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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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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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It’s probably not a good idea to let me order for a table when I’m at DeFazio’s. There’s a good chance I’ll over order. Between 8 or so of us, we split a chicken pesto antipasto salad (SO good). For $11.95, this was great for a group and super satisfying.

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They had a special of white pizza with cherry tomatoes and balsamic glaze. So much yum. I can’t get enough of that delicious crust – so poofy, tender, and flavorful.
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And a clam pizza. So good, check out that charring on the edge!
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Pesto linguine ($12.95). How can you not love pesto + anything? So good.
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Spinach and garlic linguine ($12.95). Yum.
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Fettuccine Rosario ($12.95) was the only clunker. The sauce was good, but the fettuccine was a little undercooked and clumpy.

There was also a gluten-free pizza tossed in there. For 8 people this was a bit too much food, but super awesome to try so many different things. I think part of the charm of DeFazio’s is their inconsistencies. Today the pizzas were perfect, but the fettuccine was a bit hard. But the service is always friendly, warm, and welcoming.

 

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After Albany John and I went to San Francisco , I cut off to San Diego for a little solo trip while he came back for some previous commitments. I like that we can take separate vacations from each other and aren’t joined at the hip all of the time. My camera also ate it while I was in SF, so all of my pictures from here on out are on my phone. So, not great, but they’re something.

Any way, shortly after I got off the commuter plane to SD, I met up with Albany John’s Uncle and his new fam for dinner. (Side note: we kind of forgot that they lived in San Diego (because we are evidently really bad relatives) until after we made plans, so only I met up with them and they really missed him. yeah. really bad relatives). But they are really good and nice relatives, and my new auntie took us all out for dinner at a place in Old Town that makes fresh tortillas. 

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See? Ladies making tortillas. 

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Queso fundido app. 

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Tortillas were okay, but kind of meh and heavy. 

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I got some pork, beans, and guac. Hearty stuff, lol. It was great to spend time with more family. Maybe this is weird of me, I don’t know, but I like being around people when I’m bad at expressing my feelings. Yeh-Yeh was not doing well at this point, and I’m not one to say it to family I haven’t seen in a while. I just don’t want to be “that guy” being mopey or having people think I’m trying to get attention because of my sick grandpa. Or just making things awkward with sad subjects. Besides, he wouldn’t want a big deal about that any way. But when times are tough it’s nice just to be around people you like, you know? Reconnecting/connecting and all. I spent several hours with them at their house, too. They have an orange and lemon tree right in their backyard! They smelled so good!

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Left to wander San Diego on my own (I was staying downtown), I ended up making foods I can’t get here in Albany a priority. Hello, Pho Express! My gosh, this place was awesome and I’d give a kidney for something like it in Albany. This was a small pho Tai, which is supposed to be rare beef. It was piping hot and basically cooked all the way through by the time I got it, but oh my gosh, still so freaking good. It was $6.25 and came with the side of Thai basil, lime, jalapenos, and bean sprouts that I tossed in the soup. There’s a condiment bar on each table, too. Great flavorful broth alone. And the noodles were vermicelli & flat rice noodles. Cool texture. 

I got the shrimp rolls, too. They were the shrimp pounded with a bit of sugar and then grilled. 

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I think regular shrimp might have been better than this, but just marginally. Can I please have fresh rice rolls like this? So refreshing. The peanut dipping sauce on the side was also the bomb. I was so full after eating all of this. Because no way was I leaving any of it behind. Although to be honest, it would have been enough to split with another person. So much!

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This new donut bar just opened.

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Vanilla bean glazed twist doughnut. Eh, just okay. On par with Bella Napoli in Troy. 

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All of that pho = afternoon walkies. Cool effect to walk on a sidewalk between water.

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Walked down to North Embarcadero park. 

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Sadly I did not get to try any of my delicious neighbors.

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Looking at South Embarcadero.

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Walking into the tourist section. There were a lot of chain restaurants here. Old Spaghetti Factory, Chili’s. They all had hosts outside kind of hawking for people to come in. Interesting. 

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And then I walked to a Grocery Outlet. Oh man do I love grocery store tourism. Forget a magnet, I wanna see what’s on your shelves. 

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BOXED WINE FOR $5.99. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I cannot even fathom these prices. And they had Unjunked candy bars for $3 for 12. I may have bought a box. And ate a lot of them.

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After a good afternoon & evening of walkies, I wound up by J. Wok for some Asian tapas fusion. 

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I got a few small plates: Shrimp with lemongrass salad, papaya salad, and kalbi. Dinner was like, $13 with tax! I thought I would want to eat more, but these were good portions of food and I left feeling quite sated. 

The shrimp w/lemongrass salad had a hearty dose of sprouts and a light hand on the dressing. Papaya salad = refreshing and YUM! Galbi – how can you not like galbi, especially when it’s got a bit of char on it. 

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I walked on down to Crunch Time because I heard they make their own ice cream.

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Peanut butter ice cream with some caramel sauce. Caramel sauce was pre-made and too saccharine. Albany John’s caramel is way better. The ice cream was okay but melted really quickly (it wasn’t really hot) and I think we have better homemade ice cream in the Cap Region. This was also crazy expensive. Like, over $5 for a small ice cream. 

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The next day I woke up ready for more walking. I never did make it out of downtown, but there’s so much to do and see down there. Like the Chinese benevolence center, which was mainly a bunch of grandparents playing mah jong. 

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It was right next to the cultural museum that I peeked into, but then kept on walking. Maybe next time. It was pretty small. 

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More walkies into the south Embarcadero! I liked these things. Reminded me of the moving art sculpture at RPI. 

 

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The south embarcadero featured more homeless people and a fishing pier. No homeless folks ever hassled me in all of my walking, though.

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I liked this! How cute!

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This is the bridge for crossing the main road to the South Embarcadero. 

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And the view of the city. The other side is the more industrial port.

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I walked a little more to Rolando’s Taco Shop.

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Shrimp burrito & a fish taco! The fish taco was piled high with cabbage. I really liked the fish taco! It was only $1.50

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The burrito was like $7.50 and CHOCK FULL OF SHRIMP. And cheese. And it worked. I ate half of it easily, but the 2nd half I wound up picking the shrimp out and eating the burrito skin. So good, but SO. MUCH. FOOD. My stomach just cannot.

 

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My uncle & auntie wanted to hang more, so we drove around to the beach. Nice beach. Next time I will bring swim wear. Or find a beach where I don’t have to worry about forgetting a suit, lol. 

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Dinner time was, you guessed it, more walking to Gaijin Noodle. Is it weird that I was all about these Asian fusion restaurants in San Diego? We just don’t have anything like it up in Albany, so I kind of wanted to get my fill of any and everything I can’t get normally. 

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The bartender greeted me as soon as I walked in and invited me to sit at the bar so he could keep me company. Aw, sweet gesture even though I’m very comfortable by myself.
I ordered one of their shaved ice cocktails ($9), which was cherry syrup, chocolate pocky, and a side shot of sake to pour over. They put the cone in a cup with a wee spoon, so it makes for hands free drinking/consuming. I am super uncoordinated, so I wound up pouring about half of the sake on the counter. Whoops. Still tasty, though. It helped offset my meal, which wound up being EVERYTHING SPICY on them small dish menu. Even better, the bartender comped my drink at the end for whatever reason (I would hope my general awesomeness, but probably the pity comp for a single lady dining alone)

Yellowtail poke with purple potato cups on the bottom (with spicy togarashi dashed across!), a freebie salad on the left, and blistered shisito peppers sprinkles with more togarashi on the left. Oh man, I am all about shisito peppers now. They pack a punch, but nothing I can’t handle. Really enjoyable heat. 

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Fire chicken wings. Slathered in a spicy sauce with peanuts, the skin was cooked non-crispy style, so it was okay, but I think it would have put them on another level if they crisped the skin just a bit.

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I walked back to Pho Express for lunch on my last day. Papaya salad with shrimp. Oh man, I fell in love with papaya salad while I was in San Diego. I tried recreating it at home with absolutely no success. But this. Oh, this was great.

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Crunchy green papaya in a tangy-tart sauce (it didn’t reek of fish sauce), and a whole bunch of crunchy crushed peanuts and sliced shrimp. How can anyone not love this? One of my favorite things about San Diego was that I got to eat seafood every day I was there. Albany Jane, depleting the oceans one bite at a time.

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I grabbed a banh mi for a snack at the airport. It was like $4. Very reasonably priced. About 1.5 Albany Jane hands long. 

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The bread was so great! Crispy on the outside & pillowy-soft on the inside. Beat the pants off of any $5 foot-long or any other airport snack option. 

IMG_20130404_132846Chock full of pickled carrots + daikon, cilantro, cucumber, porky pate, and a schmear of inoffensive mayo. 

Oh San Diego. I can’t wait to go back to you. With Albany John the next time. You weren’t as friendly as San Francisco, but holy cow were you full of so many tasty and dirt cheap eats. 

 

Resto Week @ Druthers

 

Restaurant weeks in the Capitol Region can be disappointing. Generally, it’s 3 courses for a set price in the $20-30 range. Oftentimes, restaurants post menus they wouldn’t normally serve to meet a price-point, or just for the sake of participation. When I saw Druthersmenu for Saratoga Restaurant week, I thought “Hey, these guys are doing it right.” Their menu was 3 courses for $20, and all of the items on their menu seemed like plausible dishes to make their menu. DSCF4982

Danika of Garnish Marketing and her hubs, one of our other girlfriends, and Albany John joined me for dinner one night.
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Albany John tried a Druthers Manhattan. Our waitress was friendly, although when she dropped it off she mentioned that while the cherries seemed ugly, they were the best cherries she’d ever had. Kind of an odd comment, but the cocktail was well balanced and enjoyable ($10). DSCF4985

I went for the lobster bisque for the appetizer. Huge bowl of lobster bisque, and an enjoyable toast to the roux base of the soup. I was quite surprised with this portion on a restaurant week menu. I hope they add it to their regular roster of soups, because this was great. Not only was the roux well-toasted, but the lobster and cream were well balanced  with a sherry finish (I couldn’t pull a tarragon note, but sherry in lobster bisque = awesome) and this wasn’t over-the-top rich.

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Albany John got the duck wings in Thai peanut basil sauce with a raspberry puree & basil. Holy moly, these need to go on the menu, like, NOW. The skins were crispy, and the peanut basil sauce didn’t sog it up one bit! The flavors all really worked well with duck meat. Oh man, I want a ton more of these! Again, there were a good four duck drumsticks on this plate – a crazy amount!

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Danika went for the slivered beet salad, which was heavier on the arugula and dressing than beets. DSCF4992

Entrees are where Druthers slipped a bit. Their menu listed the cod as “pan-seared” with a smoked tomato puree, crispy pancetta, and cous cous and tarragon salad. , so we were surprised when they came out battered and fried. A few of us ordered the cod, and we were so confused, we wondered how we could all misread a menu.
We asked the waitress to double check for us, and she brought over a menu and made mention of how she hadn’t read the restaurant week menu and how this was how the cod was prepared all week. She even went to check with the chef, and came back to tell us that it turned out that this was a mistake in printing that no one had caught. She’d said the chef told her that pan searing cod was impossible since it would fall apart, and that this was the intended preparation. She was nice for checking, although her delivery was a little rough at times, asking if we were “going to eat it or not?” or if she’d have to take it back to the kitchen. She came back later, and was more apologetic and more insistent about taking things back to the kitchen. I’m not the most effective vocal communicator, so I can relate to not having a perfect response in awkward situations, but some of my other dining companions were wowed (and not in a good way) at first hearing “Well, are you going to eat this, or am I going to have to bring it back to the kitchen?” in a flat tone.
What was interesting what that this is how the cod had been prepared all week, and our table was the first to notice this (or at least, the first to bring it to the attention of the staff).

The fry job was a bit oily and greasy on the cod, so the thick batter wasn’t the most pleasant thing to eat; I picked all of the cod out of the batter. I didn’t see any pancetta on the plate. Maybe it was left off, or was another misprint. I think pan-seared would have been a much more enjoyable preparation method. Use Real Butter didn’t seem to have any issue with her cod falling apart when pan searing.

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The Duo of Filet Mignons were prepared as the menu stated, however, both of the orders at our table were requested rare…DSCF4995

And came out closer to medium and fairly tough. Aww.

DSCF4996So, while the entrees were a bit of a low note, dessert ended on a high note. Chocolate mousse, peanut butter & chocolate layered cake, and a strawberry sorbet in the back. All of these were great. While I don’t normally order desserts in restaurants, I think I’d order them again at Druthers. I couldn’t even finish the peanut butter & chocolate layer cake – so rich! The vegan sorbet had tons of fresh strawberry flavor, and the mousse was dense at first, but finished lightly.

Our waitress came back during dessert to chat a bit more. There was something about her that I really liked, she seemed like a good person and a good fit for Druthers as a server. She thanked us for being a “cool” table and not freaking about about the entrees earlier because it was a mistake on their part, but was ultimately out of her control (a server can’t control how the kitchen decides to prepare dishes). I just wanted to hug her – you could tell she felt badly about the preparation/earlier interaction (probably more than she should have) – it’s tough being the middleman between diner and kitchen sometimes. I still also think that Druthers restaurant week menu was an example of a restaurant doing Restaurant Week the right way – having dishes that they might be testing out for their main menu, or seem like they’d fit in with their normal menu (i.e.: they didn’t break out raw oysters, prime rib, burritos, or other stuff that wouldn’t fit with their menu).

My Dad came up for a weekend, so he was taken on a food tour of the area. First stop was Selena’s Cafe in Troy for lunch. Albany John likes this place, and he’s only told me good things – it was definitely a place I’ll visit again. $6.99 for salad bar lunch buffet with soup/mac & cheese! $5.99 if you just want the salad bar.
And the salad bar comes with a bunch of fresh ingredients! We went for a late lunch and they were still replenishing the salad greens and items at the bar. Freshly roasted chicken, ham slices, chickpeas, tons of tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, olives… so many veggies! What a great value! Seriously, there is a ton of stuff on their salad bar – tis a great healthy alternative for lunch. There were a bunch of salad dressing offerings as well.

Their mac & cheese was awesome. So rich & creamy. They also had a pot of cream of mushroom soup for the soup of the day. I took a few spoonfuls – so rich and fresh! Equally delicious – I liked how fresh everything was.

We went to Taiwan Noodle for dinner. My dad really liked this place. They were slammed and were apologetic to my dad in Chinese since we came during a rush. Tea was really good (it’s served in large mugs) and we all LOVED the pigs feet appetizer for $4.95. My dad and I couldn’t get over what a great value this was. The feet were sliced and super soft – great tendon & collagen texture. Jiggly, soft, & supple. My dad was saying it’s a great bargain because trying to make this dish at home would be so much work for three people – long cooking times, and the mess to clean up afterward. This was a great portion for the three of us to share. Loved it. Get it. It’s not gross, it’s delicious.
Dad also liked that they served some baby bok choy with the pigs feet. And they’re cooked perfectly – cooked enough to be cooked through, but still have some crunch to the base. Mmmm! Perfect boy choy!

Sorry for the poor exposure – Boiled lettuce in oyster sauce (and some oil). I’m still not sold on this dish. My dad likes it and has made it at home before. Texturally it was alright – the lettuce was wilted but still crunchy. I’d rather have a greener veggie boiled like gai lan, but I guess this is legit Chinese home cooking.
Suppah time! Albany John got the Spicy Noodle with Meat ($4.75). Nicely chewy noodles! Albany John thought it wasn’t that spicy, but I thought it packed a goodly dose of heat. It’s either ground pork or beef (or both)- the menu doesn’t specify, even in Chinese, lol!
My dad got the three mushrooms soup ($5.95) – shiitake, enoki, and straw. Very clean soup. Noodles were also nice & chewy.

Spicy noodles came with a broth on the side. Albany John, heat lover that he is, requested more hot sauces. They gave him two – an oil based one (I think it had ma la peppers in it), and a chili paste. Boy was he red by the time he was done with his noodles!


I had the stewed beef chuck soup ($4.95). OMG, so tender, and even had bits of tendon attached to the beef. Generous portions of beef for a soup. And the broth! So flavorful and yet not greasy! I specifically ordered the chow fun noodles with my soup – these aren’t chow fun noodles, just flat rice noodles. They were nicely chewy, but next time I won’t specify the noodle and just have get those nicely bouncy & chewy long noodles that come with the soup by default. Again, perfect bok choy.

We left stuffed for $30 with tax and tip. How crazy is that for dinner for three people?! I left about 1/3 of my soup behind – couldn’t finish it, so much food! My dad wanted to go back the next day for dinner again. That good. We also hung around after dinner and chatted, and they didn’t even try to push us out (don’t worry, the rush was long over by then!) and kept asking us if we wanted more tea. So nice, I love that this space is being put to good use again!

We went to the Troy Farmers Market for brekkie the next day. Albany John got a tamale from Magdalena’s. He loves their hot sauce and while it had a good dose of heat, it was very flavorful, too.
Dad and I opted for Nighthawks Kitchen. You can see Christian Noe outside cooking while his family and friends take orders. They’ve got a neat setup for how to get orders to him – you should check it out – very ingenious and a good use of space.

I opted for a ham biscuit ($2.50). It’s deliciously smoky ham on a sweet potato biscuit. The biscuit was a bit falling apart, but surprisingly (very) tender and fluffy. Noe, I want this recipe!
Dad opted for an egg sandwich with sausage. I may have been a source of influence on the sausage.

Dinner was DeFazio’ for pizza. We got there when they were busy and ordered the Fra Diavolo pizza – nicely spicy and I could only manage two slices! Woah mama! We also got sides of sausage & meatballs. So good and meaty. Garlic bread was tasty, although there was an ant crawling around the outside of the basket. :x It took somewhere around a half hour for everything to come out, which seemed a bit on the long side. We also got sun dried tomato pesto, which was very creamy. The noodles were great – nicely al dente yet tender, and if they weren’t homemade I want to know where I can buy them.

I’m trying to search out more restaurants in Schenectady, so Albany John and I went dinner at Petta’s in Schenectady with Phairhead & Sexy Beast. Yay date night!
Don’t even ask me how many slices of bread I had. Ok, I had 6. Tasty stuff. The service was great – our waiter was friendly and knew his stuff. The decor itself is 50s recreation room. Kitchy.
Dinners come with salad or soup. I got the chicken soup to start, which was a bit heavy on the grease. Probably wouldn’t get it again.
Albany John went with a salad, which had comically large slices of celery, but was overall a nice starter salad because everything else was bite-sized.
For dinner I ordered the veal cutlet sorrentino. Great fry-job on the eggplant. The bottom was veal cutlet, and the top were thin eggplant slices. I wasn’t so crazy about the sauce – it was a little sharp for me and had some metallic finish going on. I got a side of linguine – s’okay.

Albany John got veal oreganata with a ton of sliced mushrooms. Loved those mushrooms. It was okay, too.
Sexy Beast got the prime rib – this was the SMALL 12 oz steak. GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS. This was perfectly cooked (med rare as requested) and so deliciously savory. Soft & buttery. The au jus was perfect – incredibly savory – not at all watery or weak. This was a beefy dish in every sense of the word. Phairhead and I stole Sexy Beast’s cast off fat bits (who throws those away?!)
Phairhead got the lasagna – I’m glad I didn’t. Fennel all up in that sausage! But good for a fennel lover.

I’m probably going to pass on the pasta dishes at Petta’s the next time I go, but I am ALL OVER that steak section!

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