Monday, July 30, 2007

Vin Santo in Latham

My wife likes to do something different on occasion, and this Friday that meant going to show at a small community theatre in Latham. The show, Sunshine Boys, wasn't my cup of tea. On the bright side, we had dinner first at Vin Santo Tapas & Wine Bar, which is in the Latham Farms plaza.

I do like the tapas concept and it was well executed here. We ordered three different tapas items along with two entrees and a couple desserts. Our tapas included chili spiced bean dip, the "tapas plate" (which has 3-4 different items on it), and the artichoke salad. The two entrees were a salad of beets and butter lettuce, and a filet mignon.

Everything was good, but the filet really stood out. It's supposedly a "small plate", and it's not huge. But it was by no means tiny, and the price ($16) is unbeatable for a filet in a quality gourmet-like restaurant. The only comparable deal I can think of is the filet at Miyako's hibachi tables - it's more money but you get more food.

Dessert was good but not the highlight of the meal. I had a creme brulee made with mango. I appreciate the variety offered (the creme brulee apparently changes often), but the mango didn't work for me. Not bad or anything, but not spectacular either. I don't remember what my wife had but I think it was good. Also, we rushed a bit to get to our show.

Now as I've mentioned before, we're not wine people, so I'm missing half or more of what this place is about.

You can read more about the place at their website: Vin Santo Wine Bar.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Downtown Cafe in Kingston NY

I had a little trip yesterday, down to Poughkeepsie for a deposition and then a little stop in Kingston City Court.

I got to Kingston early. The court parking lot had no shade on a hot day, so I drove a bit to look for a lunch place nearby (with shady parking, of course). Just down the hill from the Court is a lovely spot called Rondout. I parked under the bridge (hence, in the shade) and noticed a few restaurants. One stood out - Downtown Cafe.

It stood out because I saw the phrase "Zagat Rated" outside. The outside menu listed a chicken dish with rice and asparagus. In a small hurry, I walked in and ordered before sitting down. Pleasant atmosphere, nice decor, friendly staff, etc. The food was good, though I'm judging on only one dish. I did look over the menu and liked the variety and choices. Good dessert list too.

If I'm ever in Kingston for dinner, Downtown Cafe will be high on my list.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mezza Notte - A Second Look

I wrote about Mezza Notte in March. We went back last night and had a great dinner.

We first went there with friends shortly after the place had just opened. The food was generally good then, but I noted that there are many other places in the area that have comparable food for far less money. I closed that post indicating that I hoped to go back in 6 months or so. Then a friend gave me a gift certificate so we went back a bit earlier than planned. It was a good gift.

As with the last time, I had the Carpaccio appetizer. For those who don't know, this is raw filet mignon, sliced extremely thin. It was excellent last time and this time as well. I also shared a Caesar salad with my wife, which was good.

For entrees, I had shrimp over pasta. This was really prepared well. The shrimp were rather large and cooked perfectly. The garlic/lemon sauce on the pasta was delicious. It was an outstanding dish.

My wife's filet entree was also very nice. It came with potato, portabella, red onion, and a few other vegetables, and I kept picking at the veggies on her plate. She graciously gave me a couple bites of her steak which I enjoyed. She had a side of risotto as well and that was good too.

I saved room for dessert and had the creme brulee. It was worth it. I especially liked the touch of a bit of kiwi and strawberry on top, but the main part of it is the creamy stuff (hey, I'm not really a gourmet) with the caramelized top, and that was superb. My wife had a hazelnut gelato and liked it.

Altogether, it was a top-notch meal. I still struggle with the pricing, as the total cost (including a nice tip) was nearly $140. My wife had a coke and I drank water. I should not that we're not wine drinkers, so I imagine if you have wine it gets even more expensive. It is my impression from what we saw around us and from others who have eaten there that the wine service is top-notch, but I lack the knowledge to comment further.

If you're the kind of person who doesn't hesitate to spend more than $100 on dinner for two, then Mezza Notte is the place to go in Guilderland, and one of the few places in Albany. Aside from a great meal, you get a very nice atmosphere and the sense of exclusivity. As we left, there was a stretch limo waiting outside. But not for us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ichiban in Guilderland - Chinese

I made some negative comments in the past about Ichiban for their Japanese food. I went there for lunch the other day for Chinese food, and as I expected, it was better.

I had a tofu dish (Szechuan Tofu, I think), and it was fairly good. However, it wasn't perfect and the rice was not done right in my opinion. I should mention here that, having lived in Japan for a year, I'm pretty picky about rice. Most Americans don't notice the difference. In a good Japanese restaurant, and most good Chinese restaurants, the rice should not clump together. It should be fluffy. At Ichiban the other day, the rice had a lot of clumps, and big clumps - as big as my thumb, and I have big hands.

With that said, I would eat there again. There are certainly worse places to eat Chinese food. My current Chinese food favorites are Emperor's on Wolf Road and Ocean Palace on Central. And we love Amazing Wok in Colonie for delivery.