Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Looking Up
   Myth America
 News & Features
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
   Listen Here
   Art Murmur
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad

Using Your Noodle
By B.A. Nilsson

Saso’s Japanese Noodle House
218 Central Ave., Albany, 436-7789. Serving lunch Tue-Fri 11:45-1:30, Tue-Thu 5-9:30, Fri-Sat 5-10. AE, D, MC, V
Cuisine: restrained Japanese
Entrée price range: $10 (chicken teriyaki rice bowl) to $21 (tuna teriyaki)
Ambiance: a gentle contrast to Central Avenue
Clientele: as varied and consistent as the soups themselves

There are stews, there are soups, and then there’s Japanese noodle soup. The first two have more in common with each other than the noodle soup has in common with either. Prepared correctly, noodle soup becomes a logic-defying entity in which a number of discrete elements swim together in a flavorful broth, and yet those elements never lose their individual identities.

This can be difficult for us stew-saturated Americans to appreciate. With our insane booster-boisterous spirit, we pile on the layers, the sounds, the colors. We saturate our senses, and we train those senses to demand ever more saturation. When it comes to food, we demand huge portions and thick sauces and we’re unhappy if all the taste buds aren’t firing at once.

What’s missing is a sense of time, and it’s the most crucial sensory component, because time alone allows us to assimilate and interpret what the senses have taken in. That’s when we become part of the creative process, but such a process calls for a measure of intellect.

That, too, is in short supply. It’s part of the American spirit. When we talk about “freedom fries,” when we suffer (and suffer from) the fools in the White House, we continue to celebrate our native anti-intellectualism.

So let’s wise up to noodle soup, at least. You slurp, you taste. You think about it for a moment as the flavor continues to unfold across your palate. You add a thicket of noodles, wrestling with their unruly ends. You seize a small island of pork with your chopsticks and enjoy its damp sweetness.

You need no lesson from me: Find Juzo Itami’s quirky 1985 film Tampopo and learn the zen of noodle soup in what may be the world’s only noodle western. Then you’ll rush to Saso’s to enjoy firsthand a bowl of miso ramen ($11).

In fact, this was my daughter Lily’s choice of entrée during a recent visit. She arrived craving miso soup, and was pleased to discover that it can be configured to include all the extra ingredients, particularly the egg noodles that carry the miso flavor so well.

Perhaps she was destined to enjoy such fare. The last we reviewed Saso’s, we were a couple of weeks away from the birth of our daughter, and I reported my wife’s enthusiasm for the shrimp tempura ramen ($11), in which a flurry of lightly battered, deep-fried shrimp and vegetables mix with other veggies and egg noodles. She deemed it wonderfully (and nutritionally) appropriate for a pregnant woman, which, according to Kathy Saso, prompted many visits from women in that condition.

Kathy and Yasuo Saso met in 1990 while both worked at Hiro’s, the venerable teppanyake restaurant on Central Avenue. They married three years later, and opened Saso’s in 1996. To endure for nearly a decade is a signal achievement in this market, but the restaurant not only has survived—it has flourished. The Sasos bought the building in which the restaurant started as a tenant, and they added an adjoining parking lot.

Recent refurbishments include new paint on the walls and a fresh look to the dining room, which always has been a study in elegant simplicity. A sushi bar dominates the back of the room, but we sat at a roomy table nearby, ordered a bowl of edamame ($5) with our drinks, and considered a dining strategy from the varied menu. Edamame are green beans served in steamed and salted pods you pop open, and they’re as addictive as peanuts.

The appetizer list alone provides choice enough for several visits, and it’s abetted by a specials page with even more to choose from. And that’s not to mention the sushi. Plenty of seafood, as well as familiar fare like chicken kushikatsu ($7), in which skewers of meat and onions are breaded and fried, and exotic items like hamachi kama—grilled yellowtail cheek with a daikon relish ($10). I opted for the simplicity of cold noodles with shrimp and cucumber ($7), and it was simple only insofar as the many flavors revealed themselves sequentially and then blended unobtrusively, adding up to a great sense of well-being.

A chef-recommended special of pork ribs ($8.25) boasted the effects of slow cooking, with meat that was amazingly tender, the sweetness of which was set off by the accompanying mustard sauce.

In the sushi department, we shared a Kathy roll ($9.25), which, Kathy explained, begins as a spicy tuna roll but adds shaved avocado as an outer layer, surrounding the vinegared rice. “Saso didn’t want to explain why he named it after me,” she said, “but I do hear him complaining what a pain it is.”

Not one to pass up a favorite thing, my wife enjoyed another version of shrimp tempura with the nabeyaki soba ($11), adding chicken and steamed veggies to a soy broth filled with buckwheat noodles. But she could only slurp her way halfway through before having the rest packed for the morrow’s lunch.

Two seafood specials displayed Saso’s dexterity with entrée design: the grilled escolar ($22) puts sake-marinated white tuna front and center, surrounded by a textural variety of crisp string beans and crunchy potato croquettes—the last-named evoking memories of childhood comfort food. And the grilled mackerel ($16) gets the shioyaki treatment, in which salt is rubbed on it in lieu of a marinade before it’s grilled over high heat. It’s served with a sauce made from ground daikon, balancing what saltiness remains in the meat.

Balance is such a key component of Japanese cuisine that it’s hard to escape a sense of contentment. The barley tea that’s available puts a soft finish to the meal, although we did find appetite space for some fried apple crisp with ice cream, a rich, fairly unrestrained dessert.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

Your Name:
E-mail Address:*
Rate It:

* E-mail address not required to submit your feedback, but required to be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.

What you're saying...

I 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.

Mary Kurtz

First, 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 the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I 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!

Peggy Van Deloo

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore


Elaine Snowdon

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale

Your 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..

Barry Uznitsky

Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home


In Association with
columbia house DVD 120X90
Process your (secure) HTML forms for free
Pick7_120x60 120x60
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.