Sunday, March 24, 2013

Maybe the Best Food Deal in the Capital Region: Lunch at Tara Kitchen in Schenectady

K and I recently spent parts of five days in Boston for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference (AWP), trying to avoid being sucked into a vortex of hipster creative writers.  That's part of the reason for my recent hiatus from blogging here.  The other part is the mutant virus I caught while there, maybe exacerbated by the wicked ugly blizzard, as I believe some might say in Boston, that we walked through for a few days.  It was a fun trip despite those nastier elements, and we managed to eat our way through the city in a pretty satisfying manner--I'll be documenting some of those adventures soon.

But one food-related regret from our time in Boston is that we didn't manage to get to Baraka Cafe in Cambridge, even though we spent our final night only blocks from the restaurant and had a high recommendation of the restaurant from K's brother, who went to college just a few blocks away.  We'd eaten already during a stroll down Mass Ave. and simply couldn't pack one more meal into our bellies.  A shame, though being only a few hours away from the city tempers some of that regret.  We'll eat there eventually.

Another thing that makes it easier to forget missing out on Baraka is the presence of Tara Kitchen in Schenectady.  I know this restaurant, which opened just about a year ago, has gotten some rave reviews and good publicity already, but I noticed it missing in Metroland's Readers Poll results.  And after having lunch there just once so far, I can say that its exclusion is at least a small shame.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lunch at Mingle / Reevaluating Korean Choices and Dining Costs in Albany

Sometimes, K and I wonder if we get ourselves too excited by a restaurant on our first visit simply because they do a decent job with food that we haven't had--or had in decent form--for some time.  Revealing this excitement is a risk of reviewing a place after just one visit.

Fortunately, I can do whatever I please here on this little blog of mine, and I think it's only fair to return to restaurants and update how I find things with more context and more meals under my belt.  And that's what I'm doing today with Kinnaree Asian Restaurant, which I wrote about pretty glowingly back in September.

We've eaten there a couple times since that initial visit, and I'll get into those visits shortly.  But what also prompts this reevaluation of Korean food in Albany is the visit K and I paid to Mingle, a restaurant on Delaware Avenue in Albany that makes some seriously good Korean food to go with an interesting assortment of what might be called American cuisine.  That's what I mean in saying "more context."

I hate to say it, because they seem like nice folks at Kinnaree (and I'm sure we'll be back in time), but eating there within a couple weeks of having lunch at Mingle only served to amplify the differences in quality and execution at the two restaurants.  And it's funny--this change of heart comes right after Metroland published a laudatory review of Kinnaree (and less than a year after the Times-Union did the same, calling it "a bargain," which inspires some grumpiness from me at the end of this post).  I swear I'm not just trying to be contrary.