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- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Courtney
We decided to try the Midtown Tap and Tea room on a Friday after work. Located at 289 New Scotland Avenue in Albany and with parking in the rear of the restaurant, it was an easy location to travel to from downtown. After having read a review from a few years about it being a bit run down and dusty, I was delighted to find a fresh, clean and tidy bar and restaurant. It was a bit empty for 5 pm on Friday, but by the time we left at 6:30, it was hopping. After being seated immediately, I inquired about the Happy Hour specials and learned that the beer on tap was $4. The newly acquired and locally made Nine Pin Cider was on tap, but not included in the special, but I decided to try it anyway. My friend got the citrusy Sauvignon Blanc. I’m happy to say that both drinks were delicious. The crispy and aromatic cider has inspired me to make a visit to the new local cidery down on Broadway for tasting hours very soon.
My friend and I opted to share several of their small plates, which ranged in price from $10 to $14. It took us a bit of time to narrow down our order because several of the dishes looked wonderful. We settled on the Lobster Calzones, the Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Tacos and the Ahi Tuna Crisps. Additionally, she decided to try the Roasted Tomato Bisque with Parmesan Crostini. The bisque was excellent. I don’t love tomato soups in general, but the spoonful I tried would inspire me to order it next time.
The Lobster Calzones were a pleasant surprise. The filling was very good, but the buttery, flaky pasta it was enclosed in was outstanding. The calzones were topped with a fresh roasted yellow tomato sauce, and came with an arugula salad perfectly dressed with a refreshing vinaigrette and candied nuts. It was our favorite dish of the lot. Next we got the Spicy Chipotle Shrimp tacos. While they were missing the expected chipotle heat, the tacos were delicious. The roasted corn salsa had an excellent depth of flavor, the cilantro lime and avocado sauce tasted very fresh and the shrimp were cooked just right. Last and unfortunately least, we were served the Ahi Tuna Crisps. The wonton crisps themselves were very good, but everything they were topped with was very disappointing. The slaw was barely kissed with the tangy sauce, the tuna was woefully overcooked and worst of all, the whole thing was drenched in wasabi dressing. Even when I scraped a good deal of the sauce off, the dish was barely palatable.
Since the name of the establishment referenced tea, we asked to see the tea and dessert menu. There wasn’t a large selection of either, but the teas listed looked very intriguing and we were impressed to learn that they were crafted locally by DiviniTea, a local shop in Schenectady. We chose the African Elixer and the White Melon, and decided to split the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. The teas are loose leaf and offered by the cup or pot. Both teas were aromatic and delicious, and the White Melon in particular made us wistful for Spring. While small in portion, the Crème Brulee was decadent.
We are happy to give Midtown Tap and Tea room 4 forks. I will definitely return to try more of their offerings. The service was attentive and friendly. While perusing their Facebook page, I noticed they frequently post pictures of their specials, which all look inventive and mouth-watering. My friend and I were particularly impressed that they feature food from local artisans and the wait staff were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about them.
Lobster Calzones Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
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|
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Brian
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.
|Roast Pork and Fried Pork||Shrimp and Spinach and Roast Duck|
|Pan Fried Pork Bun|
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
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|