By B.A. Nilsson
Taste of Greece
Lark St., Albany, 426-9000. www.atasteof
greece.biz. Serving Mon-Thu 11-9, Fri 11-10, Sat 2-10. AE,
D, MC, V.
price range: $9 (pasticio) to $18 (Thalasina – snapper
and shrimp – special)
Sasual neighborhood joint
Neighbors and other connoisseurs
the gyveci ($12) finally arrived, it managed to top
all the appetizers. Probably because a tender, meaty lamb
shank was hidden under all that cheese, nestled among the
little torpedoes of orzo pasta. Lamb shanks require a long,
slow oven session, so they end up sharing a lot of flavor
with whatever is baked with them; the cheese, Greek kaseri,
is a sheep’s milk blend often served as flaming saganaki.
And the cheese has a robust flavor, good enough to go up against
the cinnamon-spiced lamb, picked up by the pasta and spreading
a satisfying warmth as you make your way through the dish.
A Taste of Greece has occupied its Lark Street corner for
more than five years, at first as a casual eat-in-or-take-out
joint, and now, after a change in ownership, a little fancier
with its menu offerings.
The changes were eased into place by Dino and Kella Kacani,
who bought the restaurant from the original owner four years
ago. “I was the chef when the restaurant opened,” Dino explains,
“but I had no control over what was happening. Eventually,
I was in a position to buy out the owner.”
Although the traditional fare is still very much in place,
Kacani has added some of his own creations, like the melixana
brizola ($11), in which slabs of sautéed eggplant are
served in a creamy garlic sauce, topped with mushrooms and
onions, or the $18 thalasina (from the sea) special,
topping shrimp and red snapper with a creamy spinach and tomato
Heading page three of the four-page menu are the gyros, available
with a lamb and beef combo or with ground beef alone. You’ll
want the former, the original, the mother ship of gyrosity,
the meat that’s carved from an upright rotisserie, wrapped
in an oversized pita, daubed with tzatziki, decorated
with tomatoes and onions. It’s $6, or $10 in a platter that
ups the size and adds potatoes.
You can get seafood or chicken or even vegetables in a similar
presentation, and if that’s your preference, I’m sure you’ll
be delighted with the flavors. I just can’t wrench myself
free from that original lamb and beef loaf.
But let’s talk vegetarian for a moment. Sure, this would seem
to be a meat-
intensive cuisine, and when I imagine those hordes of baby
sheep being felled in and around Athens I’m not sure whether
to get hungry or sleepy, but just think about spanakopita,
another famous Greek dish (spinach and feta baked in crunchy
phyllo pastry) and you can see the veggie possibilities emerge.
for instance, a tomato-rich casserole with squash and mushrooms
and feta, or a vegetable shishkebab ($11 each). Spinach baked
with feta and rice (spanakorizo, $8) or vegetables
topped with béchamel sauce for a moussaka variant ($10).
I’ll confess that I didn’t try the regular moussaka (also
$10) because it’s made with ground beef and I was in a lamb-hungry
state when checking out this menu. But it’s offered, along
with chicken or lamb or pork scallopini ($10-$11) and a number
of seafood dishes like swordfish, grilled ($12.50) or served
over a spinach-cream sauce ($16), and snapper, broiled ($12.50)
or served in a salad that also features spinach, feta, beets
and pepperoncini ($13.50).
But you probably want more of that saganaki experience.
Head for the shrimp or scallop saganaki (Our Prize
Dish! the menu exclaims—$13) and again there’s that melange
of zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, feta and more,
this time (as my friend Sharon preferred it) with a generous
helping of shrimp mixed in.
After five years of successful business, there’s no point
in making fun of the restaurant’s name. Especially when it
offers something as great-tasting as “A Great Taste of Greece”—an
appetizer option ($11) that’s a combo of four appetizers.
Spanakopita ($5 alone) is not only an excellent version of
the dish, but it also anchors the plate nicely, giving a crunchy
contrast to the stuffed grape leaves (dolmades, $4.50),
which are as you’d expect. Two meat dishes finish the collection:
keftedes ($4.50), which are meatballs with a more dramatic
flavor than you might expect, and lukaniko ($4.50),
the star of the plate, a sausage sweetened with the unexpected
flavor of orange zest.
A half-dozen Greek dips ($5 apiece) include the cucumber-and-yogurt
tzatziki and a garlicky baked eggplant mash. We selected
a threesome (there’s a combo platter for $12) that arrived
with a heaping platter of hot pita slices. Tarama salata
mixes pink roe with cream cheese for a unique, salty flavor;
revitho salata is a cousin to hummus, and tirolafteri
is a deliciously spicy creamed feta dip.
We even sampled the grilled octopus appetizer ($10), which
is a tasty, slightly chewy dish that also worked well sliced
cold into a salad the next day.
But you don’t even have to take my word for what’s good here.
A Greek buffet is served at dinnertime the third week of each
month, Monday through Saturday, and is terrifically popular.
Baklava was the appropriate finale, not-too-syrupy
squares of the nuts-and-phyllo dessert. By then, you have
such a good sense of well-being that you feel as if you might
be in a European café (inspired, possibly, by the mural that
takes up one wall of the restaurant, depicting a view from
the Greek coast). Service is fast and friendly, and more than
likely you’ll end up chatting with those sitting near. There’s
everything here except xenophobia, plenty of which lurks outside.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, authors of The
Book Club Cookbook, will be at the Schenectady
County Public Library (Clinton and Liberty Streets,
Schenectady) from noon-5 PM Sunday, Oct. 17, to
discuss and sign their book. The event is a fund-raiser
for the Capital Campaign to expand the downtown
library to include a new children’s center, gallery
and performance space. Samples of food made by
area restaurants from The Book Club Cookbook
recipes will be offered for sale. Gelman and
Krupp interviewed book-club members all over the
country to see what they were reading and eating;
the result is a collection of 100 entries, each
focusing on a literary masterpiece. . . . The
Hudson Valley Council of Girl Scouts will
hold its third annual Cookie Cuisine event from
6-9 PM Tue, Oct. 26 at the Italian-American Community
Center (Washington Ave. Ext., Albany). Honorary
Chair Carmine Sprio, Ric Orlando and a host of
talented culinary teams take on the challenge
of preparing gourmet entrées and desserts using
Girl Scout cookies. This year’s participants include
the Arlington House, Aromi D’Italia, Capital District
EOC, Carmine’s, Crowne Plaza, Magnolia’s, New
World Home Cooking, Real Seafood, SUNY Cobleskill
and 333 Café. Tickets are $35; pony up $75 and
you’ll be part of the honorary committee. For
reservations, call Sharon Smith 489-8110, ext.
105. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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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..