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- discover the wine of the month club .
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
Brian, and I were in the mood for something different for dinner this time. After two misses with places that had recent "For Sale" signs on them, we stumbled upon Mr. Pio Pio. Now it wasn't exactly a stumble, as it popped up as being a restaurant in the vicinity. So we knew the address we were looking for while driving. If we didn't have that, we'd have driven by this place never the wiser. The front sign is so faded, it's basically non existent. When you walk in, there are roughly six tables in the small restaurant.
Service is seriously lacking, for two main reasons. First, Mr. Pio Pio is an authentic Latin American restaurant. While that will mean true Latin flavors, that also means a language barrier when ordering; and a language barrier can be difficult if you have questions about the dishes or can't quite translate them off the menu. Second, this place gets busy (justifiably so, which we'll get to later) and there's just not enough service or kitchen staff to meet that demand. The staff seems stressed, and not all that willing to put out exceptional service.
All that said, we move on to the food. Oh, the wonderful food. For an appetizer, we ordered the Chicharonnes (crispy fried pork!). For meals, Brian ordered the Grande Feast which consisted of a 1/4 rotisserie chicken, grilled beef, spare ribs, rice & beans, and plantains. I ordered the Carne Asada, which is a marinated and grilled beef that comes with rices & beans, and sweet plantains.
After a good wait, our chicharonnes arrived. I was really looking forward to my maiden taste of chicharonnes. Without having another example to compare it to, I can say that the pork was crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside. Although the flavor of the chicharonnes was light, the fattyness made them very rich. My main critiques: the chicharonnes were a bit tough to eat texture wise due to the frying, and given the richness, I think there were just too many of them in the appetizer (too much of a food.. I know right?).
When our entrees arrived, there was a mixup with mine (remember that language barrier). After taking our order, the server misunderstood a question we asked, and replaced my order with something else. In the end, I had to wait a bit longer for my dish. Oddly enough, it came out faster than anything else in the meal.
The chicken, and beef in Brian's dish were absolutely amazing. The beef was well marinated, pounded thin, grilled to a nice char, and tenderly cooked. The chicken was marinated, moist, and amazingly juicy. You could pick up cilantro, and lime amongst the flavors. The ribs, though tasty, were a bit tough to cut through but still pretty enjoyable.
My steak, just like Brian's, was marinated and cooked to perfection. Every bite made me want to do a happy dance. I ordered the steak medium, and was amazed at how a steak that's been so thin it's almost reduced to one side, can actually be cooked to a medium temperature. Lo and behold, there was pink in the steak. My hat's off to that level of skill. The plantains were perfectly cooked, and they even take the time to season their rice!
All in all, Mr. Pio Pio is a must eat! My big recommendation, though, would be to call the order in and pick it up. Really, the service is that lacking, that I would even venture to say that it's not worth going there to eat a sit down meal, but it is a meal worth eating.
Rice & Beans
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Brian
Have you ever had soup dumplings? If the answer is no, then this review will change your life. If you have, and didn't know about ALA Shanghai, then this review will also change your life. I had soup dumplings in China Town in NYC a number of years ago, and had been looking for a local place to get them since. I finally stumbled upon ALA Shanghai and my search has ended. ALA Shanghai is in Latham just past the circle.
We walked in on a Friday evening (I'd recommend reservations, it got busy fast). First off, we had to order dumplings - and lots of them. They had two types of soup dumplings, one with just pork ($5) and one with pork and crab ($7) Both came with 6 dumplings. We also ordered some traditional pork dumplings ($5). I had magical memories of soup dumplings, and these did not disappoint. I thought the wonton skin was a little on the thick side, but it didn't take away from the amazing flavor. (side note on soup dumplings... they come very hot, I usually just barely bite the top off, to expose the inside and let it cool down). If you go to ALA Shanghai, you must order some soup dumplings. the traditional pan fried pork dumplings were also very good, cooked very nicely and a good juicy flavor.
We ordered two entrees to split, Tong-Po Pork ($12) and Orange Flavored Beef ($14). Tong-Po Pork is Stewed pork belly in Shanghaiese style. It was difficult to cut and very fatty. It had a nice flavor, but wasn't really our thing. We could tell it was cooked well, and while hard to cut, it was still quite tender (I can't really figure that one out). Not something we would get again, but I'm sure if you like this dish you would like their presentation of it. The Orange Flavor Beef was thin and tender, dipped in batter and lightly fried. The sauce is like an orange flavored sweet and sour sauce. It is hard to keep beef as thin as this was, juicy and tender, but they pulled it off. We would get this again, once we go through the menu a bit more.
The menu is massive. There are many things we will have to go back and try. Wait staff is very friendly, and while there is a language barrier, they make sure the person who seats you and takes your order speaks English well. Although I would guess a majority of their patrons speak Chinese.
Conclusion, great, authentic Chinese food for a reasonable price. And of course, try the soup dumplings!
|Crab and Pork Soup Dumplings||Pork Soup Dumplings|
|Tong-Po Pork||Orange Flavor Beef|
|Pan Fried Pork Dumplings|
- Category: Restaurant Reviews
- Written by Josie
In a time where most restaurants and diners are face-lifting their decor or their menu in attempts to change with the times, you will find that 'one' diner that will stand their ground. No frills, no fancies, just a straight up, hole in the wall diner. Dan's Place Two is that diner.
Dan's Place Two is located at 494 Washington Avenue in lower Albany (as in not quite downtown). If you drive down Washington Avenue frequently, and can't seem to put your finger on where this place is, don't feel bad. Unless you know exactly what you're looking for, or you're a regular, you'll miss it every time. It's almost literally a hole in the wall. Inside, you will find no frills. There's a diner counter along the left side, and roughly 3-4 tables on the right.
Just like an old fashioned diner, you're greeted immediately when you walk in. We found the place was pretty hopping, and the chef seemed to know just about everyone seated there. The chef grabbed us coffees while we waited for the waitress. Brian ordered their "Beat the House," which was eggs, choice of meat (he chose sausage), potatoes, and toast. I ordered French Toast (of course), with a side of their corned beef hash. Now, one of the internet reviews I found raves about their corned beef hash, so I presumed it was homemade. You'll enjoy the following conversation I had with our waitress:
Me: Is your corned beef hash homemade?
Me: Oh ... *disappointed face* So it's out of a can.
Waitress: Yes, it's chef made. The chef makes it.
Me: *confused face* So it is homemade.
Waitress: No, it's out of a can, but it's chef made. It's really good, we sell a lot of it.
By this time, Brian was done with being amused at the exchage, and advised me to order the hash.
With the grill just off to the side, we were able to watch. The impressive part was that the chef didn't use tickets. The waitress called out the orders, and he memorized all of them. Like I said; impressive.
Our meals arrived. For Brian's platter, the sausage was absolutely amazing. It was crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and filled with flavor. Either they make it in house, or they have a damned good supplier. The eggs were nice and fluffy, but in desperate need of salt and pepper. In much the same way, the potatoes were cooked perfectly; they were fall apart tender on the inside, and delightfully crispy on the outside, but suffered from a screaming lack of flavor.
My french toast was no frills. Three slices of bread, and for once they were soaked in the batter! Why is it only an old school diner can get this right? They were eggy in the middle, which is how I liked it. Granted, I can make the same french toast at home, but isn't that part of why you go out to eat at a diner? Home cooking with no hassle. The dish came complete with a glob of butter on the side of the plate (this made me chuckle), and a ginormous bottle of Aunt Jemima's syrup. No frills. They don't even put the syrup into another container.
Oh, and the corned beef hash was slung out of a can. Sure, the chef made it by crisping it up on the grill, but by that definition everything on the menu is chef made! I had several laughs on this one. Part of me feels like it's my duty to bring in homemade hash one day. I know they rave about theirs, and apparently some customers do to, but in my opinion the difference is night and day.
The gist? While I won't go out of my way for a revisit to Dan's, if I found myself in the area and hungry for breakfast, I'd more than likely stop by. I'll just avoid the hash :)
|"Beat the House" Platter||French Toast|
|Corned Beef Hash|