Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tesoro in Guilderland

Just a quick post on Tesoro in 20 Mall (Guilderland). We went a couple weeks ago for lunch and enjoyed it. As I understand things, the chef from Lombardo's took over this place (it was Nicole's Italia). Nicole's was good but Tesoro is better. It's like having Lombardo's close to home. Guilderland is developing a great array of restaurants.

Melting Pot in Crossgates (Guilderland)

About a week ago we went to the new Melting Pot at Crossgates in Guilderland. It was an experience worth trying. The Melting Pot is a fondue franchise. In other words, it's a chain restaurant. Like the Cheesecake Factory at Colonie Center, it's aiming for the high end of that arena. This is a good place for a warning. We spent over $100 on dinner for two and we didn't even have wine or drinks.

With that budget-busting issue in mind, it was worth going. We arrived for an early dinner (on the way to a movie) and, as seems common with new places, it was full. Fortunately we were able to get two seats at the bar with a "burner". We got a set of courses that come as a package deal. It starts with a cheese dip. You get breads, veggies and a few other things to dip in the melted cheese. The server mixes up the cheese and stuff and heats it up there then it stays warm on the burner. We liked this part of the meal very much.

Next came a salad. Not bad but nothing special. If salad is a key element of your meal, then this is not the place for you.

The entree course really stood out. It's a little like Japanese nabe or shabu-shabu style cooking. There's a big pot of broth that's hot on the burner. You get raw meats and a few other things on a plate. Put the meats on the tip of a long fork and put that end into the broth. Let it cook for about 90 seconds. Take it out and dip it into any of about 8 dipping sauces provided. Our meal had a wide variety of meats including a well-marinated pork, shrimp, filet mignon, another steak I think, chicken, and salmon. There were also some spinach dumplings (which were almost impossible to get back out of the pot). The servers were very helpful in explaining which dipping sauces were best paired with which meats. They were well-trained and helpful.

The meal closed with the chocolate. This has a similar plan. You get a variety of fruits, cakes, and a couple other items to dip. I remember we liked it very much.

So the fondue style parts of the meal were all impressive. If you can afford to blow $100 on a meal for two, then you should give it a try. I can't see ourselves going there for dinner more than maybe once a year. Another option is to go for dessert only. That would cost a lot less and give you a good feel for the experience part of it.

Creo in Guilderland

Creo is a new restaurant in Stuyvesant Plaza. The restaurant itself is essentially on the corner of Fuller Road and Western (US-20). We went for lunch on Friday and generally liked it.

Some initial notes: Creo is, at least for now, very busy. Its end of the parking lot was jam packed. The inside appears to be much larger than its predecessor (Mangia) and the interior is very attractive. The main dining room has high ceilings which make it seem all the more spacious. We sat in the bar area which is also nice, though the flat-screen TVs showing (at lunchtime) Judge Hatchett and Judge Joe Brown seemed a little out of place. Service was also a little off but that can be attributed to opening week and being flat out swamped with customers. Under the circumstances I'd say they're handling the load pretty well.

I was surprised that the menu had so few choices. My mother (who ate there the night before), commented that there were almost no choices for her - she tries to eat Vegan. I also noticed that the server placed a heavy emphasis on alcohol. The lunch menu was handed to us wine side up, and shortly after that we were presented with a separate cocktail menu (with mocktails - no alcohol - as well). Just me but I don't see pushing hooch at lunchtime. I understand that's where they make their money, and I'm no temperance advocate, but I thought society was downplaying alcohol these days.

The food was mostly good. We both started with a soup - chicken & asiago dumpling. It was very good. The broth had a solid flavor and there were good chunks of meat. I didn't really get the point of the dumplings - the asiago flavor kinda got drowned out by the soup - but I liked it anyway. Also, it came in a cup, but the cup was so deep it almost seemed bottomless.

My other half had the steak sandwich. This was done well. The meat was cooked right and was cooked in a tasty sauce - maybe a touch of worcestershire in that. It came with a kind of steak sauce on the side but the meat was so good that the side sauce was unnecessary. It came with steak fries which were not bad at all.

The chicken in my lobster chicken was a bit overcooked. There was a "scotch cream sauce" that tasted good but there wasn't much of it. The lobster bits that came with it were good but again, not much lobster there. It also came with "risotto hush puppies". That translated into deep fried balls of rice. Interesting, but not all that special in my eyes. Also an excellent side of vegetables including green beans, corn and cherry tomato (maybe grape tomato). The different veggies worked very well together and I'm sure there was some kind of gentle seasoning or sauce that made it work so well. I'll forgive the overcooked chicken as an opening week thing - and of course overcooked is a lot better than undercooked!

The bread came from Bountiful Bread, which is also in Stuyvesant Plaza. It seemed odd to have a tray of bread brought out on "Bountiful Bread" paper. This is a chain restaurant that is, like Panera, a step above fast food. I like it, and the bread was good, but the presentation seems out of place in a fancy restaurant.

We'll certainly go back and try it again, but for now I prefer Provence, also in Stuyvesant Plaza. Provence has a better menu and does the high class thing without trying so hard.