With however many grains of salt you would like to add, what did we think? Well, overall I would have to say that it exceeded my expectations substantially. Two of the dishes we tried were outstanding. And by this I don't mean "better than I would expect from a chain" but just flat-out good, something I would be pleased to be served anywhere. The first knockout was the Ahi Tuna Sashimi:
This was a good dish to evaluate the kitchen because it's going to rise or fall on the quality of the ingredients, and it was superb -- the tuna was indeed sashmi grade, beautifully rich, and the sesame and pepper crust nicely complemented the fish without overwhelming it.
Almost as good were the crab cakes. They were dominated by an unusual taste so rarely found with any strength in crab cakes served in restaurants: crab. These weren't the typical "fried bread with some flecks of crab that might as well have come from a can if they didn't" discs that typically pass for crab cakes. These were mostly high-quality crab prepared correctly with a nice remoulade, and I'm looking forward to having them again.
The third appetizer -- the Indoesian calamari -- we can't really evaluate properly. By the time we were seated, the other diners at our table had already sampled the platter, so most of the hot peppers were gone and the remaining calamari -- which were perfectly good -- were no longer hot. A couple people at our table were raving about the fresh version but we can't really say one way or the other ourselves.
None of our samples of main courses stood out quite like the tuna and crab cakes, but everything was at least decent. We tried a variety of fishes with a sampling of five sauces -- mango salsa, Asian glaze chimichurri, lemon butter, and Newburg. The salmon Newburg (prepared with spinach blue cheese) was the class of the group, and I very much liked the Trout Chimchurri.
I'll leave it to Ms. Garlic to evaluate the sampled cocktails, which were well done for what they were but since I'm a cranky traditionalist not really my thing. (If we go for a drink before a movie I'll make sure to report back on the quality of the Manhattan.) My favorite of the drink samples was the Sokol Blosser Evolution, a lovely white Oregon blend paired with the appetizers. The dinner pairing was Menage A Trois, a familar California blend of Zinfandel, Cab. Sav. and Merlot which is quite good for the price but wasn't an ideal pairing with the generally citrus-accented dishes I was trying. As is generally the case with chains, the wine list consists mostly of wines available in virtually any wine shop, although within that limitation it was quite well-selected. (Bonus points for having Louis Martini, the very good California cab we chose to serve at our wedding.)
Emily says: The cocktails we sampled were: "The Bee's Knees Martini", which according to the menu is a "1920s Prohibition era throwback. Made with honey + lemon" and gin.
I think Scott liked it ok, but thought it was much sweeter than anything he'd normally want to drink. I say that gin is delicious enough on its own, don't try to cover the flavors up too much. I had a "Fresh Apple Martini", which I thought was pretty good. It was very appropriate for fall and I really liked the spice sprinkle. It consists of vodka that has had apples soaking in it for three days and is finished with an apple garnish and some cinnamon and sugar.
With dessert they brought out a drink called "Espresso Martini". I think everyone at our table liked it, but didn't really want any more to drink at that point. They smelled great, they looked great, and they were very tasty. I guess the thing is that I am usually not going to order a sweet drink with a dessert. It is pretty much either/or type of situation, but if you were in the mood for this type of thing I think it'd be great to have again. This drink consists of vanilla vodka, kahlua, creme de cacao and espresso. It comes with a raw sugar and cocoa dusted rim which was very tasty. I think everyone at our table especially liked the rim garnish. I think overall its a cool space too. I like the classy outdoor furniture, all square, lounge-like and comfortable - straight out of your Pottery Barn catalog. The space is neither loud nor pretentious, so that's cool.
Scott continues: Because of my allergy limitations (which they accommodated in a very friendly manner) I skipped most of the deserts, but the creme brule I was able to sample was very good.
Overall, based on our visit we would have to say that it's a valuable addition to the area; it's certainly one of the best dining options if you're on a trip to TJ's or the Colonie Center. Given the quality of the appetizers and the large comfortable bar area, it seems like an especially good place for a drink and apps before or after a movie.