Monday, January 15, 2007

I have earned the chowhound merit badge (warning, gross ahead)

I have sworn to be honest to my readers (well okay, I never swore, but I did sell my soul to the chow gods); therefore, let it be known that for the first time that I've ever been aware of it in my 30 plus plus years of life, I had a form of food poisoning. I figure this should earn me true blue membership in the chowhound club, even though has gotten pretty lame lately, and their posts on Albany are way out of date.

And I'm ashamed to admit that my case of the sick-as-a-chowdogness was because of an otherwise great experience at Saso's in Albany. Saso's is on 218 Central Ave., in Albany near-- uh, well, it's near nothing really! It's not too far from Ristorante Paradiso, on 198 Central, which we stepped into to check out and quickly exeunted when we saw how gloomy and dark it was inside, with a waitstaff who ignored us.

That evening we had almost made it to see the movie "Dreamgirls," but it was so crowded we decided to forego the long line and parking hassle and eat somewhere instead. We were cruising up Central Ave. and after rejecting Paradiso, I said "Hey! I think that's Saso's, the place Albany Jane loves! Let's go!" I'm a fan of Albany Jane's blog and, while we have different tastes, so does everyone, and I trust her judgement.

Saso's is a cozy place on Central Ave., and it was pleasantly busy, but they were able to seat us right away on a Saturday night. I wanted tea and they had barley tea, which was excellent; sort of like tea Guinness, heavy and oaty in a hearty winter warming way. The sushi I had was also great: I got the ume shiso (sour plum) rolls. I didn't feel confident enough yet to order raw fish sushi, because this was my first time at Saso's, but (despite what I'm about to tell you!) I would feel confident doing so in the future. You can watch the sushi chefs doing their thing at a bar where a number of other patrons were sitting.

My sense is that Saso's really is a sushi joint, and their other main entree type food is a bit more uneven, although they have an impressively inclusive menu. You can get more than just the standard tempura here, if you're not in the mood for sushi: they have 20 different kinds of appetizers alone, from shumai (dumplings) to stuffed squid and grilled beef. Entrees range from noodles (ramen, udon and soba) to teriyakis and specials. My husband got the Yakiudon (noodles with veg. and tofu), which was a heaping helping of food, but somewhat bland with noodles a bit overdone. I got the special fish dish of the evening which was a MISTAKE!!! Bad news. But I have been educated. The fish was called "Escolar," which the waitress said was like "white tuna." I wish I had paid more attention to her "like," because white tuna it was not.

At first when I tasted it, it was good: tender, white, flaky salty fish. But after a few more bites it became too salty. And when I got home I had the Revenge of the Chowhounds. Yep, I got the major runs. But it turns out that this was almost certainly something having to do with this strange fish. According to wikipedia:

"The escolar is dark brown in colour, growing darker with age until it is quite black. It is a fast-swimming fish with a prominent lateral keel and multiple finlets. It grows up to 2 m in length.

Like its relative the oilfish, Ruvettus pretiosus, the escolar is consumed in several European and Asian countries, as well as in the USA. Neither fish metabolises the wax esters) naturally found in their diet, which causes an oil content in the muscle meat of the fish amounting to 18–21%. These wax esters may rapidly cause gastrointestinal symptoms following consumption; however, these effects are usually short lived."

I also read that this disgusting oil stuff can be tamed through proper preparation, but honestly, the fish looked fine to me and, despite my bad experience, I would try Saso's again (but with an emphasis on sushi!)

We had the fried ice cream for dessert, which was like a total fattening lard ball covering dollops of ice cream and good in a completely junky bad-for-you kind of way that left us both feeling like bloated pigs afterwards.

We hear that Okinawa in Wynantskill is pretty darn good, and we're likely to try that out next when the craving for Japanese food hits us. Here is a review of Okinawa by the Times Union in their inimitably dorky, provincial style that doesn't actually tell you anything informative. Anyone have recommendations of what to get (or more relevant, what NOT to get?!?)

Your faithful, sometimes suffering



Albany Jane said...

Yaaaay! You tried Saso's

But bummer on the escolar. I've had their escolar as sushi, but maybe it's better in smaller doses?

I would really recommend that heavenly salmon, though... Mmm... now I am so wanting some! Or Saba (mackerel) if you like the really fishy and salty kind of fish.

Nosher said...

Hi Albany Jane! I'm glad I finally got to go to Saso's, too. I do like sushi-- I always feel very virtuous after eating it, because it's so healthy! Looking forward to trying Okinawa some time, too.
Best of 2007 to you!

andrew said...

I'm taking the Albany Sushi Meetup group to Okinawa tonight, I'll report back my findings.

Andrew Badera said...

Wanted to follow up on Okinawa. The food was good, the service was a bit lacking. They appeared overburdened/understaffed, it was very difficult to get a bottle of sake while we waited, much less DURING the meal. Granted this was a snow and ice day, perhaps someone called off, but I'd have to say I was pretty disappointed by the (lack of) service.