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G-Land Restaurant Week Rejects

January 25, 2011

Wow. Maybe having a second restaurant week in the winter wasn’t the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce’s best idea.

It started this past Sunday, and I have to note that several notable restaurants have decided not to participate. To be fair, some haven’t participated in the past. But others have. Most notably MezzaNotte and Creo are sitting on the sidelines. Even places like The Standard, Ichiban, Sushi Tei, Miyako, Dorato’s, and Chico’s are sitting out. Last go around even included local outposts of national chains like Houlihan’s, but not this time.

That’s not to say there aren’t interesting places to eat in this week’s festivities. There are, and in part that is why I’m writing this.

If you lived in Albany over the last several years, you are likely to know Avenue A. It was a beloved restaurant that seemed to get too big for its britches, and then went out of business. Anyhow that restaurant’s former chef now has a new place called Sage Bistro, and you can try a three-course meal there this week for only $20.11.

This is the good news.

The bad news is that Sage Bistro’s restaurant week menu looks as muddled as their regular menu. Which is a shame. Although all hope isn’t lost. The chef is Korean and her chop chae is on the special menu this week. And while I would be reluctant to pay $19 for this dressed up version of street food on the regular menu, I would feel a lot better about paying an extra dollar to pair it with some vegetable tempura and a scoop of house made gelato.

Provence is participating. Their blurb on the Taste of Guilderland site says, “Want to try something different that isn’t offered any place else around the Capital Region? Then Provence Restaurant is for you.” Well, they are offering steak frites, farmed Atlantic salmon, and oven roasted chicken breast with garlic mashed potatoes and “seasonal vegetables.” I’ve had their steak frites, and the regularly priced version at Garden Bistro 24 is better and less expensive than Provence’s restaurant week special.  I’ll pass.

Athos is the other fancy restaurant to participate this year. However, none of their exceptional spreads with crispy-edged warm pita are on the menu. Nor are the desserts offered anything special (Mrs. Fussy and I tried both the rice pudding and chocolate mousse once before). And since most of their entrees run the same old formula of protein, starch and vegetable, I couldn’t recommend this menu.

Oddly, and perhaps it is due to the overall caliber of the restaurant week menus, the less fancy restaurants really seem to have the advantage for this winter event.

There is something compelling about the Juicy Burger offer. It’s about a 20% savings off the full price, but it feels very decadent. This probably has more to do with my own sense of moderation than anything else. But each burger comes with its own order of fries, a soda, and whatever toppings your heart desires. Usually I’m a burger purist. But I’m also a sucker for a deal. This could tempt me to gild the lily in some ways my cardiologist certainly would frown upon.

This could even be a good opportunity to try out the red sauce Italian joints that some people say good things about, but which I also find overpriced for what they are. In this case that would be Tesoro or Chef’s Take Out (which is probably the worst name for a restaurant that has as many actual tables as it does).

I would even consider going to The Melting Pot. Gasp! I probably haven’t been to one for close to twenty years. But I do have fond memories of the Swiss cheese fondue. I’d be curious to see how it holds up, and for $20.11 I’d also get a chance to have a salad and a variety of unhappy meats dipped in a panoply of sauces.  It’s not something for which I would ever consider paying full freight, but it could be worth a laugh.

One day I hope to say my town has put out a great restaurant week menu. MezzaNotte did last summer, and it actually sounded fantastic. But these lackluster menus shouldn’t stop you from coming out west past the mall to taste a little of what we’re cooking.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 11:49 am

    Schenectady’s RW is next week – most menus look pretty uninteresting, but a few have potential.

  2. Doug Grover permalink
    January 25, 2011 12:14 pm

    I have an old friend whose husband will be taking her out to one of the GRW spots for her birthday tonight. Before I read your post I had looked over the offerings and decided that if it were me, the choices would be Sage, Hana, and Tesora, in that order. Probably a tad presumptuous of me, since I live in Indiana and have no immediate basis for judging other than the menus. But most of the menus — not just the GRW specials, but the regular menus — have a sameness and lack of focus, and while I’ve had very good meals in restaurants with pedestrian menus, when a nominally Spanish restaurant says that its paella is “served over saffron rice”, I know I’m probably going to be disappointed.

  3. MiMi permalink
    January 25, 2011 12:48 pm

    While I wouldn’t recommend it for Restaurant week as the choices listed aren’t too great, I highly recommend Tesoro’s in 20 Mall especially if you like veal. Chef’s Takeout is quite good, but the portions are enormous which I know you don’t care for.

    • Kerosena permalink
      January 25, 2011 3:29 pm

      Chef’s Takeout (yes, horrible name) is a favorite at our house. We received a few gift certificates from a family friend, but ignored them for over a year. Decided to try it out one night, and have been back several times.

      I probably would not have gone without the GC as incentive. The prices look a little bit high for red sauce Italian. Husband and I are not light eaters, but we are very happy to split an entree. Their servings are laughably large. But I’m cool with leftovers. Meals taste very fresh and are nicely crafted. I really like the veal sorrento and my husband digs the braciola, which may have been a special.

      We tried the pizza recently. Looking forward to getting it again. We love Marisa’s; CTo makes a similar pie, and I’d call it equally good.

      I also like the family/neighborhood atmosphere. While waiting for a pie one Friday evening, I got to chat with one of the young counter workers and her teacher who came in for a pick-up order. School, homework, family business…a really pleasant chat while waiting.

      • Jenna permalink
        January 25, 2011 5:17 pm

        I agree with Mimi and Kerosena. CTO is really good, terrible name, ridiculous portions. But everything I have had has made great leftovers, so I’ve not had a problem with having it for lunch the next couple of days.

  4. Sarah M. permalink
    January 25, 2011 2:07 pm

    Sage’s menu is definitely trying to be all things to all people, but anything of Chef Un-Hui’s I’ve ever eaten has been fucking delicious.

    Have you done Juicy Burger before? Bacon + bleu cheese is outstanding.

  5. January 28, 2011 12:54 pm

    We were out and about last night in Guilderland and experienced Restaurant Week firsthand. First stop was Athos for cocktails and an appetizer at the bar. We had the Dolmadakia   (Hand Rolled Grape Leaves with Rice Seasoned with Greek Herbs and Mint $5.00) and the Dolmathes (Seasoned Ground Meat and Rice, Hand Rolled in Grape Leaves, with Lemon Sauce $8.00), both were delicious.

    From there we headed over to Provence where we had the Salmon au Pistou and the Steak Frites, starting with an order of soup and a salad. I’ve kind of been weird about salmon since an ill timed stomach bug/salmon with black bean sauce fiasco, but I loved this salmon preparation. I thought the food was really solid and the service in both restaurants was refreshingly professional and pleasant. I haven’t been to 24 Garden Bistro yet so I can’t compare the Steak Frites, but I can say that Provence did a great job with their preparation. Our total bill at Provence was $55 for 3 courses and a glass of wine – terrific value for what we were served.

  6. Bob W. permalink
    January 28, 2011 3:59 pm

    There was a time, like Sarah M., I would have unequivocally praised the bacon and blue cheese burger at Juicy Burger. With just a hint of their cajun seasoning…divine.

    But, like slilly, I too know the sting of an ill-timed stomach bug and its ability to ruin a budding food relationship. Sadly, Juicy Burger was the victim in that unfortunate turn of events. The missus is still a fan, though, and she is as fussy as they come. Bacon and cheddar for her, though, please.

    • February 9, 2011 10:29 am

      The same thing happened to me a few years ago with Buca diBeppo and Cold Stone. I was glad it was at least mediocre chains that I am now soured to.

  7. maltnsmoke permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:19 am

    FLB, not sure what you meant about Avenue A getting “too big for its britches” or your “Reading between the lines” roll over comment. Sadly, I must agree that the Sage Bistro regular menu is, as you say, “muddled”. But a menu that that tries to please the uninitiated and/or unadventurous need not be the enemy of those seeking a dining experience that will not be replicated within a considerable radius. Just skip the GRW nonsense.

    Speaking as one who had hoped (apparently in vein) for some sort of Avenue A Redux, I will say that there are enough carry over selections to make the Sage Bistro a worthwhile stop. Maybe this is simpatico arising from our common Albany to Guilderland translocations, but I say please “Keep The Sage Bistro Alive”.

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