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Grappa '72

Grappa Front

Grappa '72 is located at 818 Central Avenue, inside a strip mall next to the Hannaford strip mall, across the street from West Gate Plaza strip mall. You would almost not notice there's a fine dining establishment among all the strip malls, but this place is one that shouldn't be passed by.

I'd been dying to review this place, having heard about it often. So I enlisted the company of a couple of foodie friends of mine.

I arrived a few minutes early. When I walked in, a gentleman (who - based on later conversation - I believe was a manager) greeted me, before confirming my reservation and asked if I wanted to proceed to the table, or wait for the rest of my party. After I opted to wait, he then asked if I wanted anything to drink while waiting. Not only did he get my drink personally, but he sat me at an unoccupied 2-top while I waited for the rest of my party. Now that's service above and beyond, in my opinion.

My party arrived soon after, and we were immediately seated (after accepting the offer of having our coats hung). Grappa '72 makes fine dining comfortable. Everything from the warm decor, to the friendly service, and attention to creature comfort details speaks to an environment that's very welcoming.

Our server was also quite entertaining. She employed a somewhat Thespian tone in explaining their specials. There were soft, yet dramatic pauses and everything was said with a smile. Think similar to William Shatner, but wayyyyy better.

Now on to the food! We started with the Calamari appetizer, that came with a yogurt based sauce. One dining companion ordered the Osso Bucco entree which came over a bed of (Saffron) Rissotto Milanese, her hubby ordered the Vitello Mare Monti entree (veal, shrimp, and mushrooms in a light spicy tomato sauce), and I ordered the Vitello alla '72 entree (veal, basil, tomatoes, in a vodka Taleggio sauce over parmesean risotto).

Bread was served within minutes of giving our dinner order. While the bread wasn't warm, it was a wonderful texture; just the right mix of firm and soft. The olive tapanade was delish. There's oil and balsamic on the table, but no dish to mix it in. I asked for one (which I think should come as part of the package) and was provided a small plate straight away.

The calamari came out piping and hot were cooked perfectly. They were tender, had just the right amount of batter, and weren't greasy in the least. The critiques are two fold. The outside could've used a touch more seasoning. There was some salt and pepper, but it could've used more. The largest critique is that the yogurt sauce did absolutely nothing to compliment the dish. If anything, it took away from the dish. The calamari would've been better served with a remoulade, or no sauce at all.

For entrees I'll start with the osso bucco. My dining companion loved her dish, and I agree (having tasted a few bites of it myself). The veal was wonderfully tender, and the risotto was cooked perfectly. While I believe the veal could've used more seasoning, she was fine with it as is. One real detractor was the almost severe level of saffron in the risotto. There was an overpowering aftertaste that I couldn't quite put my finger on. After some deliberation, we determined the saffron was the culprit.

My other dining companion (her husband) enjoyed his Vitello Mare Monti. The veal was cooked perfectly, as were the accompanying carrots (it should be noted that carrots were not listed on the menu as coming with the dish). He did comment that the sauce lacked distinguishing flavor. It sort of fell flat, and didn't register as being lightly spicy at all. After a couple of tastes, I agree. Perfectly cooked, but needing more flavor.

My dish was consistent with the rest. Perfectly cooked veal and asparagus (which wasn't on the menu as an accompaniment). The sauce was smooth, and creamy but aside from the hint of cheesyness, there was an absolute lack of distinguishing flavor. Salt and pepper would've worked wonders.

Grappa earns a solid 4 forks. Everything was perfectly cooked, the flavor just needed more (or less in the case of the saffron). Towards the end (the check receiving portion of the meal) service dipped a little bit, but I think it was only noticeable because we were too full to continue eating, and were ready to conclude our visit.

Grappa '72 will definitely get a second (and maybe third and fourth) visit. I'm intrigued about the rest of their menu. I wonder if they make their own pasta....

Grappa 1 Grappa 2
Osso Bucco Vitello alla '72
Grappa 3
Calamari

4fork

cost20-25
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Mr. Wasabi

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Friday night rolled along and I was in the mood for sushi.  In comes Mr. Wasabi in Schenectady.  I had been here several years ago and it was time for a revisit and a review.

We ordered the spicy tuna dumplings as an appetizer, it came out as 6 spicy tuna balls surrouned by avacado.  I love avacado with pretty much anything so I was a fan of spicy tuna being surrounded by it.  They were good, but difficult to eat and I would have preferred a little more flavor.  For rolls, we orderd the ginza roll (crab tempura and mango inside, topped with spicy tuna, avacado and a mango sauce), a Fall Season roll (spicy crunch tuna, avacado, and bonito seasoning) and a spicy salmon crunch roll.  Fish in the rolls was fresh and the rolls were actually as described.  I thought the ginza roll had some conflicting flavors in it (mango and spicy don't really go together).  Overall, the rolls were good, and I think we would order any of them again.

As an added bonus, we also ordered a dessert of tempura cheesecake.  Normally this dish is a few small pieces of cheesecake battered and fried.  In this case, it was an entire slice of cheesecake battered and fried.  The thin part was great, but as you got to the thicker area, it was still completely frozen and inedible.

We had no complaints on service, everyone was friendly and polite.  It was a great experience overall and earned a rating of 4 forks.

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Spicy Tuna Dumpling Ginza Roll
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Fall Season Roll (back) and Spicy Salmon with Crunch

4fork

cost15-20
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B-Rads Bistro - Brunch

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Josie and I often do some homework ahead of time to find a place we want to try out.  I identified a cafe in Troy, so we ventured out for a Saturday morning breakfast.  Of course the place I picked was closed for renovations, so we went wandering around Troy looking for a place for a late breakfast.  We eventually settled on B-rads Bistro.  We haven't reviewed a buffet yet, as they are hard to review - food tends to be prepared early on, and kept warm in chafing dishes.  So you typically don't get a restaurants 'A-game', but it does give one the ability to try a variety of different food from a place.  So, please keep in mind that this is a review of their buffet, and should bear little insight to how their normal food is.

When we walked in, a staff member came up to us and explained how the buffet works.  All you can eat from the buffet, serve yourself drinks (Orange, and Cranberry juice and coffee) for $12.  They also had papers you could fill out to have a custom omelet and salad made by the chef and brought to you.  The buffet itself consisted of three dishes with warm food including bacon, sausage, hash browns, stuffed french toast, breakfast quesadillas, meatballs and a pasta dish.  There were also plates of pastries and fruit to pick from.

The different options were original, not just the same typical stuff you would find at a brunch buffet.  The food was on the dry side and most of it lacked the seasoning we would have liked.  Josie's favorites were the breakfast quesadilla, and the meatballs.  I thought all the food on the buffet was ok, but not spectacular.  My favorite would be the omelet they made with the ingredients I chose.

Like I said when I began this review, buffets are hard to review.  I'm not sure it would be possible for even the best of buffets to get a perfect 5 fork rating.  B-rad had some great staff working there and made a decent omelet, but overall the experience was just ok, we most likely wouldn't go again for the buffet.  I would be interested in trying out their regular weekday menu or their catering in the future.  I would guess their creative menu ideas would be quite good fresh.

 

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Buffet setup Food from buffet
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Made to order omelet

3fork

cost5-15
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Nishiki Sushi Japanese Restaurant

Nishiki Sushi is a new arrival to East Greenbush (Rensselaer) and I don't believe EG or the neighboring towns have had any or many sushi places, so we hope they are great, hope they do well, and are here to stay.

Upon entering we were instantly greeted and then shown to our table while we observed the small but newly-renovated and nicely decorated atmosphere.   There is a sushi bar which occupies most of the space that features a color-changing lighted front, as well as approximately a dozen tables for 2, 4, or 6 diners.

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A server promptly appeared offering each person a warm towel that was individually wrapped, which was a nice touch, especially on a cold winter evening.  She then collected them after use and said she would return for drink orders.   The website & Menu is here: http://nishikisushiny.com/  Note, the menu has a 'hibachi entrees' section, but there are no hibachi tables for diners to sit at:  All entrees come from the kitchen or sushi bar.  This was different to see, but I decided to try the Hibachi Salmon Entree with a side order of Egg and Vegetable Hibachi Fried Rice. All 3 of my dining companions ordered different dinner bento boxes.  When I ordered the fried rice, the server asked if I still wanted the white rice which was included with Hibachi Entree.

While the server asked for our drink order, they explained that Nishiki offers a full liqour-wine-beverage selection.  We ordered Hot Tea and Hot Saki, along with our meals and we were glad that we ordered the tea.  The hot tea was a Japanese brown-rice green tea which tasted amazing.  The tea was served in a single cup, however the refills were plentiful and always timely, never reaching below a quarter-filled tea cup.   This goes for the water fills also.  The service was top notch and flawless, always around when needed, but not overbearing or hovering.  

First to arrive - the miso soup was hot, flavorful, and perfect and the salad was larger-than-normal with the typical Japanese ginger salad dressing.  We requested additional dressing which was promptly delivered and it was fresh and flavorful and great for dipping items we would recieve later.

The food arrived shortly after the salad and soup and the flavor and seasoning, price, portion, and presentation was 5 'forks' (stars) for my meal.  The taste of each bite of both the Hibachi entree and the fried rice was satisfying and perfect, for me.  The dinner bento boxes were tasty and nearly unable to be finished, certainly not skimpy.

During our visit, it was clear that there was sufficient staff on hand to cover the dining room and the never ending pickup order arrivals and phone calls.  The staff met each and every request of ours with speed and smiles, all while other servers often covered tables that weren't their own.

We were not rushed and had a perfect dinner and it was nice to see when the check arrived that there was no additional charges for things like the white rice, the drink refills, and the extra salad dressing.  During our departure, several staff thanked us for our visit and wished us a pleasant goodnight.  We will certainly return and recommend you give Nishiki a try too.

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 Hibachi Entree - Salmon Fried Rice - Egg & Vegetable Dinner Bento Box - Salmon Teriyaki

5fork

cost20-25
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Iron Gate Cafe - Brunch

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A good friend of mine from college loved Iron Gate Cafe, and for some reason I never went back in the day.  Today I had a friend from out of town visiting and she wanted a place where she can get a mimosa with breakfast.  We hadn't reviewed Iron Gate yet, so off we went.  Iron Gate Cafe is right on Washington Ave by Lark St. in Albany  It is set back a bit from the street, so it is a little hard to see.  Parking is completely street.  This review is for their weekend brunch, which is a different menu from their standard fare.

There was a brief wait for a table when we arrived, but it wasn't more than 5 minutes or so.  Larger parties should anticipate a wait of around 20 minutes.

I was torn on what to order, so I mentioned a few things to the waitress, and she quickly said, "stuffed french toast", so I ordered that with sausage.  Iron Gate's version of stuffed french toast is two pieces of french toast with cheese, a fried egg, and your choice of meat inside.  It is served with hash browns.  The french toast was cooked well, and thoroughly battered, and it was exactly as described. There was plenty of sausage, but the egg was overdone.  The hash browns were good but could have benefited from a little seasoning.

My friend ordered Johnny cakes:  cornbread pancakes with blueberries served with your choice of meat.  She really enjoyed it, the pancakes were cooked well, had a good cornbread flavor, but weren't too dense.  She would order the dish again.

I liked Iron Gate Cafe, it reminded me of Madison Cafe.  Kind of Hipster type attitude and staff, with fun twists on typical dishes.  Fun place with good food, Iron Gate gets 4 forks.  As a fun additional note, we arrived before noon, so they couldn't serve us mimosas, but they took the order, and the second it hit noon, they were on our table.

 

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Stuffed French Toast (with sausage, egg and cheese inside) Johnny Cakes with Sausage

4fork

cost5-15
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