by: B.A. Nilsson
236 Washington St., Saratoga Springs, 583-9175.
Serving dinner Wed-Sun 5-close. AE, MC, V..
Entrée price range: $12 (ahi burger) to $20 (champagne
Ambiance: gently Asian
Clientele: the curious and the hip
Stephen Caruso’s journey to the Asian-fusion cuisine at Daikon
was a gradual one. He owned Margarita’s in downtown Saratoga
for a decade, and had hired the daughter of the owners of
Miki, a nearby Japanese restaurant, to work for him. He became
friendly with her family. They wanted to get out of the business.
He wanted to stay in the business but change his scope. He’d
already been flirting with fusion in a south-of-the-border
go visit them at Miki,” says Caruso, “and I’d always bring
them food: Italian food. And everything I brought, he wrapped
in nori or did something sushi-esque. And it was delicious.
I mean, it sounds crazy, spaghetti sushi, but there it was.
And he said, ‘You know, you should do something like this.’
So Caruso went to work for him. “I spent almost a year at
it, working there on my nights off, learning the cuisine.
By the time I bought the place, we’d become good enough friends
that some of his staff—including his kids—stayed on to work
with me here.”
Daikon has been open for a scant month now, touched up on
the inside (wait’ll you see the bathrooms) and boasting a
menu notable for its emphasis on freshness, flavor and unique
It’s on the western approach to downtown Saratoga, in a building
with a Japanese look of simple lines that’s carried into the
interior design, which includes a pleasant bar and a tatami
room for more traditional Japanese seating. The options inside
are comfortable, but you might be lured by the tables on the
outdoor deck. I settled at one during a recent visit and enjoyed
dinner as the sun descended.
That evening was low on business and thus light on employees,
but our server, Sty (short for Stuyvesant), had an impressive
knowledge of the menu and helped make that meal as enjoyable
as it was.
Meets West Fusion Cooking,” boasts the menu front, although
a quick look inside suggests something very Japanese—but wait.
Seafood portobello? This $16 entrée is described as grilled
mushrooms “stuffed with an exquisite assortment of fish and
Japanese breadcrumbs drizzled with soy ginger honey.” And
the teriyaki salmon salad ($14) is served over mesclun and
garnished with chèvre. There’s tilapia ($15) marinated in
soy sauce and maple syrup, served with risotto.
As my dining companions enjoyed green tea, I sipped sake—there’s
an impressive variety here—and enjoyed what there is of a
view, the breeze across the deck and a bowl of pickled cucumber
Miso soup ($4), as always, makes an excellent starter, and
here it hews to tradition. Similarly, the steamed dumplings
($5), stuffed with shrimp and chopped vegetables, are a familiar
sight, served with a piquant ponzu sauce in which the soy
flavor is livened by mackerel-like bonito.
An avocado salad ($7) puts fresh strips of the chunky fruit
over fresh mesclun; it was served with a sweet ginger-flavored
Don’t forget to order an edamame appetizer ($4) for
the table. This is a bowl of steamed soy pods, dressed with
sea salt. Pop open the hull and enjoy the beans—they’re a
great sake companion.
You can get tempura, teriyaki and sukiyaki dishes, but you’ll
find they’ve been nudged to non-traditional directions. Sukiyaki
($13), for instance, puts tofu and shredded vegetables (carrots,
scallions, daikon and such) in a soy broth that’s slightly
sweet, the flavor picked up by your choice of soba or udon
noodles (the Asian version of spaghetti and fettuccine, respectively).
also shows up as a component of a dish that features a reimagined
pesto in which mint leaves take the place of basil; it’s served
over glass noodles with crunchy cashews alongside ($15).
Curried chicken ($14) also sports the flavor of peanuts; its
spiciness is set off by some sweetness that makes the flavors
really dance in the mouth.
Fusion extends to the sushi, which al ready has been livened
by other cultures. Take, for instance, the Buffalo roll, which
wraps appropriately seasoned chicken in sushi-vinegared rice
($5). The tri-color roll that we sampled—at the insistence
of my daughter, who horrifies her mom with this raw fish affinity—fills
the roll with tuna and salmon and that pressed whitefish entity
known as kanikama or crabstick ($6).
For something a little spicier, try the maguro roll
($4), with a spicy tuna filling. And for something more exotic,
the mushroom-shaped stuffed sushi ($7) begins with a tempura
nori roll, which is a deep-fried combo of tofu and vegetables
topped with a mound of breaded seafood.
The list goes on, including rolls of mixed seaweed ($5), cream
cheese and salmon ($4.50) and even barbecued eel ($14).
Presentation is stark and simple, on a wooden board with accompanying
wasabi and candied ginger flakes.
Figuratively and literally, it’s a lot to digest. Caruso is
an enthusiast who waxes most eloquently about what he’s doing,
with an obvious love of food and the business shining through.
The result of his new experiment is exciting both to the imagination
and to palate, and that’s what fine dining is all about.
Mansion Hill Inn (115 Philip St., Albany)
has been a cigar-night mainstay, and its latest
version of this ever-rarer event will be at 6
PM Monday (June 21). It’s a meal that demands
bold flavors, so the restaurant will serve panko-coated
sea bass, pepper-crusted beef tenderloin and even
a fresh strawberry-rhubarb crisp, among other
courses, along with a Glenmorangie Scotch tasting
and appropriate dinner wines. Price is $75 per
person, all-inclusive; reserve seats by calling
465-2038. . . . Thanks to an alert correspondent,
I’ve learned of a surge of area barbecue. Dave
Frazier, who ran Tex’s Bar-B-Que on Albany’s Central
Avenue, now offers his wares at the Pig Pit
in Cohoes (84 Ontario St., 235-2323). He’s
open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 AM to 8
PM. And The Lodge BBQ & Lounge also
boasts East Greenbush’s only dance floor (8 Troy
Road, 477-9881), as well as a barbecue-intensive
menu that’s served Monday through Saturday from
4 to 10 PM and Sun 4 to 8 PM. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail email@example.com).
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..