Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Where's the FISH??!

Forget where’s the beef. Where is the seafood in the Albany area? I’m a vegetarian who eats seafood, and I know fresh fish is healthy, low in bad fats, and high in healthy brain-food omega fatty acids. We in Albany live a mere three hours from Boston, and less than three hours from New York City up the Hudson River, so you’d think that this would be a watery, swimmin’ hub of seafood activity.

It is *so* not.

In today's blog I will cover restaurants. Next up, actual purveyors, where one can (in an ideal world) buy fresh fish to take home and cook.

A little background: the salmon I had at Tai-Pei the other week was some of the worst salmon I’ve ever had in my life, *counting* airplane food. After that horrid experience, I was determined to find fresh fish. I'm a woman with a mission. I already knew that Jack’s Oyster House is top of the list, with fresh fish prepared elegantly in a classy, Old Albany style setting.

Next comes the Real Seafood Co, although there’s a BIG distance between Jack’s and Real Seafood in classiness. Real Seafood is a more down-home, family friendly, almost diner-esque type restaurant, which you’d expect on Wolf Road. Real Seafood Co. is at 195 Wolf Road in Albany, tel. 518-458-2068.

My first experience with Real Seafood Co. was last week. Even though I’ve lived here for 8 years, I’d never wanted to go to this restaurant on Wolf Road with the huge lurid neon octopus sign out front (pictured above). It just looked-- scary. Kind of like the sleazy motel version of seafood. But then I heard from someone that it was actually a good place. So we went. And I was immediately reassured by the impressively long menu: name the fish, and you can pretty much get it here. And by the oyster bar, and the helpfully informative background on fish on their web page. They have total disclosure here in terms of what comes from where when, which is excellent.

Although, of note is that some of their fish is not top-of-the-line. The salmon is farmed, not Wild Alaskan salmon. Most of their seafood does seem to be fresh from the East coast, however, which is good. Click HERE for a printable list from Oceans Alive of ecologically and healthy fish choices to make!!!!! You NEED to take this list with you to ensure that you are not ordering something full of mercury or creatures from depleted stocks.

The good news first: my main course, which was the Lemon Cod, was excellent. Fresh, cooked just right, and with a simple breaded buttery lemony crumb and a side of sweet potato fries, this is just what I look for when I’m needing some extra omega-3s and sixes. Most of their main dishes come with potato and veg, and prices are reasonable.

Now the not-so-good news:

We waited. And we waited. And then, we had to wait. I’m talking, I watched my nails grow into talons while we waited for, first our appetizers--nothing exciting here: Asian-style tuna spring rolls, in which the tuna was indistinguishable from any other meat-unidentifiable object-or-tofu filler; and my clam chowder, which was abysmal--only a few languid clams, NOT fresh, in a Campbell’s-Cream-Soupy glutinous pasty broth-- then our main course. I swear my hair grew about an inch as we waited.

We arrived around 8:45, and there was a decent crowd, but not anywhere near a full house. So why the incredibly agonizing wait, while we watched the ornamental fishies in their aquariums swim doomfully around and around, and commented on and noted each object of acqueous decor (the fish-shaped planter, the jellyfish-like lamp)? Then, to add insult to injury, they started using a battery operated vacuum near our table as we finally started in on our main courses. I hate it when it's only 9:30 and restaurant staffers start cleaning up around you as you eat. Anyway, I know the wait was not due to lack of staff.

The other bad thing: my husband does not eat seafood, so we need a restaurant where he can also find good things to eat. And Real Seafood Co. does not, so far, do the trick here. They only have a couple of steaks and one pasta dish as non-fishy options. He asked if he could get the pumpkin ravioli appetizer as his main dish, which they courteously agreed to. It was basically pumpkin pie filling in ravioli, smothered in, again, a kind of Campbell’s-Cream-of-Mushroomey sauce.


But-- silver lining--my main course was very very good. Next time I go to this restaurant, I’m skipping the appetizer and asking to sit near the kitchen so we can be within closer nagging distance of the waitstaff. Or just telling my credit card to shut up and going to Jack’s.

Next: Cousins’, Hannaford/Price Chopper, Lee’s Market, suffering frogs, foreign national shrimps, and dull-eyed urchins!!!! Stay tuned at dish and dirt.


Carolyn said...

Hmm. Years ago, we had very delicious trout at a little dive-y Italian restaurant on Quail St. in Albany. Unfortunately, the name escapes me. I have had very fine seafood at Van's Vietnamese.

We dined at Appian Way in Schenectady over the weekend and, though no one ordered the fish, the food was excellent, though the service rather slow.

Carolyn, in Melrose

anonymous said...

I think you have to judge these resturants on their own merits. Real Seafood is known for being perfect for a leisurely, NOT RUSHED, meal. Jack's is known for being efficient.

Nosher said...

Hi Carolyn,
I know there is an Italian restaurant on Quail St., and I've never been there. I wonder if it's the same one.

Also I still haven't been to Van's, but I keep hearing good things about it. So many restaurants to try!

Nosher said...

I agree with the principle that restaurants should be judged by their own standards-- what they set out to do. And leisurely meals are great. But my experience at Real Seafood didn't feel leisurely-- it felt more like we were just being ignored.
I also think of a 'leisurely' type restaurant as one with more atmosphere (not fish tank cutesy, like Real Seafood) and perhaps with better bread basket/appetizers. Real Seafood's strength seems to be their main courses.

Cookie Guggleman said...

Carolyn: Are you thinking of Citone's on Quail and Elk Sts. It's an old-time red sauce italian place with a jukebox and cheesy christmas decorations. Been there several times--not in the last year though--and I swear the waitress was on crack.

nylilly said...

The dive-y Italian place is Citone's, I think. As far as getting a wide selection of quality fish - McGuire's is the spot to go. Regular menu features are: diver scallops, halibut, swordfish, striped bass, sea bass, cod, yellow and bluefin tuna, wild salmon, mussels, merlu... Although some consider it to be pricey, it is excellent value for the dollar if you are interested in well prepared, fresh food.

Adrian said...

I ordered the Tuna at Van's once and was incredibly impressed. They are also very vegetarian friendly.