Josie's Top Reviews:
|The Flying Chicken|
- Created on Saturday, 01 March 2014 17:59
Everybody's Cafe is located at 674 Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush. For all intents and purposes it's a house that's been renovated to serve as a cafe.
Brian and I ventured for breakfast, and were immediately greeted upon entering and told to sit anywhere we liked. As we walked into the two-part dining area, I realized our options were limited to the seating on the right half because the left half was overrun with small children climbing on every unoccupied surface.
Furnishings at Everybody's consists of a smattering of tables, a love seat, and a couch. You definitely get the feeling that they want to make the cafe feel as if you're sitting at home or having neighbors over. I will say this ... while I appreciate, value, and even like the concept to a great extent, my experience in this particular instance was an example of just how badly the concept can backfire when you dine too closely with your neighbors. That's as much detail as I'll offer.
Our server had followed us to the table we chose to sit at, placed our menus down, and immediately asked for our drink order. We were a little flustered, not having a moment to even take our coats off yet, let alone look at their offerings so we went with the old stanby of coffee and water. As we began reading the menu over, we dicovered that they actually had a sizeable selection of specialty teas, and lattes. It would've been nice to have had a few seconds to read that, and order one.
On to the food. The menu was very small. Not necessarily a bad thing, but with only one sweet offering (French Toast), there was just a lack of variety; 1 wrap, 1 "bowl," a benedict, and 2 omelettes. This doesn't count any daily specials.
Brian ordered their French Toast which comes with Real Maple Syrup (a nice touch). Not wanting to order two of the same dish, I opted for the Three Egg California Omlette, which consisted of Cheddar Cheese, Avocado, and Bacon Bits. Being somewhat of a bacon purist, I asked for actual bacon instead. My dish also came with Home Fries (choice of regular or sweet potato. I chose regular), and toast (I asked for Wheat).
While waiting for our order, we previewed some dishes that were heading out to neighboring tables. One gentleman received an order of pancakes. Remember that menu I delineated above? There were no pancakes on that menu, or their specials. How did he get them? Why were they not on the menu? That's a big restaurant fail. We shouldn't have to be regulars in order to know what is and isn't on the menu.
A plate of French Toast came out for a neighboring table, and given the appearance, there weren't high hopes. Brian was delightfully surprised to have been wrong. Even though the crust of the bread was tough and ultimately not palatable, everything else about the bread made for a perfect French Toast dish. Even though the batter hadn't completely distributed, the bread acted like a sponge of sorts, absorbing the moisture and flavor while being pillowy soft.
My omelette, however, was not successful. In fact, I'll go as far to say that it wasn't an omelette. The eggs were completely overcooked, and were basically the equivalent of a taco shell by design. Yes, this also means that the filling wasn't what you'd expect an omelette filling to be. The filling was folded inside after the eggs were cooked to death. I didn't have an omelette, I had an egg taco. I did not order an egg taco. Therefore, I was quite displeased with my dish.
The home fries were at least decent. They were perfectly cooked through, but only the crisper pieces retained much of the flavor. The bread was a loss. While I could tell it was a non-commercial, homemade wheat bread, it shouldn't have been toasted. Most of it was too crunchy to eat.
Based on my experience alone, I'd give Everybody's Cafe 2 forks. However, Brian's experience was significantly different. He gave his dish alone a perfect rating. Service was wonderful, if a bit rushed at the beginning. Not including pancakes on the standard menu (I later saw it written as an option on a chalk board) was a big minus. And... since I'm the one writing this review, I wasn't a fan of the environment on this visit. So it gets a 3 fork rating overall from me. Not a place I'd return to, even with the "designed to be homy" feel."
|California Omelette||French Toast|
- Created on Saturday, 01 March 2014 15:01
Grappa '72 is located at 818 Central Avenue, inside a strip mall next to the Hannaford strip mall, across the street from West Gate Plaza strip mall. You would almost not notice there's a fine dining establishment among all the strip malls, but this place is one that shouldn't be passed by.
I'd been dying to review this place, having heard about it often. So I enlisted the company of a couple of foodie friends of mine.
I arrived a few minutes early. When I walked in, a gentleman (who - based on later conversation - I believe was a manager) greeted me, before confirming my reservation and asked if I wanted to proceed to the table, or wait for the rest of my party. After I opted to wait, he then asked if I wanted anything to drink while waiting. Not only did he get my drink personally, but he sat me at an unoccupied 2-top while I waited for the rest of my party. Now that's service above and beyond, in my opinion.
My party arrived soon after, and we were immediately seated (after accepting the offer of having our coats hung). Grappa '72 makes fine dining comfortable. Everything from the warm decor, to the friendly service, and attention to creature comfort details speaks to an environment that's very welcoming.
Our server was also quite entertaining. She employed a somewhat Thespian tone in explaining their specials. There were soft, yet dramatic pauses and everything was said with a smile. Think similar to William Shatner, but wayyyyy better.
Now on to the food! We started with the Calamari appetizer, that came with a yogurt based sauce. One dining companion ordered the Osso Bucco entree which came over a bed of (Saffron) Rissotto Milanese, her hubby ordered the Vitello Mare Monti entree (veal, shrimp, and mushrooms in a light spicy tomato sauce), and I ordered the Vitello alla '72 entree (veal, basil, tomatoes, in a vodka Taleggio sauce over parmesean risotto).
Bread was served within minutes of giving our dinner order. While the bread wasn't warm, it was a wonderful texture; just the right mix of firm and soft. The olive tapanade was delish. There's oil and balsamic on the table, but no dish to mix it in. I asked for one (which I think should come as part of the package) and was provided a small plate straight away.
The calamari came out piping and hot were cooked perfectly. They were tender, had just the right amount of batter, and weren't greasy in the least. The critiques are two fold. The outside could've used a touch more seasoning. There was some salt and pepper, but it could've used more. The largest critique is that the yogurt sauce did absolutely nothing to compliment the dish. If anything, it took away from the dish. The calamari would've been better served with a remoulade, or no sauce at all.
For entrees I'll start with the osso bucco. My dining companion loved her dish, and I agree (having tasted a few bites of it myself). The veal was wonderfully tender, and the risotto was cooked perfectly. While I believe the veal could've used more seasoning, she was fine with it as is. One real detractor was the almost severe level of saffron in the risotto. There was an overpowering aftertaste that I couldn't quite put my finger on. After some deliberation, we determined the saffron was the culprit.
My other dining companion (her husband) enjoyed his Vitello Mare Monti. The veal was cooked perfectly, as were the accompanying carrots (it should be noted that carrots were not listed on the menu as coming with the dish). He did comment that the sauce lacked distinguishing flavor. It sort of fell flat, and didn't register as being lightly spicy at all. After a couple of tastes, I agree. Perfectly cooked, but needing more flavor.
My dish was consistent with the rest. Perfectly cooked veal and asparagus (which wasn't on the menu as an accompaniment). The sauce was smooth, and creamy but aside from the hint of cheesyness, there was an absolute lack of distinguishing flavor. Salt and pepper would've worked wonders.
Grappa earns a solid 4 forks. Everything was perfectly cooked, the flavor just needed more (or less in the case of the saffron). Towards the end (the check receiving portion of the meal) service dipped a little bit, but I think it was only noticeable because we were too full to continue eating, and were ready to conclude our visit.
Grappa '72 will definitely get a second (and maybe third and fourth) visit. I'm intrigued about the rest of their menu. I wonder if they make their own pasta....
|Osso Bucco||Vitello alla '72|
- Created on Saturday, 22 February 2014 21:05
Chez Mike is located inside a strip mall at 596 Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush. The decor is made up of warm tones that create an inviting feel, complementing an open floor plan.
Brian and I did our round robin of where to go next for dinner, and Chez Mike was it. Reservations recommended for a Saturday night. When we arrived, we were greeted and sat immediately. Our server came over moments later for our drink orders. After delivering our drinks, she noticed we were still looking over the menu and gave us the appropriate amount of time before checking in to take our meal orders.
Before moving on to the food, I really do need to stress the attentiveness of the service. Not once did we sit waiting for something to be refilled. Nor did we feel rushed. Our server was pleasant, funny, conversational and all around amazing. It was a fantastic experience based off that alone.
Now on to the food! Brian ordered the Pineapple Glazed Baby Back Ribs that came with a Brown Butter Sweet Potato Mash and Chipotle Cole Slaw. I ordered the Lamb Feta Burger (cooked medium) that came with Carmelized Onions and a Roasted Red Pepper Aioli. I substituted the Rosemary Fries for Sweet Potato Mash.
The theme of the food was "SO CLOSE!." Everything was just SO close to being perfect. Brian's ribs were cooke perfectly, falling off the bone, but they lacked flavor in the meat (versus the glaze on top). The sweet potato mash, while cooked well, had too much brown butter which made the side dish very heavy. The cole slaw was perfectly fresh, but there was no chipotle flavor to be found. I also think there was a touch too much mayo. It was a borderline heavy side dish, but still very good.
My burger was similarly so close to perfect. The ciabatta was perfectly soft and fresh. The lamb was juicy, perfectly cooked, and practically fell apart in my mouth. What lacked, surprisingly, was the flavor. With all the condiiments that were on it, I couldn't taste the feta, nor could I taste the distinct sweetness of a roasted red pepper. It was a wonderful vehicle that just didn't realize it's full potential. I ended up putting Brian's cole slaw on my sandwich in order to add some complexity in flavor.
Chez Mike definitely earns a 4 fork rating. The food has amazing potential, and the service is second to none. We'd be interested in visiting again, and exploring more of their offerings.
|Lamb Feta Burger w/ Sweet Potato Mash||Baby Back Ribs w/ Sweet Potato Mash & Cole Slaw|
- Created on Saturday, 08 February 2014 21:00
Betty Boop's Diner is located at 115 Philip Street in Downtown Albany. The space is quaint, small, and warm. Of course it's also decorated with many things Betty Boop.
Brian and I ventured for breakfast. We weren't feeling the greatest, and hoped a quick and tasty breakfast would do the trick. Unfortunately, instead of quick and tasty, we received slow and mediocre.
Upon entering, a waitress called out from the kitchen to tell us to sit anywhere we liked. After being greeted, and receiving our drinks and menus, it's like our server forgot we were there. We were sitting with our menus closed, waiting to order food for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, the waitress was serving other tables, returning to the kitchen, and performing other duties while passing us by. She even passed by and looked at our closed menus on her way through. Even some communication of "I'll be right back" would have been nice.
When we finally ordered, Brian and I both ordered the French Toast. In addition, I asked for a side of their homemade Corned Beef Hash. Food was actually out relatively promptly, and we dug in.
The French Toast was a total fail. I can't believe how foreign a concept good French Toast is. The bread was so barely dipped in the batter that it makes me ask the question 'why bother dipping it at all?' In fact, why even have French Toast on the menu? The inside was completely dry as it was untouched by the batter. The only thing that brought flavor to the dish was the cold butter I melted between the bread, the syrup, and the torrent of powdered cinnamon and sugar they douse on top.
By contrast, the Homemade Corned Beef Hash had wonderful flavor. If I was feeling better, I'd have finished the entire side order. There was a nice crunch, and lots of corned beef. I liked that the potatoes were rustically different sized. I could see herbs in the mixture, and while the onion flavor was strong it wasn't too overpowering. A great dish.
Sadly, one good side dish does not warrant a repeat visit to Betty Boop's. After we finished our meals, placing napkins over our plates to indicate we were done, we were again ignored by our waitress. In fact, we hadn't seen her since she dropped off our food. There was no "how is everything." There was no refilling of drinks (I'd have loved a second glass of water). Nothing. It's not as if she was nowhere to be found. She was everywhere. Repeatedly passing by our table. She even dropped off a check at a neighboring table, then went to clean another table next to ours! All done without even looking in our direction.
Finally, Brian asked if we could have our check. She barely even spared us a look when she said "Sure." She was too busy wiping down a table I guess.
Betty Boop gets a 2 fork rating. It would be a 1 fork if not for the tasty hash, but make no mistake, the customer service in that establishment is so deplorable that it's not even worth visiting for the hash unless you pick up an order to go.
|French Toast||Homemade Corned Beef Hash|
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