This is a view of the dining room of Flores Family Restaurant at 1427 State St., Schenectady. (Photo by Beverly M. Elander)
When you order the Pescado Frito at Flores Family Restaurant, don’t expect some sad little weeny of a breaded fillet.
Rather, an entire tilapia, head, tail and bones intact, will be delivered to your table, a real fish lightly basted and deep fried in hot oil. Wedges of lime arrayed over the top of it make for a pretty presentation, but the real treat is in the eating.
It takes work to extricate the sweet fish flesh from amid all those little bones, but dinner date Beverly was in heaven and repeated her mantra that real food should never be easy.
A generous mound of yellow rice and beans, along with a side of beans and potatoes in a flavorful sauce, accompanied the main event, all for $8.99.
Flores Family Restaurant
WHERE: 1427 State St., Schenectady. Telephone: 723-2281
WHEN: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
OTHER INFO: Not handicapped accessible. Children’s menu offered. All major credit cards except American Express
It followed appetizers of fried plantains ($2) and Tamal de Elote, a wonderfully sweet corn tamale ($2.75) that is different from what you usually find in that there’s no cheese or other stuffing, just sweet, finely ground maiz steamed in a cornstalk wrapper and served warm with crema — the Latino equivalent of crème fraîche. Crema also was available for dipping the fried plaintans, a dish that’s not only delicious but also soothing, perhaps because it’s reminiscent of polenta or corn meal mush.
My own choice for dinner was the Pollo Frito ($8.99), half a small chicken fried to a crisp gold and served with yellow rice and beans, beans and potatoes and more fried plantains. I enjoyed all of it, particularly the plantains, which aren’t as prevalent here as in larger cities but are finding their way onto more local menus. The chicken was well crisped on the outside and tender and not overly dry inside, which is to say it wasn’t overly moist either.
We concluded dinner with coffee, which was interesting in itself, and flan, which was not the velvety custard you’d expect to find in Mexican and Cuban restaurants.
The coffee was brought to our table by the general manager, Osmin Flores, a native of El Salvador who runs the place with his wife, Giuliana, a native of Peru. From our observation, Osmin mostly works in the kitchen and Giuliana out front where their two young sons also were stationed.
The coffee was instant and served in tall plastic tumblers with milk and sugar on the side. Osmin brought the jar of instant coffee to the table in case we preferred stronger coffee, but it was fine the way he served it.
The flan ($3) was a thicker, slightly grainier version of the custard, topped with generous dollops of whipped cream and a caramel sauce. While it had the typical caramel flavor, it was heavier than we were accustomed to — more like a thick pudding than a custard.
The Flores are a charming family who have been running their restaurant in the upper State Street area of the city for four years. The neighborhood, especially after dark, is a little sketchy and lacking in much street lighting. There is ample parking behind the restaurant.
The interior is splashy with color, banners and kitschy decorations, and there are a couple of TV sets which were tuned to Spanish channels, helping with the impression that we’d somehow stepped through a space warp into a south-of-the-border cafe.
Besides the usual soft drinks — soda and juices — you can order Peruvian and Argentine beers at Flores Family Restaurant. You can also get American staples like a crispy chicken wrap, chicken tenders or a grilled cheese, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The Flores family offers an opportunity to experience authentic ethnic food so do take advantage.
Among the dishes you can order is Lomo Saltado (beef or chicken sauteed with onions, tomatoes and fried potatoes for $9.99) and Pescado Sudado (steamed fish with onions, tomatoes and peppers for $9.99).
Definitely try the pupusas from El Salvador or the Peruvian dish, Papa a la Huancaina.
We were pleased with our experience at Flores Family Restaurant, right down to the little candy canes delivered with our check by one of the Flores boys, and we’re looking forward to another visit soon.
Our tab for two entrees, appetizers, coffee and dessert came to $42.42.
Papa a la Huancaina is a dish made with sliced potatoes in a spicy cheese sauce. The spicy heat comes from a yellow chili pepper. It is served cold as an appetizer, accompanied by hard-boiled eggs and black olives. Pupusas are snack food — cheese-stuffed tortillas, often accompanied by curtido, a type of coleslaw.