only
problem with the entrée was that it was cooked past medium,
rather than the medium-rare I requested. I pointed this out
to our server, who instantly offered to exchange it for a
properly cooked cut, but I declined.
Here’s why: The offer itself was satisfying, and there wasn’t
anything unpleasant about the meat. I was enjoying the dinner,
and didn’t think it was worth the fuss. The meat sits on a
serving of duchess potatoes (essentially mashed potatoes with
a tremendous fat content that are then baked—in other words,
they taste really good) and spears of fresh asparagus.
Pasta jambalaya ($17) isn’t my favorite combo—I’m a rice traditionalist—but
my friend John approved, and the flavors were more authentic
than many a rice-based version I’ve sampled. Fat shrimp, chunks
of chicken and sausage and vegetables. More of the promised
asparagus would have been nice, but the sauce was fabulous
and the penne pasta picked it up nicely.
Farfalle, or bowtie pasta, features in the smoked chicken
carbonara ($14), in which added bacon pieces and a sherry-based
sauce round out the flavors. Another chicken approach is to
roll it and stuff it, and the roulade ($16) has a spinach
and red pepper filling, brilliantly complemented by a Thai
green curry sauce.
For meat-free dining, a vegetable stir-fry ($11) might suit
you, but the sesame encrusted tofu ($13) is more interesting,
and certainly delighted my wife, who gloried in its sweet
soy glaze and slab of excellent polenta.
Daily specials complement the menu, and the staff is eager
to hear what you like and what you think. General manager
Ryan Weber deserves much of the credit for the welcoming atmosphere,
and DeJohn can’t praise him enough. Looks like Lark Street
continues to thrive as the area’s only true restaurant row.
your Italian food cravings at the eighth annual
Cappiello Festa Italiana, which runs June
25-27 in Schenectady’s Central Park. The Festa
will offer Italian music on two stages, including
Benny Cannavo & the Accents and the Good Times,
a dance revue by Ferrara Dance Studio, and much
more. Cooking and food are vital components, and
there will be cooking demonstrations throughout
the weekend, a wine-tasting competition in the
Pavilion on Sunday afternoon and an amazing array
of food on hand throughout the three days. Look
for Italian submarine sandwiches, pepper sandwiches,
London broil, samples of Cappiello cheese products,
fresh-squeezed lemonade, beans, lemon ice and
more. The Festa runs from 4 to 10 PM Friday, noon
to 10 PM Saturday and noon to 7 PM Sunday. Cappiello
Dairy Products, Inc. a Schenectady-based manufacturer
of hand-crafted cheese, is the primary sponsor.
For more info, pick up a schedule at the Central
Park office or call the Chamber of Schenectady
County at 372-5656. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org).
fax info to 922-7090)
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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..