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- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
Cafe 217 sits at 12.5 Delaware Avenue in Albany. It's one block from Madison Avenue. There's a sign hanging above the building, but it's at an angle that can't always be seen. When we went to visit, we weren't even sure if 217 was open at first. There was little to no lighting inside. Alas, we tried the door, and it opened. We were greeted, and ushered to a booth.
The decor is very "Secret Garden." The drapes have a Euro feel, and there are wrought iron gates affixed to the walls. Cafe 217 presents a laid back atmosphere (the sparse lighting), mixed with mild sophistication (cloth napkins with napkin rings).
Our visit was interesting, in many ways. We were intrigued by the homemade corned beef hash, and chipotle sweet potato hash on their online menu. Brian, who's not a fan of onions, asked if the hash had onions. Our server didn't know so he went back to check. It was a plus that he went to check. We felt it was a minus that he did not know the menu. The server came back to report that the hash did have onions and peppers.
With this in mind, Brian ordered their Strawberry Cream Stuffed French Toast. I ordered the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs, with a side of Chipotle Sweet Potato Hash. I enjoy the flavor enhancement of onions, so I was excited to try both their hash offerings. For my eggs, I asked for them to be scrambled soft.
Brian's French Toast was not stuffed. They were two slices of thick french toast, with a strawberry cream sauce ladeled over the top. That said, the french toast was by far the most amazing french toast he's ever had (too bad it was on special, and not the regular menu). The sauce was immensely flavorful, without being too sweet. The batter went throughout the bread, and it was rich and flavorful. The dish came with a side of homefries. Honestly, they added nothing to the dish. Though cooked well, the potatoes had zero flavor.
My dish was a disappointment. The eggs were not scrambled soft. They were scrambled through, which presents a firm, almost tough, texture which was not what I wanted. The hash was also disappointing. While the Corned Beef Hash had flavor, what I enjoy most about a homemade Corned Beef Hash is the briney, fatty taste of the corned beef. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of peppers and onions completely overpowered any other flavor. I knew I was chewing on protein, but I would have been hard pressed to identify it as corned beef.
Equally disappointing was the Chipotle Hash. It had a nice kick, but my expectation was to taste the corned beef, and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Most of what I tasted was spice, with a touch of the sweet potato sweetness. Then, there was the abundance of peppers and onions. For me, it was a sad state of affairs for Corned Beef & Sweet Potato Hash. Brian was able to taste the corned beef, from the spoonful he took, but that was only because he picked everything else out first. Quite honestly, the best part about my dish was the wheat toast. It was buttered, and grilled to perfection on the flat top.
A couple of odd tid bits (apart from anything that's factored into this review) include a notice on their menu that state they "reserve the right to add 18% gratuity to any bill." That raises an eyebrow (or two) for me. There seems to be a "nickle and dime" theme with this restaurant. Sodas are not ree refills, but they don't tell you that up front (you have to ask). When asking for condiments (other than salt and pepper) you receive tobasco for free, but Frank's Red Hot Sauce is a $0.50 up charge. Last, the coffee is the most expensive breakfast coffee I think I've ever seen. It's $2.25. I don't normally mention coffee at a breakfast shop, but this just astounded me enough to. I wonder if coffee refills were also not free. I'd have asked, but I only drink 1 cup with breakfast.
All in all, this visit was intriguing, but we're not sure if it was intrguing enough to return.
|Corned Beef Hash & Eggs||Strawberry Cream Stuffed French Toast|
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
Samurai Japanese Steakhouse is located on Wolf Road in Colonie, in the old Burger King building, next to the Hess gas station. When you walk in, you're momentarily confused because technically you can walk to the left or the right. After a moment, you realize the hostess station is on the right hand side. Aside from that momentary confusion, there's a wonderfully decorative waterfall at the front door that's done quite nicely.
The rest of the decor is tastefully done, and on par with most Japanese Steakhouses I've been in. The seated dinner area is separate from the hibachi area. There's a mixture of dark Earth tones, with pops of color here and there, andthe overall theme is one of sharp lines (square, rectangle) versus rounded curves.
The service was odd, almost overbearing. One server came to take our drink order. Then, two minutes later, another server asked us if we ordered drinks yet. I thought it was just our table at first, but then noticed it happen with another table as well. Disorganized at best. A second issue I had, which I found to be a theme in Japanese Restaurants (and one Chinese Restaurant) of the area, was the language barrier. Asking questions of our server was an exercise in futility. They're not knowledgeable, and are literally there just to write down the items from the menu as you order them.
On to the food. For appetizers, we ordered Rock Shrimp ($7.95), and Spicy Tuna Tar Tar ($8.95). The Rock Shrimp had an off-putting batter texture. It was soft, and greasy, and indicative of not being properly drained after frying. The sauce was haphazardly put on, which meant only the pieces with sauce were flavorful. Some of the greens had more sauce than the actual shrimp.
By contrast, the Tuna Tar Tar was delightfully fresh. There was amazing presentation, which included very skilled knife work. Our main issue with the dish was that the tuna itself, outside of the spicy sauce, was very bland. At first, I thought it was just me holding an expectation to sushi grade fish that shouldn't be had. However, the more I thought about some of my favorite sushi experiences, I knew it wasn't asking much for the actual fish to hold a distinct flavor. The tuna had no flavor of its own.
For our entrees we ordered three rolls; The Fire House Roll ($11.95), The Fantastic Roll ($12.95), and a Spicy Yellowtail Roll ($4.95). The Fire House Roll became a source of some issue. It was supposed to be shrimp tempura inside, with a spicy tuna and crunch mixture on top. When it arrived, there were also cucumbers inside which was nowhere on the menu. Since this was one of Brian's rolls, and he doesn't like cucumber in his sushi rolls, he brought it up to the attention of the staff.
The staff promptly got to work on a second roll, and left the first one at our table because it couldn't be reused. Since I don't mind cucumbers in sushi rolls, I picked at a couple of pieces, and enjoyed the flavor of the roll greatly. Oddly enough, when the second roll arrived, I liked it a lot less than the first. The problem was the same that was had with the Rock Shrimp appetizer. The shrimp tempura was fried, wrapped immediately, topped with the cold topping, and served. The lack of draining the grease, and letting the shrimp cool, resulted in the roll having two extreme tempuratures (hot inside, and cold outside). Additionally, the batter was greasy and soft, as opposed to light and crispy.
The Fantastic Roll, while presented well, was just too large to manage. The fish inside (tuna, and salmon among them) had no flavor of its own, necessitating the use of soy but then the soy pretty much overpowered everything, being the only flavor of the roll (rather than complimenting it). Plus, the special seaweed it was wrapped in tasted like a tortilla roll. Not seaweed. I couldn't finish it.
Saving grace? The Spicy Yellowtail was actually enjoyable, flavorful, and delicious.
|Spicy Tuna Tar Tar||Rock Shrimp|
|Fire House Roll (top left), Spicy Yellowtail (top right), Fantastic Roll (bottom)|
- Category: Events
- Written by Brian
Dine out at participating restaurants on Thursday, April 25, 2013 and a percentage of the price of your meal will be donated to help the AIDS Council provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS in your community.
Participating in Dining Out For Life® is easy:
- Choose a participating restaurant.
- Gather a group of people and call ahead to make a reservation. Be sure to mention you're Dining Out For Life®.
- Dine out on Thursday, April 25th and enter to win a fabulous prize.
See a list of participating restaurants here: http://www.diningoutforlife.com/albany/restaurants
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Brian
Newest Lunch was recently featured on a Food Network show, so Josie and I decided to check it out. The show focused on the hot dogs, so even though it was still breakfast time for us, we tried a few hot dogs too.
We both ordered egg and cheese sandwiches, mine with sausage, and hers with bacon. These sandwiches were amazing. Tons of meat, eggs scrambled, and still nice and fluffy, and lots of cheese (some on top and some on bottom). The rolls were lightly buttered and grilled. For about $4.00, it is probably the best breakfast sandwich I have had in the Capital Region.
Next up the hot dogs. The hot dog itself was nice and juicy with a good flavor, As for the sauce, I thought it was dry, but Josie thought I was crazy, so we agreed to disagree on that. We both completely agreed that it was flavorless, and added nothing to the hot dog. She said she would order it as is again, but I think I would get it plain.
The bad part of this review would be the atmosphere. This place is a dive. Stains on the ceiling tiles, old outdated booths, and even the outside looked dilapidated. Our server (who we guess is the owner) was very nice and gets a great rating from us, but most of the other staff came off as a bit rude and too busy to deal with you. Above and beyond that, the other customers were rude. When we got there, the place was full. We stood around for about 5 minutes, when another couple came in (who had obviously been there before). They walked up to a booth of some people the knew, and had them get up so they could take their seats. All the staff saw this, but didn't say anything. The owner came over and asked a single guy he knew to move to the bar so we could sit there, but we were annoyed. Someone else walked in and put their giant coat on my bench. When we were trying to pay, no one let us move up to the register even though they were just standing around waiting.
Most of that is irrelevant to this review, the restaurant isn't at fault for it's customer's behavior. The good food, and the fact that our server was the only one who was polite gets Newest Lunch a 4 Fork rating.
|Sausage Egg and Cheese||Bacon Egg and Cheese|
|Hot Dogs (one with sauce, one with 'everything')|