Friday, November 18, 2005

Amazing Wok

Our favorite Chinese place in the area is Amazing Wok in Colonie (near the Price Chopper at 155 and Central). It's a take-out and delivery place. There are only a couple of tables. We order from them maybe two or three times a month.

A big signal with Amazing Wok is they get the Hot & Sour Soup right. Seems like most places don't have the right flavor. I often get Szechuan Beef and that's really good. I occasionally order cold sesame noodles as an appetizer. Again, very good. We order a variety of other items and it's all good. Prices are reasonable, delivery is timely, and just overall a good experience.

Sometimes you have trouble communicating over the phone with them, but patience usually gets you through it.

I should also give a brief mention to the Dumpling House, which is one of my favorites in the area, but we just don't get there all too often now with 2 kids. The dumplings there are quite good (get the 12-piece combo), and the other food is good too. A lot of Chinese I know in the area also like Ocean Palace.

Japanese places I don't like

Okay, I haven't really trashed any restaurants yet, so here it goes. And this comes with a caveat - other people seem to like these places, so this is my personal view and probably does not represent the consensus.

First of all, I do not like Ichiban's Japanese food. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but Chinese do not, generally, do Japanese food right. Key flaws with Ichiban:
1. For sushi and sashimi, they cut the fish in advance. I've never seen this done anywhere. By cutting it early they decrease the freshness of it. This is not absolutely awful for sushi rolls, as the quality of the fish is pretty well hidden in the other ingredients. It is particularly bad for sashimi, however.
2. The wrong sauces. I ordered shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings), and the sauce was totally wrong. It was like a sweet duck sauce. Shumai should be served with a spot of yellow mustard on the side and it is dipped in a soy-based sauce.

I have the same general complaints about Sushi House on New Scotland Ave. They didn't precut the fish, but the sushi was not that great. The sauces were wrong on the Japanese food.

These places are fine for Chinese food, and if you're not experienced with Japanese food (I lived in Japan for a year) you might not notice these issues. Certainly both places are popular. I have been to Ichiban a few times because people I was meeting wanted to go there.

They do tend to be cheaper than the real Japanese places, but you get what you pay for. The better Japanese places in the area are Miyako, Yoshi Sushi, Saso's, Mari's, and Mino's in Saratoga. I haven't been to the latter 3 in a while - Miyako and Yoshi are just a lot closer to where I work and live. I used to like San & Bada, but haven't been in a while so I can't say. Tokyo Sushi does a half-decent job, but Yoshi's is better and is just down the road.

Of course, all pale in comparison to Megu, but that's not fair since Megu is in NYC and costs about 5 to 10 times as much as the most expensive Japanese food here.

Karavalli - Indian restaurant in Latham

I've gotten somewhat addicted to this place. Considering that there are a number of Indian places closer to my home and office, my frequency of visits says something.

Anyway, like many Indian restaurants, it has a lunch buffet. I think Sunday might also be a buffet, but nicer and more expensive.

The food is excellent. Also important is the variety. There are a number of dishes on the menu that one does not find in most other Indian restaurants in Albany. I should note that I found out about it in a review in the Times Union.

Most of my meals there have been the lunch buffet. This place has a nicer atmosphere and the food is a cut above most of the other buffet restaurants. I have also ordered from the regular menu 2 or 3 times, and the food was better still.

A commenter on the TU review said Sitar is better. I do love Sitar, but I can't say it's better. Both are good, and a cut above the rest in the area. Sitar also has a great atmosphere and excellent food. Karavalli has more variety, and at least lately, I've been going to Karavalli. Sitar does not have a buffet, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. I tend to think they're just different.

I should not forget to mention dessert at Karavalli's buffet. The gulab jamun and the carrot thing (I forget what it's called) are both delicious. The rice pudding is nothing special - not bad, but not a cut above like the rest of the food.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

BFS Restaurant

I should have posted about BFS before. BFS is right in front of my office - both buildings are on the same parcel of land. The food is generally Mediterranean, but with a good variety of other items. There is a deli counter and regular tables. The restaurant also does a lot of catering.

Before I go further, I should mention that the owner of BFS (Shaw Rabadi) is the owner of my building, so he is my landlord. So I may have a bias on this. But then again, I eat there twice a week, so I don't think this is bias talking.

First of all, there are a lot of great sandwiches. Then there are other good entrees. My big things there are soups and the Mediterranean items. Shaw makes fantastic soups. There are usually three soups, and they vary all the time. One of his best is the Butternut Bisque. He also makes a good chili. You never know what soup he'll have, but with three choices, you can be pretty sure there'll be one you'll like.

My favorite Medi dish is the Lebanese Maza Sampler. It has hummus and a couple of other similar items (I think baba ganooj is one of them), and comes with dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice), tabouleh, and there's more.

Finish with a baklava.

I should mention that the servers are also excellent. They know the menu and can offer good advice. And I should also mention they just changed to a new set of herbal teas.

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Megu - New York City

Okay, this is off topic a bit. We went to New York City for our 10th anniversary. We had lunch, saw a show (Spamalot) and had dinner. Lunch was at Pancho something, a restaurant on 44th Street honoring Pancho Villa. It was good Mexican food. But that's not what I'm writing about.

We had dinner at Megu, an ultra-premium Japanese fusion restaurant. It was one of the best meals I ever had. The sushi and sashimi were outstanding. We had a variety of other dishes, including two different kinds of Kobe steak. Every menu item was fantastic. The food melted in our mouths. I won't be able to eat sushi for a couple weeks because anything I have now will be disappointing.

Our waiter, Kevin, was very helpful in picking out things from the menu, and the restaurant manager Paul was also very attentive and thoughtful.

One warning, this was far and away the most expensive meal we ever ate. I can't even publish how much it cost.