Monday, November 21, 2016

Zena Gets Spicey at Dharani Southern Indian Restaurant

I like hot spicy food, and hot spicy men, but when they are too hot and spicy and I risk farting fireballs life quickly gets dangerous for mortals and zombies alike.

That's why the gods created Mango Lasse, FYI.
Dharani, in another scenic strip mall in Guilderland, NY
Dharani South Indian Restaurant is one of many that are part of the Altamount Restaurant Group - a small chain - with locations across the U.S., including another future site planned in Latham.  The menu clearly sets apart the vegetarian from the non-veg - which is wonderful, with plenty of appetizers, snacks and breads, curries, biryani, tandoori, and Indo-Chinese dishes to choose from.

I can't say much good about the decor: I like the linen and it's spacious but stark, with all the dining space dedicated to simple seating and tables - no plants or barriers or booths or art on the walls or decorations or flowers or candles - to me feels a bit too wide open and less than intimate, but that too might shift with time. 

Linen is lovely but the space is very utilitarian otherwise
We started with the Samosa (3/$6.99), stuffed with peas and potatoes and spice - wow! these were very peppery, with a shatteringly crispy crust, sprinkled with salt. It was a lovely plate, and I appreciated the cabbage to help cut the heat.
Big crispy peppery samosa

Chilli Chicken Appetizer made my lips tingle
The Chilli Chicken appetizer ($11.99) was a large plate of small battered bites blanketed with a serious fire, a touch of sweet, red onions and peppers. Both dishes left me blowing hot air, lips tingling. I'm no candyass, but I needed a bit of yogurt or something to cut through the heat at this point, so I ordered that Mango Lasse ($2.49), then dipped into the curries.
Lasse saved the mortals and zombies from fireballs

Peshawari Naan ($4.99)
The Shrimp Varutha ($15.99) boasted lime juice and onion and coconut cream (very southern), but all we tasted was fiery hot spice (chili!!!), and the shrimps were small and not exactly plentiful. The Lamb Vindaloo ($15.99) was excellent, more of a ragu than I'm used to, with a few potatoes, boneless meat (mostly tender). At this point I had to blow my nose: my tongue was numb and on fire. Moreso than usual, anyway, for a Fire Goddess. Next time I'll plan to order Mild, not Medium - Medium was SO spicy we all had to cut the food with rice and naan - but the food was still delicious. A little color to the rice would also have been nice.

You will need the rice if you order Medium..... Lamb Vindaloo (above) and Shrimp Varutha Curry
The prices seem a bit high, so next time I'll watch for that promise of a buffet. They have this huge area set aside and as yet no information except "Mega Sunday Buffet Second Sunday of Every Month". I understand a lunch buffet ($10.99) is coming. Personally, I love buffets - I get to try lots of things in small amounts and balance the spicy with other (milder) flavors and find out what I like.

The buffet is HUGE and holds much promise. 
Being the patient, cool, all-knowing all-seeing Goddess of Fire that I am I know that they will just get better. And busier.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

P.S. At this point, our Guilderland location has only been open for a week or two, so though they have a liquor license the bar is still under construction (though water will be your friend), and the grill isn't working yet. FYI.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Heaven is as hot as hell: Restaurant Navona

I found heaven on earth, and it's located on New Scotland Avenue in Albany, NY. And it's as hot as hell. Hot, like in baby, this place is HOT!!!  Smoke. Flames. Fire. Ash. Heat. Pizza. Beer. I looked around when I came in and I didn't see any other gods, but it was still early.

The pearly gates
The menu is limited but has real depth, much of which is taken to new heights by a sexy wood fired oven. Roasted bone marrow, charred eggplant, roasted veg, fire blistered tomatoes, and fire-kissed kale. Fire-kissed kale??? Baby, that's smokin'.

The back gets busy on weekends 

Heaven is where the god/s hang out, but it was still early
Our server brought us some charred, warm crusty bread flavored with olive oil and pepper and plated with fresh ricotta, liberally sprinkled with salt crunchies - too salty perhaps, but it was, all in all, feverishly good.
Crusty bread with ricotta
So let's cool it off just a bit. I went for a pint of Flower Power IPA ($7.50) out of Ithaca, NY. OK, yes, I had two by the end of the meal. Slightly cloudy, very hoppy and fresh, a nice pairing with their classic Spicy Sausage and Fennel Pizza ($13). Not too spicy (actually I would have liked it a bit spicier), with the perfect amount of toppings, cheese with real pull, and tender chewy yeasty pillowy crust charred to perfection on the bottom. It was a generous pizza for one, so I saved back half for later. Red hot delicious.

Spicy Sausage and Fennel Pizza - love those bubbly black bits!
Mistress of the Hounds also started cool, with the Autumn Salad ($12), loving the slightly bitter, incredibly fresh baby arugula with bits of gorgonzola, crunchy toasted almonds and crispy apples, tossed with a slightly sweet cider vinaigrette, plated with cranberry jam. We decided someone in the kitchen loves salad. Anyway, from there she tucked into a modest serving of Sea Scallops ($24), one of many daily specials, with roasted slices of sweet fingerling potatoes and brussels sprouts. A glass of Malbec (Bodega Sottano, Argentina, 2013, $9) was a rich treat.

Fifteen craft beers on tap, 8 from NY, plus Nine Pin cider - supreme bliss - as well as a thoughtful wine selection all available by the glass (except the bubblies) - all under $32/bottle so very reasonably priced as well.

A few service problems were followed up with heartfelt apologies and a bit of gratis on the bill. Excellent customer service all the way around, lovely decor - classy, light woods, comfortable lighting, clean - and excellent food licked with fire and creativity. What's not to love???


Love, Zena, Goddess of Fire

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tomo Asian Bistro: Putting the "zen" back in Zena

Patience and Zena: officially now in the same sentence, but only this once.

Deep breath as I entered Tomo, located in another attractive strip mall in Slingerlands. It smelled good. The place was busy, and got busier, a surprise early on a Tuesday night. Once seated I gingerly turned over a few grungy menus and ordered hot tea, which came quickly but not with the sugar and a spoon I had asked for. I waited to see our server again, and I asked again, and waited, and asked again, and finally got what I wanted but by now the tea was lukewarm, but then again, so was the next refill. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr...............

Close your eyes. Center your ch'i.
Busy sushi chefs
The Hot and Sour Soup ($2.50) was rich and delicious, with lots of variety (mushrooms, tofu, scallions, etc.) and a gentle hit of heat - it a generous serving at that. It thought it needed more sour so I asked for extra vinegar (eventually) when I got the server's attention. I'm sure by this time she must have found me quite annoying (she was busy working the whole dining room solo) - most people do, but I digress. Two deep breaths. Focus on the soup.

Regular Rolls special with miniature wasabi

Now where was I. Right - food. On Tuesday you get (3) rolls for $10 - a real deal. The Spicy Salmon, California and Tuna rolls ended up being a lot of food, and mostly very tasty. True to form, I took three deep breaths, impatient to eat more, and had to ask for more wasabi, once I had someone's attention, but it came quickly. Zena loves heat, FYI.

Thai Curry with Beef - colorful!

FF loved her Thai Curry with Beef ($11) - baby corn, mushrooms, snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts - nice variety, nice sauce - nice balance of heat and sweet and salty. Jaguar enjoyed her Panang Curry with Beef ($12), a different curry, lots of broccoli, peppers, and coconut. Both were presented in large bowls - very attractive. So we recommend the curries - brown rice is available for an extra $1, which we appreciated.
Panang Curry with Beef - lots o' broccoli
Tomo seems popular with the locals, and is very affordable. I think the food is really good. Sigh -  (three deep breaths) -  the waitress was lovely and patient, unlike yours truly, but she could definitely have used a hand. That is NOT enough, though, to keep me away next time I'm in the food desert known as Slingerlands. (:

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Gratis pineapple chunks finish the meal