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brianart2
josieart2
kentart2

Brian

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Brian's Top Reviews:

Johny's (by Malozzi) 5fork
Madison Cafe 5fork
Phoenicians Restaurant

5fork



Ciao Italia

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I was hanging out with a friend, and we were hungry, after discussing where to go for far too long, I drove to Ciao Italia.  I had been to this location when it had a different name and owner, it was time for a visit to this new restaurant.

There are two sections to Ciao Italia.  When you first walk in, you are in a take out area.  To the left is a formal, classy looking dining room.  It took a couple of minutes for someone to come out and seat us, but we were there a bit before the typical dinner rush, so I would guess they didn't expect people for sit down service yet.

I ordered the chicken alfredo and my friend ordered the saltimbocca di pollo.  We also shared a side of calamari.  The calamari was pretty good.  It was cooked well, and seasoned, but could have used additional seasoning.  My chicken alfredo was amazing - the fettuccini was homemade, a nice touch.  The chicken was breaded, which was a little strange, but it worked with the dish and kept the chicken incredibly moist.  The alfredo sauce was plentiful and was creamy and amazing.  I loved this dish.  It did have onions in it which I'm not a huge fan of, but you didn't taste them, it just made for a strange texture once in a while.  My friend's saltimbocca was also delicious, we had no complaints about this dish.  Serving sizes were on the larger side, so it also served as a good lunch for me the next day.

The servers seemed understaffed for the bulk of the time we were there, but our service wasn't adversly affected too much by it.  Ciao Italia is close to my home, had great food and reasonable prices.  I will definitely be back - 4 forks.

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Chicken Alfredo Saltimbocca Di Pollo
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Calamari

4fork

cost15-20

Hilltop Restaurant

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Hilltop Restaurant is located in Watervliet in a little strip mall.  It was recommended to us for their pancakes.  When we wandered in late morning on a Saturday, there was only one customer there.  We were immediately greeted and told we could sit wherever.

Since we were directed to Hilltop because of their pancakes, I ordered those with a side of bacon.  Josie ordered her usual French Toast with a side of hash.  When I ordered the bacon the waitress asked how I would like it (soft, crisp or in the middle), I ordered it in the middle.  Sure enough, the bacon came out and it was just that - in the middle.  Often places will ask how you want it and then just ignore it and make it however they like.  It was a nice touch.  The pancakes were heavy.  Very heavy.  I think I was able to eat just about one of them (maybe not even that).  But they were cooked really well, with a slight crisp on it and a golden brown.  I would order them again, but probably get a short stack.  Josie's food on the other hand was not nearly as good.  Her French toast dish was incredibly small - just two pieces of thin white bread.  The bread was dipped so fast that nothing soaked in, and they even missed major portions of the bread so it was incredibly dry.  The hash was ok, but lacked seasoning.  I think she ate it primarily because her French Toast was so difficult to digest.

 I felt the service was quite good, and the staff was very friiendly, even as we were leaving the Chef was outside having a smoke break, she said, "thanks for coming, have a great day".  The friendliness of the staff and the pancake were the only things keeping Hilltop from getting 1 or 2 forks.  So, 3 forks for them and probably no return trip for us.

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Pancakes with side of bacon French Toast
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Corned Beef hash

3fork

cost5-15

El Loco

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A good friend of mine and his wife have a rule called, "no cook Friday".  In honor of this, we often meet up to go out to a new place.  This week it was El Loco in Albany (on Madison near Lark).   El Loco doesn't take reservations for parties less than 6, and was absolutely packed on our Friday outing.  After waiting for about 45 minutes, we were seated and our dining experience began.

We all ordered a few margaritas, and browsed the 5 page menu.  I settled on the Pollo Flauta - corn tortillas filled with turkey rolled into flutes and deep fried until crispy served with guacamole while Josie ordered the Chimichanga and Taco combo.  (our dining companions ordered enchiladas and another combo plate, pictures below, but they are not part of this review)

The Pollo Flauta was cooked well, but very dry, the guacamole helped to offset the dryness, but didn't completely do the job.  The cornbread that came with it was moist and flavorful and the rice and beans were ok, but lacked seasoning.  Josie's Chimichanga and Taco were both good.  The chimichanga was cooked perfect but was missing something, while the taco needed cheese instead of just meat and lettuce.  The taco had shredded beef on it instead of ground, and that was a nice touch.

Service was good based on how busy they were and staff all seemed polite.  Both the service and the good was good, but not amazing, so El Loco gets a 3 fork rating from me.

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Pollo Flauta Chimichanga and Taco

3fork

cost15-20

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Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro

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Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro used to reside within a local Chinese market.  When they moved into their own building on Wolf Road in Colonie, we added it to our list of places to go.  This review is for their dim sum which is only served until 5PM.

As we walked in, we were greeted and sat immediately.  I wasn't a fan of the table, but I won't him them on that.  (the booth was too far away from the table, and it had a base on the bottom that gave me absolutely no place to put my feet).  The Dim Sum menu is on a piece of paper where you check off the items you want.  We went for a mix of things to try out, including roast pork pastries, (deep) fried pork buns, shrimp and spinach dumplings, roast duck dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings, and pan fried pork buns.

The first to come out where the roast pork pastries and the fried pork buns.  The roast pork buns had a bit of sweetness and what I would describe as a bbq pork in them.  They were just slightly warmer than room temperature, which was a big negative for me.  The (deep) fried pork buns were not even room temperature, they were cold.  The filling inside was congealed but per Josie, "had a good flavor".  I couldn't even bring myself to eat the brick of cold pork mix.  Next up were our steamed dumplings, shrimp, shrimp and spinach, and roast duck.  The flavors in all of them were good, with the shrimp being a good size and cooked well, they were nice and tender.  The duck tender and moist.  The issue we had with these dumplings is that they were very sticky on the outside so they stuck to everything and ripped apart, and were completely slimy inside.  While the flavor was good, the texture was off-putting.  Finally we had the pan fried pork bun.  This one was my favorite, it has a nice light crisp on the outside, and a soft chewy inside.  Pork filling was nicely seasoned, it was probably the only one I would definitely order again if we returned.

Service was great, the owner/manager? came by a few times and made some jokes, and the waiter was there when we needed him, but not overbearing.  Josie and I agreed we would come back to try the actual menu, but we would probably go elsewhere for dim sum.  I would have given it a 2 fork rating overall, but Josie is a bit more of an expert in dim sum, so I will yield to her suggested rating of 3 forks.

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Roast Pork and Fried Pork Shrimp and Spinach and Roast Duck
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Pan Fried Pork Bun

3fork

cost5-15