The restaurant business loves those designer buzzwords that let them jack up menu prices, and "Kobe" has been a recent favorite. But, according to Forbes magazine's Larry Olmsted, you're not getting real Kobe beef on these shores. Here's why.
The passadore arrives at your table with a long skewer in hand on which is speared one or more chunks of meat. With a few deft flicks of the knife, generous portions are carved onto a plate. You help yourself to as much as you’d like.
The bacon-wrapped turkey tenderloin is moist and smoky, and you’d like a few more medallions of it, but you know there’s more to come. And soon enough the roast lamb comes by, followed by the mustard-rubbed pork tenderloin, followed by a chicken legs osso buco, followed by flank steak. And there’s still more to be sampled at the starters table.
The official opening is March 22, but the doors already are open, which is how I got a look at and taste of Carmine’s Brazilian Restaurant. My official review won’t occur for at least another three months, in order to give the place time to get running smoothly.
It’s a gold mine of a concept. Although he made his name locally with Italian fare, this time Carmine Sprio has filled a conspicuous hole in the area’s range of cuisines. His eatery is a churrascaria, which is a Brazilian style of steakhouse. You’ll find one at Turning Stone Casino, and in larger cities, but it’s a first for Albany.
The web-hype for a Montreal-based restaurant chain called Cora led me to expect something shiny and welcoming. Breakfast is a touchy meal for my family, with both wife and daughter seeking a repast that’s generally egg-, pancake-, waffle-, sausage-, potato- and toast-free. Cora’s site sports an impressive fruit plate featuring sliced apples sculpted into towers among other feel-good choices.
What we found, not far from downtown’s Berri-UQAM Metro station, was a fading eatery with the feel of a tired Denny’s. But I may be letting a quickly achieved prejudice get in my way. What I found, on my plate of eggs and sausage and potatoes, was a terrible bagel.
In Montreal, that’s unacceptable. The Montreal bagel is a phenomenon as rich in passion and partisanship as the New York bagel, both of which arrived in their respective countries with immigrant Polish Jews. But each stage of the northern-style treat is differs: the dough is honey-sweetened, the poaching is done in honey-infused water, and the baking takes place in a wood-fired oven.
In anticipation of the downtown opening of Carmine's Brazilian Grill, the blog All Over Albany took a peek inside. Noted was the menu, which offers a complete meal for $32, including an appetizer bar and an endless array of grilled meats. We'll be taking our own look at the place shortly, but of note is a comment left on that blog:
"$32 plus drinks seems a bit pricey for Albany."
... prompting this response:
"This is why we can't have nice things."
... to which I say, Amen, brother. The Capital Region will never truly thrive until it gets rid of the Cheap Bastard Brigade.
Give me a break. This sudden stardom being accorded an 85-year-old North Dakota food writer for her praise of a new Olive Garden restaurant overlooks what for me is the most important point: the food that chain offers will always suck.
NPR, bless its boring, adenoidal head, has a typically breathless piece on its online newsblog noting two points about this phenomenon, points the writer assists us in understanding through the use of numerals.
“1. Almost everyone loves a story about someone who seems to be just so darn nice and who's still going strong at an age when many of us will just be glad to still be around.” According to essayist Paul Fussell, the use of “darn” puts the NPR writer in solid middle-class surroundings. “One of their treasured possessions,” he writes in his book Class, “is a whole vocabulary of euphemized profanity and obscenity, so that when you hear, ‘Holy cow!’ or ‘Holy Moses!’ ... you know that a member of the middle class is nearby.” In other words, NPR is just folks, golly gee.
“2. There are an awful lot of snarky sorts out there on the Web who just don't realize that in many towns and cities across the U.S. a restaurant such as The Olive Garden (or Macaroni Grill, or Red Lobster, or Applebee's or any of many other chains' outlets) is indeed a big deal.” And gosh darn it, we’ll stop in just as soon as we’re done over to the Wal-Mart’s. It’s a pathetic attempt at rationalization.
On to the aged food columnist and the words that have won her fame. “The place is impressive,” she writes. “It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.”
After that last ruminative post about Trader Joe's, which prompted some hollering and arugula throwing around the Metroland offices, we felt it best to cool our heels for a bit. And were getting good and ready to smack this blog sensate when a Minivan screeched to a stop in the parking lot and out tumbled a family that resembled in every respect the stick-figure approximations applied as decalcomania to the van's rear window.
"Look! Look!" cried Suburban Dad, clutching a copy of a local business journal. "Trader Joe's is coming! We never wanted that Office Max anyway!"
"I've never really been able to make the best feeding decisions for my family," his missus added, cinching a little tighter the cashmere sweater tied around her waist. "I love it that, as I'm forced by hungry crowds through the store's skinny aisles, I can grab all-in-one meals fully thought out by -- does Joe himself do the choosing?"
"Plus they have piles of sweetened stuff that we can pretend isn't candy in prominent point-of-purchase locations!" cried little Shenendoah, his or her mouth a rictus of dried carob.
"And, unlike parent company Aldi, you don't have to rent your shopping carts!" added the toddler. "Plus they have less-creepy-sounding made-up brand names!"
We know what this kind of excitement is like. We read an Orlando Weekly writer's promise to drive 200 miles when a Trader Joe's opens sorta nearby. And so it will be, with open mind and a good-sized, hemp-spun shopping basket, we shall explore this new testament to Albany's upscaleishness. Although we were holding out for a Stew Leonard's.
Just saw Jimmy Scalzo, who confirmed that he has indeed been consulting with the new owners (of Inferno fame) of his former restaurant on New Scotland Avenue, Quintessence. Apparently Scalzo has taught them his recipes for chicken and steak teriyaki, etc., and that they are opening with his original 1982 menu. No word yet on Italian Night . . .