Sake Cafe for Great Sushi and Japanese Food

We went to the Sake Cafe on 1365 New Scotland Road with the dining out group.  The Sake Cafe is located in the suburban Price Chopper Plaza right off of Route 85.  It is important to note that this is the second Sake Cafe on New Scotland Road.  The other Sake Cafe is located at 273 New Scotland Avenue. 

The Sake Cafe on 1365 New Scotland Road is a very elegantly appointed restaurant, with wood tables, an ample bar, and ample seating.  The wait staff is immaculately dressed in black.  The atmosphere is on par with the fine Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the area -- Hana and Koto

We got there a half an hour early, and my girlfriend was starving, so we decided to order some sushi rolls.  The sushi at Sake Cafe is awesome!  We got a California roll and a Tuna roll.  Interestingly, the sushi chef at Sake Cafe uses very little rice in his sushi.  He just barely covers the seaweed with rice.  He, however, does not skimp on the fish.  The tuna roll had a very good portion of tuna, probably triple the amount of tuna Hannaford puts in their tuna rolls.  The tuna rolls are a steal, at just $4.00 for six pieces.

Having had sushi as my appetizer, I wanted to get something different for my main course.  I decided to go with the Singapore noodles with shrimp.  This is a dish I had never tried before.  The dish was very elegantly presented -- a heap of thin noodles on a big plate with a carrot in the shape of a flower.  The noodles were incredbly spicy, but delicious.  The dish came with six very large fresh, shrimp that I throughly enjoyed.  The Singapore noodles are only $9, which makes it one of the cheaper items on the menu. 

Other items around the table looked similarly appetizing.  My girlfriend ordered the chicken teriyaki for $13.00, which was also good.  I thought the portion could have been a little larger.  Still, the chicken was very fresh, and the sauce was sweet, and not overly salty.  My friend ordered the mango shrimp, which she said was excellent.  It was a very colorful array of twelve or so shrimp with green peppers and other vegetables, mixed in an orange sauce.  They do put a lot of sauce in this dish; so if you are watching your weight, ask the waitress for less sauce. 

The only thing that was an issue with our meal was the wait.  Of course, we were a very large crowd of 12.  However, there was only one or two wait staff waiting on the entire restaurant of 20 tables.  It took us an hour and a half to finally get our food.  We did not get any personal attention from our waitress.  She did not get my friends order right, and she sent back her email.  However, everyone else's orders came out correct, and our bills were calculated correctly. 

Sake Cafe gets an "A" from me.  The atmosphere is wonderful, the sushi is excellent, and the hot food is also good.  I was really impressed. 

Tierra Coffee Roasters - Good, but not Great

I went to Tierra Coffee Roasters on 1038 Madison Avenue in Albany tonight with my girlfriend.  We were waiting for a movie at the Madison Theater, and figured we would get a drink to warm us up. 

Tierra Coffee Roasters opened in January 2011, in place of the now defunct, Muddy Cup.  Tierra has done a lot with the inside of the place.  Gone is the old, beat-up furniture; in are new tables and chairs.  According to, art by Samson Contompasis lines the walls.  The store looks neat inside.  It does not look fabulous, but it is vastly improved. 

I can symphatize with those who prefer the grunginess of the Muddy Cup.  The Muddy Cup had a certain bohemian vibe to it.  However, the bathrooms of the Muddy Cup were filthy.  The bathrooms in Tierra are neat and clean.  I will take the cleanliness of Tierra Coffee Roasters over the grunginess of the Muddy Cup any day. 

Tierra Coffee Roasters is not just a coffee shop.  Tierra also sells a wide variety of locally-grown nuts and fair-trade coffee in the store.  The parent company of Tierra Coffee Roasters is Tierra Farm out in Columbia County.   According to its website, Tierra Farm nuts and coffee are certified organic.  This is definitely a selling point.

Tierra has a wide selection of coffee drinks, hot chocolate and smoothies.  I ordered the hot chocolate for $2.75.  I was not too impressed with my order.  The hot chocolate was fairly average.  Starbucks hot chocolate is richer and more flavorful.  I prefer Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate too, though it is loaded with sugar and calories.  At Tierra, the hot and cold drinks are one size only, 16 ounces.  This was a little bit frustrating because I only wanted a small drink. 

My girlfriend graciously offered me a piece of her brownie, and it was pretty good.  It was a tiny brownie, but it cost $2.25, which is a little pricey.  It was fresh-baked, and had huge nuts in it.  This brownie is way better than the baked goods offered at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks.  I have a feeling all the baked goods at Tierra are tasty as well. 

Yes, I was not too impressed by my hot chocolate at Tierra, but this place has a lot of potential.  The place is tidy inside, if a little sterile, and the baked goods and organic nuts are very good.  For those who live in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany, this place is a find.  I am sure this place is hopping with students when school is in session.  When I am in the area, I will check this place out. 

Ichiban - an old favorite

Tonight I celebrated "Jewish Christmas" with my friends by going to Ichiban, a Chinese-Japanese restaurant with two locations in Albany: one on 338 Central Avenue and one on 1652 Western Avenue.  My friends and I met up at the one on Western Avenue, near Guilderland. 

Ichiban is one of my favorite restaurants.  I went there a lot when I first moved to this area seven years ago.  I frequented the Central Avenue restaurant then, since I lived in the Pine Hills area of Albany and did not have a car.  It was one of the few quality restaurants I could get to on foot.  I do not eat at Ichiban a lot any more.  I do a lot of my eating out with the "Dining Out" group, and we go to different restaurants all the time. 

Christmas Day was an ideal time for me to visit one of my old favorite restaurants.  Ichiban is one of the few restaurants open on Christmas Day.  Once I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the place was packed.  The front desk told us the wait was five minutes;  however, we waited at least fifteen minutes to get a table.  The waiting area at Ichiban is not big; however, they do have a TV for those who want to catch up on local news. 

Once we got our table, it took awhile for us to get menus and finally, to get drinks.  Our waitress definitely had her work cut out for her tonight; there were a lot of tables that demanded her attention and she dealt with it the best she could.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of a language barrier between us.  She had difficulty understanding us, and we had difficulty understanding her.  This is typical of my experiences with the wait staff at Ichiban.  To her credit, she put in the orders correctly and gave all of us separate checks as we requested. 

When I go to Ichiban, I typically get one of the bento boxes.  I find them to be a good value.  They come with soup, salad, and the entree and typically cost under $15.  Usually, I get the Executive Box, which comes with chicken or salmon teriyaki, a california roll, vegetable and shrimp tempura and crab rangoon for $12.99.  This time I did not want the tempura, so I ordered a different bento box.  This one included salmon sashimi, a salmon skin roll, eel, and scallops for $13.99. 

First I got up to get my salad.  The Ichiban salad bar is not particularly impressive, but I suppose Chinese-Japanese restaurants are not known for their salads.  The salad bowls are quite tiny.  I filled my bowl with whatever was left of the lettuce, kim chee, Korean bean sprout salad, and ginger dressing.  It was very tasty and satisfying.  The miso soup was good.  Miso soup is a pretty consistent product though -- I have never had a bad miso soup. 

The entree was excellent.  The portion of salmon sashimi was quite generous.  There was maybe an eighth of a pound of very fresh salmon on my plate.  The salmon skin rolls were crunchy and delicious.  They had a sweet sauce poured over them which was very good.  The little scallops were also tasty, especially with the sweet red sauce that was provided on the side.  I do not like eel, so I gave that to my friend, and she seemed to like it. 

I wish I had ordered some Chinese dish so I could evaluate that too.  My friends ordered Sesame Beef, House Chow Fun and Dragon and Phoenix and those all looked good.  The portions were large and the dishes looked colorful and tasty. 

Ichiban has a lot of competition in the area.  Less than a mile down the road from the Guilderland location is Hana, which is a much bigger restaurant serving mostly Japanese food.  The Albany/Colonie area also boasts Emperor's on Wolf Road, Koto in Latham and others.   Ichiban rates well with its competition, offering a solid product at a reasonable price.  The service could be a little better, but I still consider enjoy going to Ichiban, even with so many other good Chinese/Japanese restaurants in the area.

Hannaford Sushi - Great for a meal in a pinch

In my blog, I generally like to cover only restaurants.  However, in some cases, I will cover supermarkets when I feel it is necessary.  One supermarket that goes above and beyond with their prepared meals is Hannaford. 

One of the best prepared meals to get at Hannaford is their sushi.  Hannaford offers many different types of sushi -- california rolls, spicy salmon rolls, spicy tuna rolls etc.  The ones that I get most often are the spicy tuna rolls.  These are offered with either brown rice or white rice.  They come in either eight piece ($6.99) or sixteen piece trays ($7.99).   I usually get the white rice, 16 piece trays.

Hannaford sushi is just as good as the sushi you get from a restaurant.  During the working day at the Wolf Road Hannaford (I am not sure about other Hannafords), the sushi chef makes fresh rolls for you upon request, assuming the roll you desire is not already in the refrigerator.  I tasted one of these fresh rolls recently and it was absolutely delicious.  The cucumbers, raw tuna, sesame seeds, and rice really come together to form one delicious combination of colors and flavors.  It is just as good as anything you get from Ichiban, and it is a bit cheaper.  In comparison, fourteen pieces of sushi at Ichiban or Hana cost $10 at least. 

Hannaford sushi is a relatively cheap, healthy meal to get if you are on the go and do not feel like cooking.  It is way better for you than the other options on Wolf Road, like Arby's or Five Guys.  If you are in the Wolf Road Hannaford during lunchtime, you can even sit down and eat the sushi while in the store.  Hannaford sushi is one of my favorite meals.  If you try it, maybe it will become one of your favorites too.  Bon apetit!

Paolo Lombardi's not so great

My girlfriend and I went on a event to Paolo Lombardi's in Wyantskill.  map

The restaurant is very impressive from the outside.  The interior of the restaurant is very impressive as well, though a little cramped.  The main dining room has very large windows and feels very Italian.  The walls were decorared with garland for the holidays. 

Things started off great.  The bread was right out of the oven and absolutely delicious.  It came with butter and olive oil.  The bread was out of this world!  Our salads were also above average.  Oddly, Paolo Lombardi's only has two salad dressings -- house and blue cheese.  I got the house, which was very good.  So far, Paolo Lombardi's made a good impression on me.

I got a simple dish, chicken parm ($15.00), and I was not too impressed with it.  The portion was big which was good.  I was not a big fan of the sauce.  Perhaps I am not the best judge, because I am not a huge fan of Italian food to begin with, but I did not like the taste of the sauce.  The thing that hit me was the pasta.  It was cold and dried out.  There was a little meat sauce poured on it, but that did not mask its coldness and dryness.  I did not see anyone at the table finish their pasta.  Everyone else at the table liked their meals.  Everyone's portions did look very impressive.  However, I did not have the best experience. 

We were a large crowd, so oftentimes, we face slow service.  However, Paolo Lombardi's was overly slow.  The dinner was 2.5 hours from start to finish.  It took us an hour just to get our salads.  Paolo Lombardi's was not especially eager to do separate checks for the table.  They ended up doing separate totals, and that suited us just fine.  One of the waitresses was particularly unpleasant.  She told us that she is retiring this week and is glad to be hanging up her apron.  She said she just doesn't care any more.  Overall, the service was slow and not very friendly. 

Paolo Lombardi's gets a thumbs down from me, but, remember that there were many other people eating there and they seemed to like their meals.  My meal;  however, was average at best.  The bread was excellent though, and the atmosphere was very nice.

Footsy Magoos, a great new bar in Downtown Troy

I have a friend who lives in Troy and one of his new favorite places is Footsy Magoos on 17 1st Street.  I expected this place to be a dive bar;  however, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Footsy Magoos is in a beautiful old building in historic downtown Troy close to Monument Square.  The building is very nicely decorated, with some beautiful chandelier's hanging from the ceiling.  The bar is all wood and is beautiful.  There is a game room as well.  Especially funny is the men's bathroom, which has naked lady playing cards posted on the walls. 

To my delight, Footsy's has a selection of hot beverages, which is great in the cold weather.  I am not much of a drinker, so I just got a plain hot chocolate.  It was nothing fancy, just water and Swiss Miss in a cup with whipped cream on top, but it was nice to get a non-alcoholic drink at a bar.  Footsy's makes hot beverages with alcohol ini them as well.  I am told Footsies does not have many beers on tap;  however, they do have lots of bottled beer. 

Footsy's is a very nice place to spend a Friday or Saturday night.  There is plenty of parking in Downtown Troy so you do not have to walk too far to get to your car.  The bars are not as close together as in Albany or Saratoga so bar hopping is difficult.  However, Troy is developing a bit of a nightlife.  My friend is convinced Troy is going to become the next Brooklyn.  It appears like some of the pieces are falling into place.

Little Anthony's

To finish out my Public Speaking course at Hudson Valley, my professor ordered pizza from Little Anthony's on 1095 Central Avenue in Albany.

Little Anthony's makes a delicious pizza. I tried a piece of the 24-cut sicillian. It was absolutely delicious. It was doughy and cheesy and just really good. It was not too greasy either. I tried to restrain myself, as I had eaten poorly for lunch; however, I had to have a second slice. I was uncomfortably full later on, but it was worth it. ;-)

Paesan's used to be my favorite pizza place in the area, but now my favorite pizza place in the area is Little Anthony's.