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Photo by:B.A. Nilsson

The Best of Times, the Wurst of Times
By B.A. Nilsson

Bavarian Chalet
Route 20 and French’s Mill Road, Guilderland, 355-8005. Serving Mon-Fri 11-1, Sat 3-11. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: German and Continental
Entrée price range: $15 (chicken piccata) to $16 (almost everything)
Ambiance: Rural lodge
Clientele: Sightseers

Seated in front of the kitchen door, we saw the chef go by a few times during the evening. The first time, he greeted us as he passed, but was indiscreet enough to shout, as he entered the kitchen, “Guess who’s dining here tonight? Santa Claus!”

On the one hand, it was a reminder to me that this is getting to be the wrong time of year for a gray-haired fat guy to sport a beard. I’m now clean-shaven. On the other, it’s a heads-up for restaurant people to keep the kitchen chatter quiet.

Santa resemblance notwithstanding, I can’t promise good things in this review.

The Bavarian Chalet opened more than 40 years ago, the creation of Franz Zwicklbauer, who ran Little Bavaria in Albany for several years before that. The 20-acre Guilderland site is as much a retreat as a restaurant, with a large, rambling building set on handsome grounds that include gardens and a nature preserve.

The Zwicklbauer family also owned a restaurant on Warner’s Lake, recently sold, now run with a couldn’t-care-less attitude that seems also to be infecting the Chalet.

We visited twice, first arriving on a Sunday evening a half-hour before the kitchen closed, which I was assured wasn’t a problem—but we came just as a bus tour of yappy old women was clearing out, and it had taken its toll.

With five in our party, there wasn’t a table set up in the main dining area, so we settled in a room off the bar, where a buffet was being broken down. That in itself wasn’t a problem, but the staff sure seemed tired.

The meal was terrific. Although the German specialties have been remanded to the menu’s back page, we made it a point to sample a variety of them and happily can report that the wurst plate (#15) is as good as ever, with a trio of plump sausages—weisswurst (or bockwurst), the soft, white variety, and two of the darker bratwurst type, along with the ever-excellent potato pancake, sauerkraut, and some dipping mustard.

Sauerbraten ($16) is a long-standing trademark: tenderizing a serving of beef with a long stay in a sweetened wine-based marinade, and pairing it with its accompanying gravy (as well as potato pancake and red cabbage) personifies the restaurant’s tradition. No less appealing is the jaeger (hunter’s) schnitzel ($17), a breaded veal cutlet served with a
mushroom sauce and including spaetzle, finger-sized dumplings.

Told that the stuffed pork chop wasn’t available, my friend Ron opted for the chicken piccata ($15), an Italian-inspired sautée that features lemon flavor; I ordered a flat-iron steak ($16), a small cut that normally hugs a chunk of gristle but proves to be tender and flavorful when properly trimmed, and it was quite delicious, served atop a worthy mound of mashed potatoes with a side of sautéed squash.

Hardly had our entrées been cleared, however, when we were slapped with a check by a fly-by server. I later asked if desserts were available but was too intimidated to order any.

Which was just as well; our second visit ended with a slice of very bad Black Forest cake. I worked for a German chef many years ago who searched far and wide for a baker to provide him with a good example of this multilayer confection. “Dessert and coffee are the last things you taste in a restaurant,” he insisted. “They have to be good.”

We hoped this second visit would show the floor staff in a better light, but there was no floor staff at all. Granted, it was early on a Thursday evening, but the floor was covered only by a fellow who spoke little English (and otherwise was, I think, a busboy) and a bartender reluctantly pressed into service.

It became something out of Fawlty Towers. My wife’s order of chicken Damiano ($16), in which spinach and eggplant are added to the grilled meat, with melted fontinella to finish, was fine, but my daughter was served a steak sandwich instead of the spare ribs she requested. While that was being sorted out, my pork chop arrived.

It turned out, as chef Matthew Juk explained, that while he no longer was offering the asparagus and brie stuffing, I could get a breaded or grilled chop (still $16), and on his recommendation I ordered it grilled.

I didn’t associate the peculiar odor with the meat at first. I thought it was my sneakers. Then I took a bite and nearly suffered self-induced whiplash. Juk credited the odor to a marinade based on Maggi seasoning, a Nestlé product that’s mostly monosodium glutamate and yeast; I think the meat was on the brink of going bad.

He offered to replace it with the flat-iron steak, but I wanted something different and opted for the rainbow trout ($15), which was nicely sautéed but fairly free of flavor other than the butter melted on top. And I discovered, long after we paid, that I was still charged for the more expensive pork chop.

It would be a shame to see this venerable institution collapse under the weight of tight-fistedness or apathy or whatever is causing its decline. Few German restaurants persist in this market, and in its heyday, the Bavarian Chalet showed us why they’re necessary.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The Hyde Collection is hosting a “journey of taste” at the second annual A Taste of Art . . . A Wine Experience from 6:30 to 9:30 PM on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Museum (161 Warren St., Glens Falls). Saratoga’s Black Diamond Caterers is providing the food to pair with a selection of international wines, while a number of area restaurants will offer fare to match a variety of New York wines chosen by Rich and Margot Cirino of New York Wine Cork. Tickets are $100 per person and may be reserved by calling the Hyde Collection at 792-1761. All proceeds will benefit the Museum’s exhibitions and programs through the Annual Fund. . . . My Way Café’s 21st Annual “Autumn in New York” Sinatra Tribute takes place at 4:30 PM and again at 7 PM on Sun, Oct. 24. Sounds of Sinatra will be sung by Brian D., who also will take requests. Chef-owner John Bove offers Italian-influenced cooking with an American flair, served in a roadhouse atmosphere. Reservations are required for the event; call the restaurant (located at 2257 Route 9, corner of 67E) at 899-4196.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@banilsson.com)


We want your feedback

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

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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
Castleton

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
Schenectady

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
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

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
Albany

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
Guilderland



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