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I couldn’t wait to get back to Shwe Mandalay for a second go-round after my first visit. This second visit didn’t go as smoothly – we were the only table in there on a Friday night and service was slow and a bit disjointed. The food is still fabulous, though I’m worried about how little business I’ve seen in Shwe Mandalay. Please, people – get in the doors of Shwe Mandalay. It’s delicious, cheap, and a new realm of flavors for the Cap Region!

Another order of fried squash above. Bu Tee Kyaw $5.
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Southern Shan Sausage, $5. Perfect little beef & pork sausage balls.
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Fried sliced onion, $5. I love the batter at Shwe Mandalay – very light, like a combination of beer batter & tempura. Great for frying. Light and crunchy.
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Side dish of dried salted fish, $7, which I think is mostly an Albany Jane love. I ate most of this dish. They changed the presentation from the first time I had this – instead of flat strips the fish was broken up into more bite-sized or smaller pieces.
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Butter Rice & Chicken Curry, $7. All this for SEVEN DOLLARS! Super rich rice with a hearty chicken curry.
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La Phat Thote. Tea leaf salad, $6.50. This time it was covered in dried shrimp, which was unfortunate because one of the folks in our party had a shellfish allergy. The shrimp itself were tasty – crunchy and not too salty or briny, though the salad didn’t really need it.
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Rice & Tea Leaf Salad $6. This was more of a rice dish than a salad type dish, but tasty all the same.
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Black Curry, $8. Pork curry with black bean paste (this is Chinese-style fermented black beans, not black beans). This was a rich dish, but so good (also came with large plate of rice).
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Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup, $6.00. A light, but filling broth with a lightly boiled egg (the yellow is from the yolk).

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Saratoga isn’t so far for me, and yet I have a problem with getting to many local businesses during the hours they are open. I was happy I’ve made it to Saratoga at least once for TC Paris!
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Eclair & a Paris Brest. Their pate a choux is fantastic – it stays crisp even when filled with delicious custard and creme. The chocolate on the eclair had a judicious amount of sweetness, and was perfect with their vanilla bean pastry cream filling.
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And the Paris Brest. Oh. A pate a choux circle piped with a candied hazelnut buttercream. I don’t know if one of these circles is a serving, but I ate the whole thing in one go. It was just. So. Good.  It’s like an oversized doughnut, in terms of size. It’s probably meant for at least two. But just eat it until you feel sated. So good.
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Lily bulb with asparagus and ginko ($13) at Ala Shanghai. The ginkos were mild and soft, went well with the asparagus, which still retained some crunchiness.
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Yum – it’s a great dish for summer!

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Finally managed to check out Athos in Guilderland! A lot of their main dishes seemed a bit big for dinner in the summer, so Albany John and I just ordered a lot of appetizers to share. 3 dips for $10. We got Melitsanosalata, Fava, and Tarmosalata. They also served a freebie dish of olive tapenade. I think the dips could have been saltier, but overall they were pleasant. Also, not enough pita for the dips. We probably could have used 2x the amount of pita for the dips given. Which is crazy, because it looks like it’s a lot of pita when you get the basket, but the slices are not that big.
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Sagnaki – cheese flambeed table-side. How can I not love this?

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Grilled octopus was okay. Came out chopped into small pieces.
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Not really sure if I’d get this again. I think I overhyped this in my mind, mainly because I love octopus and I don’t know of too many other places in the area that list a whole octopus leg on the menu.
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However, the calamari ($10) will totally bring me back. It comes with a spicy citrus oil or marinara, which we noticed after putting in our order. There is no default, though when we asked our server, he said he put in the citrus order.

The exterior was shatteringly crisp, and the calamari meat inside was buttery and tender. So easy to eat lots of it. And the citrusy oil was a very nice contrast of bitter lemon (though not at all spicy).
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Island Kefetethes, $8 – zucchini, feta, onion, and dill vegetable patties. The accompanying yogurt sauce didn’t complement it and masked a lot of the delicate dill flavor.

The main dishes seemed a bit too heavy for me, at least during the summer time, so a dinner of appetizers was right up my alley.

The service I experienced was perhaps a bit too casual and chatty for the atmosphere. It was pretty dead when we were there, and I had to remind my server about my drink order, and the check was dropped without offering dessert (which I could have asked for, but eh, once the check is dropped, I tend to just want to pay the bill and leave). There was also a request for email addresses for their mailing list, which just seems more on par with a restaurant that doesn’t seem as… upscale? My favored way to interact with restaurants via social media is either on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t worry – I’ll find you.

So. Overall, I’d probably go back to the bar and snack on calamari.

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Grab 5 of your friends, and get a table for 6 at Shwe Mandalay. Six is the perfect amount of people to try a significant amount of Shwe Mandalay’s menu without taking up half of the restaurant. Albany John, Daniel, Chopsticks Optional, and 2 other friends made up our table of 6. It’s right on Central Ave next to Taiwan Noodle, and as I remember: “The old Hong Kong Bakery space”.  There’s a small parking lot for a few cars. The service is polite and efficient.

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Bu Tee Kyaw. Fried squash. This had a great shell  – like tempura meets beer batter. Very light and airy, and so crisp.
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Bayar Kyaw – fried lentil balls with onions & curry leaves. I’m pretty sure frying makes everything delicious. I’m not an enjoyer of dal in any form other than fried. This were nice and crispy little nuggets.
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Southern Shan Sausage. Adorable little sausage balls filled with a mix of beef/pork and rice. Served with a whole lot of super hot chili peppers (they’re in the back, there). These were great! A nice texture to them. Kind of like Vietnamese sausages, or boudin.
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Some dishes come with a simple beef soup (free). Nice, light little soup.

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Chicken Biryani, filled with deliciousness. Cinnamons, raisins, cardamom pods, and Burmese chicken curry. This was fantastic.
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Chicken Curry in the back there. We also ordered pork curry. The curries come with sides of veggies and condiments. And massive plates of basmati rice. The curry bases are really enjoyable (not too much turmeric for me). The chicken was mainly white meat, so I’d likely skip it in the future and go for the fattier pork curry.
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Samosa triangles. Tasty triangles. They seasoned a touch lighter than Indian samosas. While potato was a large part of the filling, there was also a nice amount of cabbage (and the lightness the cabbage lent).
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Hey, pork curry and massive plate of basmati rice!
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I think this was the Mom’s taste salad. Oh, those crunchy peanutty bits. So good. Along with everything else in there.
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Now, this dish. this could be a very polarizing dish. This is the dried salted fish dish. Fried, dried salted fish. It’s like salty fish jerky and I love it. If you’re not a fish person or have issues with sodium, then this dish isn’t for you. But if you love fish & salt like I do… well, you are in for a treat!
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Another polarizing dish was the tea leaf salad. This was another one of my favorite dishes, though others at the table didn’t feel as much love for this salad as I did. It didn’t taste like you were eating raw/crunchy tea leaves. They had a texture that went well with a salad, kind of like blanched kale.
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Pe’ Paratha. A flaky coconutty-tasting paratha with a very large bowl of vatana puree. Holy flakiness, in that paratha.
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Mandalay Myee-Shay salad. Fat rice noodles with pork/chicken, pickled mustard leaves, and bean sprouts.
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This was a soupier noodle dish, which I’m blanking on right now. Thick noodles with some pork, greens, beans, and carb-y sliced bits on top. Nice, but we got these at the end of our eating spree, so they probably didn’t get the full appreciation from our table that they deserved.
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Dinner for 6 for $85 before tip! Can’t beat that!

So this was my first time eating Burmese food, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It’s a delicious combination of a lot of aspects of subtle Indian & Chinese flavors. I can’t wait to go back and try some of their other dishes, like the paratha salad.

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2014 is the summer of pizza. I’ve gotten ’round to checking out Kay’s Pizza on Burden Lake in Averill Park, NY. It’s a seasonal pizza place, right on Burden Lake. I went with a large group of folks, and in the peak of Kay’s season the parking lot may overflow, but there’s street/lake side parking available as well. Prices are reasonable, and this is group-friendly, though if it’s packed you may be waiting a while.

Clams! $8.25 for a dozen. These were tasty and were served with real butter on the side.
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One large cheese pizza ($8.95 – WHAT?!), and one Baja Chicken ($19.75). These are poofy pan-style pizzas. There is a crust, but it’s more of a line where the cheese/sauce stops and the crust begins. The pies are all uniformly flat/one level.

Cheese was fine, the Baja Chicken is topped with chicken, bacon, jalapeno, onions, black olives, and tomatoes. The Jalapenos added a nice heat level, though I’d probably never order this on my own.
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Buffalo chicken, because buffalo chicken. ($8.95 + $1.80). This was a buffalo chicken where the chicken was tossed in buffalo sauce, but otherwise was on a regular large cheese pizza (with tomato sauce). Eh, okay. Not my fave style of buffalo chicken pizza.

So Kay’s pizzas are the poofy-soft type of pizzas that are really easy to eat. And  a large cheese is a crazy-cheap $8.95. I can see why this place is so popular. Low price-point on the pizza, very family friendly, and right on the lake, so you may have a lake-view (depending on where you are seated). I would go back again since this is a cute piece of local history. Though I’d personally go really early or really late, because it was jam-packed with people when I went. The seating was Manhattan-style, and if you were at a table with chairs (they had booths) you really had to scoot yourself up to the table and wedge in. I was kind of surprised by that, but it makes sense since it’s so popular. It was a little sardine-y, so try to get a booth. Because of the seating, I’d also suggest going with a table of no more than 5-6 people, because it was kind of impossible to hear anyone else at the other side of the table with 8 people.
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Also grabbed a gluten-free Kay’s Specialty Pizza (sausage, peppers, mushrooms). I forget exactly how much this was, but it’s pretty in line with gluten-free pizza prices in this area (like $12-13 for a medium, and then extra for toppings). Kay’s doesn’t make their own gluten-free pizza and is very vocal that these have the potential for cross-contamination, so if you are severely allergic to gluten you should still probably not order it.

It was the flat/gummy type of pizza crust. Crispy for the first few minutes, but then gummy.

 

Mountain Man came for a visit from Colorado for a few weeks. Albany John and Mountain Man went to SUNY Albany together, so he’s familiar with Albany, but it has changed since he went to school here. Thankfully, he likes eating and being outdoors, so we’re in good company. The bar for good food is pretty low where he lives in Colorado. Between most things getting trucked in and the elevation, there isn’t a ton of fresh/good food or variety where he lives.

We took him to Ala Shanghai for some real Chinese food. He told us some pretty horrific “Chinese” food take out stories in CO. He was so happy to have real dumplings, and that fresh whole steamed fish… man. So good.

Evidently the only cheap things in CO are the beer and alcohol, heh.

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Sushi is a crapshoot where Mountain Man is from. He’s in a touristy town and the elevation does something funny to the rice. We went to Sushi X. I know it’s not the greatest sushi ever, but there is something alluring about AYCE rock shrimp, grilled squid, and some fairly decent sushi rolls and sashimi.
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For $25 a person or so, it’s a pretty decent dinner out. Check off what you want on the order slips. Everything is made to order and quality is decent for what it is, and the selection is pretty wide. I’ve noticed that they don’t quite fill your order slips fully. A few orders might get left off, but eh, that’s what round 2 of ordering is for.
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We continued the Albany New Things tour by going to Nine Pin Cider Tasting Room downtown. The day we went was when they also had “Ciders & Sliders”, pairing up with Slidin’ Dirty serving up in their garage.
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The Nine Pin Flight was okay, though they only half-filled two of the flights for no particular reason, which was kind of a rip. We also got a bottle of cider to share and surreptitiously sip on with burgers.
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Sliding Dirty had a long ass line queuing when we got there. For me, the crowd was a bit overwhelming, but thankfully a friend was nice enough to wait in line for me.
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Sliding Dirty will put your burger on a tortilla if you’re celiac/doing the gluten-free thing, though if you are a true celiac their presentation may pose an issue for you, as they didn’t separate the tortillas from the bun-ed burgers, so gluten cross-contamination may be an issue for the very sensitive.

I thought the sliders were okay, but the price point kind of kills me at $4 per slider. You’d need at least 2 sliders for a meal if you’re peckish, at least 3 if you’re hungry, so you’re looking at a good $8-12 to start for sliders. When I think sliders I think “affordable”, and $8-12 to start for sliders isn’t what I really think of as affordable. FWIW, I hear they are trying to move to all local grass-fed beef in the future, which would at least rationalize the price point somewhat. I’m also not a huge fan of the bread-to-meat ratio on sliders in general, so I’m likely not Slidin Dirty’s target market. I’d just rather get a steak to grill at home for $12, or an actual burger somewhere else with a lower bun-to-meat ratio if I’m feeling burger-y. What the hey, lots of folks seem to like them, and they’ve just opened up a physical location, so this is just my curmudgeonly take on the slider fad.
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City Beer Hall was one of the final stops on the Newish In Albany Tour. Mystery buckets and brown liquor to round out a visit.

Check it out, Soul Cafe is expanding from Troy to Albany. Their first shinding is next Monday, June 30th! I went to the planning potluck, and this is sure to be an awesome time (plus there’s parking!).

-AJ

Soul Café Albany
Cuban Night with Chris Faraci (Carmen’s Café, Troy)
Monday, June 30, 6-8 PM
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Albany, NY
$3 suggested donation
The first Soul Café Albany community meal will take place on Monday, June 30 from 6-8 PM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church on 262 State Street (parking lot entrance at 85 Chestnut Street) in Albany. There is a suggested base donation of $3 for this volunteer-run dinner (no one will be turned away). Denison Farm, the Honest Weight Food Co-op, Placid Baker, and other businesses donate culled produce for the cooks to prepare.
This month’s theme is Cuban Night, with a menu created by Chris Faraci of Carmen’s Café in Troy.
We are looking forward to working together to break bread in the community.
For more information, contact soulcafealbany@gmail.com.
More information can also be found on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/soulcafealbanyny
Carmen’s Café: http://carmenscafetroy.com/
Honest Weight Food Co-op: http://www.hwfc.com
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