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Van's Vietnamese

Food: 5 Forks!     Portion, Flavor, Freshness, Variety - all excellent

Service: 3.75 Forks

Atmosphere: 3.5 Forks

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 Shrimp Fresh Summer Rolls Combo Pho


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Com Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork)

Thai Chicken & Shrimp





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I am a bit back logged on reviews since I've taken a bit of a summer break, but it's time to catch up.   I went to Druthers a few months ago with a friend.

I had experienced their mac and cheese at the past few mac and cheese bowls, so it was on my list of places to go.  Since we were in the area, we stopped by and I of course had to order one of their mac and cheeses (the BBQ Mac and Cheese with pulled pork).  My friend ordered the ugly burger (Gorgonzola, beer cheese, onions, onion rings, bacon and a fried egg)

The mac and cheese was great, a huge portion for a good price.  It wasn't quite as good as I had from them at the last mac and cheese bowl, but still a darn good mac and cheese.  I would definitely order it again, but I would probably try one of their other types first.  Josie liked her burger, but she wasn't sure all the ingredients went together.  The burger was cooked exactly how it was ordered, but the roll was a little burned.

Service was great, even thought place was packed (at 3:00 on a Saturday).  They also have a brewery on site, and I enjoyed both beers I tried (although that isn't really part of this review).  I will definitely be back - 4 forks.

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BBQ Mac and Cheese Ugly Burger



Ali Baba


Ali Baba is located on 15th Street in Troy. It's a small, family owned, Mediterranean style restaurant with a very minimalist decor. I'd heard a lot about this restaurant, so I dragged a friend with me. He already knew about the place and loved the food. In fact, he was surprised I hadn't been. He also threatened me with imminent death if I went anywhere near his lavash bread...

I arrived early, and was seated. The woman looked at me quite strangely, and to this day I'm not sure why. The place was pretty empty, there was only one other occupied table at the time.

My dining companion entered, and we struck a deal on the lavash bread situation. I ordered a starter of 5 of their dips in a mixed plate, which comes with Lavash Bread. Ordering my entree was more difficult. See, their restaurant menu is all pictures. No details on the ingredients. Meanwhile, their online PDF menu lists the ingredients. So, there I was with my smartphone, matching the online menu with the restaurant menu by matching the titles. Meanwhile, my dining companion chided me for not just asking questions. To be honest, I was afraid of a language barrier, and simply decided to take matters into my own hands.

I settled on the Lamb Iskender, which is a yogurt marinated lamb, topped with a tomato sauce. My friend ordered a curry dish (I can't recall if it was beef or lamb).

Our meals were out promptly. I will say that I found a few of the dips to be lacking in salt. The Hummus should have had a more pronounced lemon and salt flavor than it did, but the yogurt sauce that comes with the Lavash Bread was divine.

My Lamb Iskender was very good. At first, I thought there was a lack of seasoning in the dish, even given the yogurt marinade and tomato sauce. Then, I discovered there was additional yogurt sauce beneath the lamb itself. This wasn't mentioned on their menu, but it provided the extra flavor the dish needed. The texture of the meat was also very good, if a little overcooked for my particular taste.

Overall, I give Ali Baba a solid 4 forks. The dish I had, had great flavor, but I felt the dips needed work. I'm also not a fan of having to do investigative work in order to figure out what I might be ordering, only to still be surprised by ingredients in the dish that weren't on the menu. Still ... I would return.

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Lamb Iskender Curry Dish



Read more: Ali Baba

Blowfish Sushi Restaurant


Blowfish is a new, all you can eat option, sushi restaurant located in the Price Chopper Plaza on Western Avenue in Guilderland. Since the loss of Hibachi X (the Colonie sister restaurant to Sushi X), Brian and I were eager to try Blowfish when it opened.

The decor is strange, in my opinion, for a sushi restaurant. It's modern hipster ... It reminds me of TCBY. The music playing playing over the sound system also struck me as strange. It ranged from country, to pop, rock, and more. I don't think they've really found their identity yet...

The restaurant wasn't busy, and we were promptly seated. I will say, that was about the only promptness of the service. The wait staff didn't seem familiar with how to conduct table service at all. They were almost afraid to approach a table (one table actually went to the hostess to pay their check). Plus, as is typical in our experiences with authentic ethnic restaurants, the language barrier made it impossible to ask questions.

To make things simple, Brian and I both chose the All-You-Can-Eat option. While I don't recall the names of the rolls, I do know that the fish was fresh ... which is the absolute minimum for a sushi restaurant in my opinion. Past that, the flavors were "just okay." There was nothing that popped. I'd even go so far as to say they were just mediocre.

The service was inexcusably slow. They didn't seem to know what they were doing, and they seemed almost irreverently afraid to serve/clear the plates. There was also the matter of the screaming infant belonging to one of the owners, and the fact that the child received more attention than the customers.

For a mediocre experience, Blowfish gets a 3 fork rating.

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Iron Roost


Iron Roost is located at 36 Front St. in Ballston Spa. Since Brian and I were headed to Saratoga for a wine festival, we knew this was the perfect opportunity to hit a breakfast spot on the way. I quickly came up with a top 3, and Brian zeroed in on Iron Roost.

At first I thought, "really? A 'just waffle' place?" Then I took a closer look at their menu, and my curiosity piqued. Granted I was still hesitant, but I figured what the heck? Plus, we've heard about this place from several people.

When we walked in, the hostess was nowhere to be seen. Not knowing what we were doing, we just wandered around, lost, inside. The hostess immediately spotted our lost faces, and gave us the rundown of how to order, and told us she had a table ready once our order was placed. The way Iron Roost works is the hostess gets you a table, then you place your order at the counter. Or if it's really busy, she puts your name on her list, and when she calls you to let you know a table is ready, that's the time to go up and place your order. It reminded us both of a crepe place in Lee, MA, only much better organized.

Everything about this place gave off a great vibe from the moment we walked in. Everyone was friendly, the restaurant had a warm feel, and last but not least ... the food was SO good.

Brian ordered the Bananas Foster Waffle with a side of their Housemade Sausage, and I ordered the Homemade Corned Beef Hash Waffle. Given how busy the place was, our food was out real fast.

I'll start with my dish. The waffle was perfectly cooked, and I loved that the batter was neutral in flavor. When dealing with savory flavors, a non-sweet waffle batter was a good call. The Corned Beef in the hash was spot on amazing. Absolutely amazing, and the eggs were perfectly cooked to an over-medium. I do, however, have to take off points for the potatoes. Something was off about them. They tasted  unevenly cooked, and they didn't seem to have absorbed the flavor from the corned beef. It's strange to say that, in a hash, the potatoes didn't belong.

With Brian's dish, I'll start with the sausage, because it was the one thing that detracted from the plate. It was too sweet of a sausage. While I'm not opposed to a hint of maple flavor, the ratio was off putting and not something we'd order again. HOWEVER, Brian's waffle was out of this world! Everything about that Bananas Foster Waffle was complete perfection. If you get that waffle (which I highly recommend you do!) ask for a spoon for that sauce! Really, you'll need it because there won't be enough waffle for that amazing sauce and I'd consider it CRIMINAL to leave any of it on the plate!

Iron Roost gets a solid 4 fork review. We can't let the potatoes and sausage slide, as much as we'd REALLY like to, for the sakes of those waffles. That said, Iron Roost is a MUST on our visit list. Oh how I wish they were just a little closer!

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Corned Beef Hash Waffle Bananas Foster Waffle