Monday, October 09, 2006

Not impressed with Tai-Pan

Tai Pan is in Half Moon, on Route 9, in a good location. What I mean by this is that if you liked their food, it would be easy to get there, from Clifton Park, Troy, Loudonville and Latham. Tai Pan is on 1519 Route 9, in Halfmoon; tel. 383-8581

But unfortunately, Tai Pan is very far away. I forgot. I forgot I didn't like their food, and it's not worth driving 20 minutes there. Then this weekend I thought suddenly, "Why don't we try Tai Pan?" It has an aura of respectability about it lacking in some of my favored dining institutions of the Capital Region. People who dress nicely go there to eat. I'd heard good things about their dim sum.

The building itself is nice, spacious inside with lots of wood. Nothing fancy, but it feels welcoming. The menu offers plentiful choices, with soups from Chicken or Vegetable Coconut soup with basil and lime to Lentil soup with mustard oil, tomato and chives. Appetizers also range from Thai and Vietnamese, with Vietnamese pork kebabs and Grilled pancake wrap with roasted duck, cucumber and cream sauce-- to Chinese (Dragon and Phoenix, Evil Jungle Prince-- sounds exciting!). I don't really know where to classify something called Orange 'n Steak 'n Scallop-- maybe Chinese-Hillbilly? Anyway, it sounded good and there *seemed* to be lots of yummy ethnically diverse fusiony choices. So I got the Laksa Lamak ("Spicy and sour rice noodle w/shrimp, bean curd puffs, and silky coconut broth") to start, which the waitress informed me was really the same thing as the vegetable coconut soup w/lime. Huh? Okay maybe I misunderstood, because it didn't have any lime flavor in it, and was instead a rather spicy curry soup. Not bad, but a bit too much, both size and spice-wise, for an appetizer. The curries on the whole here seemed muddy.

The other thing I must mention here is that everything took sooooo loooong that I was ready to schedule a hair dye appointment because I was greying. There seemed to be only one waitress for a fairly large section of the restaurant, and the restaurant itself is spacious, so she would just disappear for long periods of time. Lots of other people seemed to be waiting, too. How many of those crispy fried noodles can you eat with mustard sauce and duck sauce? I'd say that between our appetizers and main courses maybe about 40 minutes elapsed.

My husband's Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls were quite good, despite not having any sweet potato as promised. For his main dish he ordered the sweet potato curry dish, which I tasted-- it was just okay. The curries here seem to be of the more heavy, confused variety (lots of cumin and turmeric and heat), not the bright vivid curries I tend to favor (I like freshly ground spices, cardamom, mustard seed, etc.). Anyway so his dish was okay, but mine was really horrible: I got the Grilled Salmon on Udon noodles, and first of all the salmon was dry. Second of all, nothing was particularly hot (temperature wise). Thirdly, the salmon came with a viscous sort of sauce on top, which seemed nothing more than some oyster sauce.

I brought home the portion of salmon I didn't eat for my cats.

Note to Albany business leaders, government officials, and entrepreneurial chefs: WE NEED WAY MORE GOOD RESTAURANTS HERE. Do something about this, someone. There is a lot of money here to be spent. People are desperate for good places to go out to eat. Places that aren't stuck in some sort of weird 20th century time warp. Please. Okay? Eliot Spitzer, I'm counting on you.


Chirag B. Kabrawala said...

Great review -- I love how we all have such varying thoughts on each restaurant. For instance, Albany Jane just reviewed TaiPan as well:

I think I'll have to check out the restaurant to throw the balance either in or out of favor of this place.

Carolyn said...

I agree. Thanks for the warning about Tai Pan, I've never been, but always wondered what it was like. For informal Chinese takeout, I've been very impressed with New Bejiing, in Lansingburgh (next to Quiznos). We will never have decent restaurants in this area if the majority of people go to buffets and chain establishments, unfortunately.

Carolyn, in Melrose

Albany Jane said...

Wow, it's funny how we both have differing views on Tai-Pan. I'd say I put up with the eternal wait for food (seriously, it doesn't take that long to cook anything, esp if no one else is in there!) because there aren't too many other places like them that offer pretty authentic dishes. I'm not a huge fan of their combined cuisines, but I'm not wholly dissatisfied. I think you're right that we need a better places to eat here, since that's why I'll forgive so many annoyances as long as the food is good.

Nosher said...

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for leaving comments. It's great to have lots of opinions and new ideas for things to try!
Thanks for sharing albanyjane's review of Tai-Pan. I think you're right, that good food is worth a wait, but I just didn't think Tai-Pan cut it in this case. And, my husband's curry dish at Tai-Pan was better than my salmon. But if we'd wanted curry, I think My Linh or Karavalli or Bangkok Thai is better. I'll be curious to hear other's experiences at Tai-Pan.
I love Chow Fun, too. Ocean Palace has an excellent yellow chive chow fun; have you ever tried that?

Nosher said...

Carolyn, Thanks for the tip on New Beijing in Lansingburgh! This gives me something to look forward to. I think you're totally right about the chain restaurant phenomenon. Places like Applebee's lower everyone's expectations.

Tracie said...

The thing is that Tai-Pan's strong point is their dim-sum. They've got a different chef they bring in on weekends to do their dim=sum menu, and it's really fabulous. You should give it another try on a weekend from 10-3. I've been going for about 15 years and my husband, my kids and I all LOVE it.