Saso’s vs Sushi House (like we don’t know who wins this one)

Sushi House has been winning local polls of favorite sushi places lately – And Saso’s hasn’t. I used to be a real Sushi House lemming for a while. Actually, Sushi House used to be an amazing restaurant with great quality and staff. But once they became popular, it seems they executed some less than beneficial changes. Atleast that’s my perspective.

I used to buy about $30 a week of sushi from Sushi House every week for, oh, about 6 months. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sushi addict. I am, I admit it. But the reason their sushi was so addicitive was because it was GOOD. Lately it’s become very MEH. And sushi should never be MEH.

Saso’s, on the other hand, has been nothing but inductive of oral orgasms. Yes, their sushi is that good. Albany John and I went to Saso’s for dinner last week. We were initally going to get take out, but I changed my mind and wanted to eat in. The service was slow (I think we waited about 15 minutes to place our order) but there was only 1 waitress and about 5 tables. Been there – 5 tables and 1 waitress sucks for the waitress. But she was really nice, and that’s what really matters. I’d take the slower paced, but relaxed vibe of Saso’s over the rushed and sometimes rude atmosphere at Ichiban any day.

I’d also like to mention that when you step into Saso’s, you’ll usually find Chef Saso either talking to Andre (who seemed to be his sushi assistant), or singing oldies tunes (Feelings is one of the ones I heard) while making sushi. They’re really, really genuine people there, and I cannot express how rare it is to see that in the restaurant industry now.
So what did we order? We started off with miso soup. It was good, and the tofu was nice and firm. Albany John and I prefer to have miso soup with the sushi, but we got these first like you would any other appetizer. But I was starving, so I ate it. Albany John saved his for later, but the waitress thought he was done with it. Thankfully we saved the soup before it was too late! We ended up ordering conch clam sushi, salmon sashimi, Saso’s Favorite Roll, Philadelphia Roll, Salmon Skin Roll, and one roll whose name I don’t remember, but it was avocado and squash with a nice creamy/tangy sauce.

Saso’s Can Do No Wrong

They were all amazing. Especially Saso’s Favorite Roll. It had tuna (I think), radish and wasabi, and was sprinkled with dried seaweed. This was a really light roll. But very tasty. The conch clam sushi was really tough, moderately sweet, and had a daub of wasabi underneath it. I wasn’t crazy about this, but I’m not a fan of clam anyway. Albany John almost peed his pants. The salmon skin roll was delishious as usual. Crispy, slightly charred, and still salmon-y. I’m pretty sure I was drooling when I smelled the skin being cooked in the kitchen. I would definately reccomend trying the Philadelphia roll! This wasn’t your average roll! It had salmon, cream cheese, and AVOCADO! I think the textures were amazing in this. I couldn’t describe it enough to do it justice, but let’s say that having the avocado in there really blended the creamyness, and just enhanced the flavor as a whole. And oh, the specialty roll was fantastic as well. It had a creamy/tangy sauce in there with the avocado and squash, and it was just a pleasure to eat. I ate the salmon sashimi last, but I should have eaten it first. My mouth was still dancing from all the other rolls I had eaten.
Fried Perfection

For dessert I talked Albany John into splitting a fried ice cream with me. We got coconut ice cream. I was half expecting it tempura style with whipped cream and a cherry. I was pleasantly surprised with a thick breading and just a bit of chocolate sauce and coconut shreds as a garnish. I don’t think I need to explain how amazing this was. The breading managed to stay light and airy even as the ice cream melted into it.

And then the other night Albany Jane had a few [name alcoholic beverage here]s and Woah, the craving for Saba (mackerel) hit like a mother. Sushi House was right there, so we got some take out. What a huge mistake. I should have just gone without.

Salmon Roll & Philadelphia Roll 🙁

I got mackerel sashimi, a philadelphia roll, 2 salmon rolls, and a lobster roll. It cost about $24, and was a huge waste of my money. After ordering we were told ‘YOU CAN SIT DOWN OVER THERE!’ since they didn’t want us just standing in the restaurant… ooookay. After waiting about 20 minutes for our take out, I paid and left. We got home, and jeezus! Just look at that pathetic Philadelphia roll! The salmon is a DIFFERENT COLOR than the salmon roll right beside it. Um, what gives here? Are you saving old salmon to put into rolls with a bunch of stuff in it? If we had eaten in, I think I would have sent it back. But by the time we got home they had closed. All I know is that this philadelphia roll is what will make me NEVER EAT AT SUSHI HOUSE again. I know there’s different quality at different places, but I would expect my sushi to atleast look fresh. The taste was alright, but I felt like there was too much cream cheese and it overwhelmed the salmon so you couldn’t taste the salmon.

Lobster Roll, not that impressive

The Lobster Roll was $8 and a huge waste of money as well. There were 5 (odd, no?) oversized pieces slathered in sauce. I was just expecting a roll with a lobster tail in it. The lobster tail was fried/tempura’d as well. I just wasn’t expecting such a busy roll, since the menu just said ‘lobster tail roll’, not ‘we put a little bit of lobster in this roll, but you won’t really be able to taste it, since there’s so much stuff in it Roll’. I love lobster and I wanted to actually taste the lobster.
The salmon rolls were nothing to write home about either. They were vibrantly colored, but tasted kind of fishy. I’ve never had fishy salmon before.

The Mackerel was pretty good

The mackerel was the only thing I should have ordered. It was good and fishy, but it’s mackerel. Duh.

Also, I’ve never noticed how important the sushi rice is. After eating the stuff from Sushi House last night, I just kept feeling let down, and I realized the huge factor the rice plays into your tastebuds. Mix that with the fact that at Saso’s, I didn’t need any condiments on my sushi to enjoy it. Meanwhile, loading the rolls down with wasabi and soy sauce were the only way to make Sushi House’s sushi taste good.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m sticking withthe amazing quality at Saso’s over eating food that continues to go downhill at Sushi House. Seriously, don’t eat at Sushi House.

Saso’s as the best sushi in Albany!!!

Dim Sum at Emperor’s

First of all, I forgot to bring the camera. I’m SORRY! I’M ONLY HUMAN!!! Secondly, Albany John usually takes the pictures (except for the ben & jerry’s milkshake pic, that was obviously me). Thirdly, yesterday my brother surprised the hell out of me and we all went out for breakfast/brunch.

I’d heard Emperor’s on Wolf road (right at the beginning of Wolf Road: 10 Wolf Road, Colonie) served dim sum daily. Now I love dim sum. I’ve been eating it since I was little. Of course when I was little I was picky as all get out, and all I would eat were dan tats (unholy amounts of dan tats too). But now that I’m older and will eat anything on the planet, dim sum holds on an all new level. I also love little amounts of food. I’ll eat appetizers over a main course any day, and again, dim sum comes in tiny amounts – perfection! And variety. They have dim sum daily, from 11 am – 3 pm.

Since I love dim sum, I ordered pretty much everything we ate, and man am I glad 2 other people went with me. That, and dim sum is group food. You can’t eat dim sum with less than 3 people. It also harkens back to 3s being lucky in chinese culture, and that’s why you usually get plates of 3 pieces of food when you order dim sum. But I’ve seen just 2 people get dim sum. And you want to be able to order LOTS of food too. Having three people really ups your ability to have a variety of foods. But to me, dim sum is a bonding event. I have great memories of getting dim sum in the city with my family, stuffing ourselves and enjoying ourselves. If you eat dim sum with me, you’re family.

Here’s what we ordered:

Stuffed eggplant – as stated before, I try eggplant if I see it on a menu. This was possibly the best eggplant I’ve ever eaten. The skin was nice and crispy, while the flesh was soft and flavorful. It was coated in a simple brown sauce. And it was stuffed with SHRIMP! I love shrimp! Excellent.

Spicy Fried Squid – Had a light fluffy batter. They were tasty, and had a dipping sauce, but nothing about it was spicy. They were good for fried squid, but I think the squid itself could have been a little bit softer/not as cooked.

Sauteed Spinach – Wilted, but still has a little bit of crunch to it. And not coated in some wierd sauce, just simple, wonderful spinach. Of course there was the sheen of oil on in, but I’ve never had chinese cooked greens without being able to see some of the oil in the cooking. But don’t worry, it neither adds nor detracts from the taste. It just… is. Existensialist oil, one could say.

Shrimp Rice Rolls – I mistakenly got 2 orders of these. You see, this was my absolute favorite dim sum as a child (aside from those dan tats) because of the light, gooey shrimp noodle encasing 2-3 medium sized crispy, yet suculent shrimp. They’re usually about the size of 2 fingers. These though… wow. They were HUGE. We really only needed one (but again, dim sum is all about stuffing your face). They were atleast 6 inches long and filled with a lot of shrimp. I thought these were just okay, borderline ‘meh’. They were topped with scallion, which I’ve never seen but thought it was a nice touch. The rice noodle had an off taste to it and fell apart very easily. And the shrimp were shrimpy, just not succulent, yet slightly crispy (you understand this description if you’ve had this before, if not, I’m sorry I sound confusing). I’d eat one with a group of people, but I’d never eat an entire order. And I can usually eat 2 orders when I haunt chinatown. so… I just wasn’t crazy about it. I was a little disappointed they didn’t have the squeezy tube of sauce either, just a little bowl and spoon.

Har Kow – Har Kow(or Gow) are clear skin shrimp dumplings. These were really tasty with the sauce from the bowl and spoon they gave us. The sauce was kind of gingery. On their own, I thought they had a slightly eggy taste, thought Albany John and my brother just looked at me funny on that one.

Sticky Rice – we got 2 big squares of rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. I didn’t have any hopes on the sticky rice, but I was blown away by it! The texture was great. It was just sticky enough, not mushy like it was a little too old. I can’t describe the taste very well, it’s one of those things you just have to try yourself to really see. At first, I thought it was just rice, which was tasty and fine, but then I kept hitting little hidden gems. First was a shiitake mushroom, then some char siu too. Order it. It’s good.

Steamed Pork Buns – yes, yes, this is the staple thing you have to order at dim sum I think. I didn’t want them, and only 2 came in the order, so Albany John and my brother ate them. But, dear readers, for you I took a nibble. I might be converted to liking steamed buns (I prefer ’em baked) if I keep getting them from Emperor’s. They tasted like someone just made the dough, slapped pork in it, and served it to us.

Also to note about Emperor’s: The dim sum is ordered a la carte. I was kind of bummed that there were no ladies in cute uniforms hawking food from their carts, but seeing as how we were the only people in there, I think a la cart ordering was a much better idea than food that sits in a cart for 4 hours.
The staff was excellent. We had 2 guys attending to our table while we were there, and they were helpful, but not pushy or annoying. They got us more tea when we ran out, were really attentive on the water glasses too, and when the sun started shining in to make us squint, they lowered the shade by our window! Woah, I was impressed on that one. I mean, I knew the sun was there, but it’s the sun. It’s bright and it makes us squint our eyes. I’m used to just putting up with it’s blinding rays, not having staff notice me squint and do something to stop me from squinting. Sorry to go on about the window shade, but I think it really shows a lot about the staff at Emperor’s. If I had more servers like them, I’d eat out a lot more and not just get take out. They were people who treated us like people, not some weird master-servant sycophant thing people get in other restaurants. And no attitude either. I felt like they genuinely cared about our experience, not just seeing how much we ordered and going from there. I’ll definately be back to Emperor’s. They seemed to have a great authentic chinese menu.

Okay, just a side note. Ben & Jerry’s has Baklava ice cream. Yes, BAKLAVA. And it makes my mouth water. It has little pieces of baklava in the ice cream, and the bits still maintain their crunchiness. For $4.50 you can get a handpacked pint. $7.50 for a quart. And I usually think that’s a rip. If you’ve never had baklava, or are only mildly curious, go in and ask for a free sample. It’s free – there’s no reason you shouldn’t try it!

Overcooked Tuna with Ben and Jerry

Here’s a picture of the tuna Albany John made last night. We got some organic fillets from Trader Joe’s(!) when we were in Mass. They were okay, as far as Albany John’s cooking goes. They got too overcooked in the oven after he browned them. (Why he put them in the oven after they were browned, I don’t know…) But he put a yummy gingery glaze on them after they were done. The highlight of the meal were the spinach, napa cabbage, and tofu filled phyllo dough things. Oh! Man, these were tasty and I think it was because the tofu was pressed prior to cooking. So that tasty phyllo dough stayed crispy and tasty. Also, he sprinkled some sesame seeds in between phyllo layers. It was good, but next time he should put a lot of sesame seeds. Because I love sesame.

After the tuna, we went to Ben & Jerry’s on Lark St (you KNOW where it is, don’t make me spell it out) and got the new irish milkshake that’s on special. The O’Dubliner or something like that. (sorry, I don’t remember) It’s got some irish cream ice cream in it, and chocolate chips, and maybe something fudgey too. I don’t know. But the combination was great! A slightly alcoholic taste to the milkshake, which I think made it pretty darn tasty too. And best of all, the chocolate chips were blended to a fine dust (I hate chewing my milkshakes). Obviously it has whipped cream, a fudge shamrock (tasted okay,better than Hershey’s, but I’m not a chocolate person) and best of all – GREEN sugar sparkles! I think the green sparkles made this shake extra irish. Since, you know… irish things are green. ALL irish things.

Twenty% Tuesdays

Ah, food discounts in Albany. How I love thee. The latest cool thing going on is “Twenty% Tuesdays”. I forgot about it, but now remember after seeing a flyer. Central Business Improvement District (BID) is supporting about a month of discounts of (you guessed it) 20% off at select businesses on or around Cental Ave, from 21 Feb – 25 April from 4:30 pm – 10:00 pm. On Tuesday. Phew.
These participating restaurants are:

  • Bob and Ron’s Fish Fry
  • Carmine’s Restaurant
  • Clayton’s Caribbean & American Cuisine
  • Gateway Diner
  • I Love New York Pizza
  • Ristorante Paradiso
  • Saso’s Fine Japanese Cuisine
  • Scenarios at The Clarion Hotel of Albany
  • Shea’s Restaurant

I know, I know, what an impressive list. Cental BID tried. But you know what? I’m going to EVERY one. Kidding. I ate enough I Love NY Pizza in college. I’m surprised my veins aren’t full of mozzarella. And the only thing I go crazy over is fried ice cream at Clayton’s (you should try it if you haven’t – it’s AMAZING).

Actually, I plan on going to Saso’s tonight for dinner. The 20% is really too tempting, since I was planning on actually eating in their restaurant at some time. Albany John has been jonesing to try Carmine’s Restaurant as well. I’m actually kind of intrigued by the range of restaurants participating as well. I mean from Saso’s to I Love NY? What’s up with that? I’m surprised more upscale (and by upscale, I mean more upscale than I Love NY) restaurants on/around Central Ave aren’t participating; like Ichiban, Van’s, Shalimar, Ghandi, El Mariachi… But I can see how some of these restaurants already have a wide enough customer base where they feel they don’t need the 20% discount to draw more people in.

Also, if anyone would like to join me to eat at any of these places(or ever), you’re more than welcome. I enjoy eating out in large groups.

Calzones, Pancakes, and Shalimar

Albany John made calzones. We were going to make pizza, but the dough was not working with us. So we made mozzarella, cheddar, and ricotta stuffed ones. As you can see they turned out very… FLUFFY. The fluffiness won’t even fit in the picture. But I love my carbs, so I helped Albany John with his extra carby goodness. After looking at them from this picture, they look kind of like cheesy samosas.

We actually ventured out this weekend. Into western Massachusetts. This place called Davenport’s. It had a fun little tour on maple sugaring. With a very long wait to eat at their little restaurant. Davenport’s is in the middle of nowhere. Don’t even ask me how we got there, since I slept the whole car ride there. And back… But the food there is worth the wait. I got an egg over easy, 2 whole wheat pancakes, and (the icing on the cake) one quarter pound of Ham. I really like pork. And this had to be the best piece of ham I’ve ever eaten. It tasted like a huge piece of bacon. Yes, bacon. It was a heavenly piece of hammy heart attack. I almost drooled while eating it. The pancakes and eggs were delishious too. Whole wheat pancakes are like brown hearty pancakes. They had a grainy earthy texture. And the egg (over easy) had the distinctive homey taste of having been fried in the remaining grease of bacon. Davenport’s is no place for the health conscious, and the 1+ hour wait for a table (you have to wait outside. In the freezing cold.) makes you ravenous for a real lumber jack type breakfast.

Albany John and I did some house cleaning when we got back, and were craving indian food from Shalimar for dinner. We got some plain naan ($1.45), Lamb Rogan Josh ($6.95), and Baingan Bhartha ($5.25). The lamb is on the left side of the rice, and the Baingan is on the right. It came out to $17.44 though, so maybe I have an old menu. All the meals come with basmati rice as well. The Lamb Rogan Josh (makes you think of that guy from Fear Factor, no?) is lamb cooked in a ginger sauce. It had a nice amount of tasty indian spices in it, but the ginger was very subtle. If I didn’t know we had ordered ginger sauce lamb, I would have just thought it was a curry lamb. Lamb Rogan Josh was okay, but I think it was a little ‘meh’. We actually had ordered a lamb korma as well, but somehow they forgot about it when we picked it up, even though Albany John kept repeating over and over again that we wanted TWO lamb dishes. What a bummer, since I love anything korma. Korma sauces are indian cream sauces. They have an intricate amount of spices, but don’t burn the tastbuds off of spicy food weaklings like me. Vindaloo anything is an example of a food that
will burn the taste buds off of Albany Jane. Baingan Bhartha is a skinless eggplant cooked with green peas. Now this dish, I liked. I try all eggplant dishes when I go out to eat, since I can never cook eggplant just the right way at home. It just always comes out as ‘gunk’. But this, oh, this was a spiced up meal of heaven! The peas pop in your mouth and really complement the mushy (but delishious) eggplant. And don’t forget to plop any of your food into a wedge of naan and eat it up. Mmmm. So I’m confused about the pricing, but Shalimar is still one of my favorite indian places.
Shalimar is located in Troy and Albany. I went to the Albany locale on 35 Central Ave. Tel # – 434-0890

The Metroland is stealing their ideas from me

Okay, or not so much, but it’s still kind of cool and a really creepy way.

This latest edition of The Metroland, Albany’s favorite indie (and free) newspaper, has reviewed La Familia too! You can read B.A. Nilsson’s review here

I thought his review was really nice, especially since I only tried the tacos. It’s like he knew what I reviewed, so was like ‘Hmm, since Albany Jane has already reviewed tacos and the Agua de Horchata on her blog, I’ll review the OTHER food!’. Atleast that’s what I assume B.A. Nilsson would think, had he read my blog. No, he probably wouldn’t. Actually, I think I met him, his wife, and daughter once when I was waitressing. But I never got his name, so I shall never know for certain. But I’m pretty sure it was him… Cause he had a Metroland business card, and gave it to me… and was eating at a restaurant… so… those are Albany Jane’s glorious powers of deduction! But I’ll assume it was him, and he and his family were very, very nice.

Okay, enough flattering to B.A. Nilsson – for now. The other thing that I saw in the metroland was this.
Woah! Now this is a little odd, hunh? I reviewed La Familia, and so does the Metroland. Then, they review The Muddy Cup! Can we say insanity!?

I know that the people at The Metroland must have had these planned out for at least a week (that whole editing thing, and all) before printing it. But still. It’s a freeeakky cool coincidence.