Monday, October 17, 2005

Mangia - Stuvyesant Plaza

Had lunch with my wife at Mangia today. Mangia is in Stuvyesant Plaza in Guilderland. I had curry chicken soup and an Italian mixed wrap. She had Minestrone and a vegetable pizza. It was $25 with tip.

The food was okay, but nothing terribly special. My soup was a bit below average. Their food is generally good, but it's a little too "nouvelle". My wrap had flecks of green in it and too much of an herb flavor. The "balsamic reduction" didn't do much, and so it was a bit bland. Also, the meat was a little chewier than I'm used to. They have a pizza buffet on Wednesdays, and that is quite popular.

Overall I think it's a little overpriced for the quality. Service was good today, but that may have been more because it wasn't crowded.

They sat us in a nice room with a lot of windows looking out on the grass in front of Route 20. My wife liked that in particular. Mangia is close to my office and I almost never go there, so maybe that tells you something. We went there today because my wife wanted someplace quick - and they did deliver that. I think she may have enjoyed her food more, so maybe I just wasn't in the mood.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Miyako - Guilderland NY

--Update: The new restaurant is open in Troy: Japanica Grill. We hope to have a review soon.--
--Miyako closed June 2012 - It is rumored they will open a new restaurant in Troy--
Miyako is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. Owned by a Japanese couple, there is a real commitment to quality.

The most popular feature is the "Hibachi" tables. In Japan this is known as teppanyaki -- which roughly translates to steel cook (a reference to the cooking surface). There are 8 seats at a rectangular table, with one side for the cook. He cooks up various vegetables along with your choice of meat (the filet mignon is excellent). This is really gringo food -- the cooking surface is common in Japan, but it's used mostly for fried noodles and maybe dumplings -- but the Japanese flavorings are genuine. Even though I'm a purist for Japanese food, I still like some of the gringo items. I'm not a good judge of meat quality myself, but we ate there once with a friend who is, and he was very impressed with the cuts of steak.

There are also regular tables and a small sushi bar, and a couple of rooms in the back. They used to have a Japanese sushi chef, (I like to practice my Japanese), but he left recently. The owner is trying to get a new Japanese sushi chef.

The sushi is good. Sushi in Albany is a challenge -- the ocean is far away, and there is not enough volume of customers for a sushi place to have great variety of fish. So the fish selection is limited compared to what you might find in NYC, Boston, or California (or of course, Japan). One of my favorite sushi dishes is the Carp-accio -- raw salmon in olive oil. It's kind of a fusion sashimi dish and I'm hooked on it.

When the Japanese sushi chef was there, I would ask his recommendation. I'm not as sure that a non-Japanese sushi chef will appreciate the quality issues to make a recommendation (sushi not being native to China). I should note that my wife is not a purist like me, and she likes the sushi at Miyako as well.

The regular Japanese menu is also good. One of our favorite appetizers is Edamame (soybeans served in the pods). These are delicious and quite healthy. As with the other dishes, the Japanese ownership shows though in an important area -- the sauces are right and the dishes taste like they do in Japan. This is a particular problem with Japanese restaurants that are run by Chinese. The Korean-run places generally get things right. Yes, I know these comments may not be politically correct, but shikata nai (it's kind of like c'est la vie).

The only downsides of Miyako are that the service is sometimes slow at the regular tables (especially if the place is crowded), and the prices are a bit on the high side. If you want fast and cheap, there are other places you can go. If you want good quality Japanese food across the board, this is the best place in the area.

Announcing Albany NY Restaurant Reviews

Since I found restaurant reviews in local papers to be imperfect, I decided to create my own restaurant review blog. I eat out a lot, so I figure I'll share my thoughts on various restaurants.

I've been particularly disappointed with reviews of Japanese restaurants. I lived in Japan for a year, so I think I know what I'm talking about. Reviews often talk about things like the "Rainbow Roll", which is not the true measure of washoku (Japanese food). Some places don't get the sauces right. The real test of a sushi place is the sashimi, or how they do the tamago (egg).

Anyway, to make this more democratic, I'm happy to invite others to join this blog. If you'd like to post restaurant reviews, send me a draft review by e-mail ( If i like your review, I'll invite you to become a member of the blog. I will of course retain dictatorial power, but I'll try to behave.