WHERE: 2050 Western Ave., Star Plaza, Guilderland; 456-5774
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday
OTHER INFO: Handicapped accessible; all major credit cards
GUILDERLAND Counting our own, there were only three tables occupied in the dining room on a recent weeknight at Dorato’s Restaurant, but the adjoining bar was doing a lively business and some of the patrons there were eating as well as drinking.
The restaurant, in the Star Plaza strip where routes 20 and 155 converge, has been operating for 25 years, our server informed us, but it was brand new to us.
The dining area is pleasant with modern but comfortable chairs, and the walls hold numerous depictions of the Empire State Plaza, including the Egg, reminding us that we were only a few miles outside Albany. It’s a comfortable space with mauve drapery in the back concealing the service area. Though the bar and dining room are not separated by a wall, neither seemed to obtrude on the other.
HOW MANY CLAMS?
We were out for a light supper and scanned the big green menu hopefully. Beverly wanted to know about the Clams Oreganatta ($11.95) on the appetizer menu — like how many clams — and our server said “eight” without skipping a beat. (Our server, Patty, was quite knowledgeable, and I thought briefly about asking her for the meaning of life, but I was afraid she might know.)
For the record, there were 10 clams, but we weren’t about to complain. Also for the record, they were superb — littleneck clams steaming hot in a plum tomato-oregano wine sauce that was delightful, tasting as though it had simmered for a very long time to allow the flavors to develop and fuse.
The sauce was so good that, even after the clams were gone, we kept the dish with sauce at the table in hopes of finding an excuse to eat more of it, perhaps with some bread.
My appetizer was the soup du jour, a lovely little bowl of Manhattan clam chowder which came with oyster crackers. The soup, like the sauce, was rich with flavors that come from slow cooking, and it had a nice little spicy bite to it. I didn’t lick the bowl, but it took some forbearance.
Dorato’s has substantial entrees for dinner — like veal or chicken Marsala, Picatta and Parmagiana, New York strip steaks and ribeyes and seafood choices that include Baked Haddock Almondine, Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Maribou and a Tuscan version, and there are nightly dinner specials as well. The price range is from $17.95 to $21.95 unless you dine between 4 and 6 p.m. when the “early bird special” is in effect and dinner prices are $3 less.
But we were looking for light fare and found it in the menu’s salad section — a taco salad for Beverly and a Buffalo chicken salad for me, priced at $9.95 and $10.20, respectively.
The taco salad was a prodigious mound of greens, tomato wedges and other veggies in a big taco shell that was arranged to suggest that the salad was spilling from the shell onto the plate. It was sprinkled liberally with seasoned ground beef — “taco meat” — and strands of a mild Cheddar, and it came with a spicy salsa for dressing. (You probably won’t be surprised when I report some of the Oreganatta sauce found its way into the salad.)
My Buffalo chicken salad was similarly impressive — a mound of greenery with shredded carrots, black olives and tomato chunks with julienned chicken strips arranged artfully over the top. The dressing, naturally a blue cheese, was served on the side. The chicken was crispy and spicy hot, as it should be, and still warm when it arrived. It contrasted pleasantly with the cold crunch of the lettuce and other veggies, spurring me to eat more of them than I might have done. But, it was healthful fare, so no apologies from me.
We finished our meal with coffee and toyed with the idea of something sweet — our server recited the desserts from memory, of course — but ultimately decided we’d pass. It didn’t make a lot of sense to feast on a reasonably healthful salad and then top it off with a fudgy cake. Not that it wasn’t tempting.
There are a lot of selections to choose from on Dorato’s menu, though none that would be considered haute cuisine. There are seven possible panini sandwiches, including a Cuban (smoked pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles with mustard and mayo) and a Brooklyn (pastrami, Swiss cheese and sauteed onions with sweet chili mayo). Most of the panini are priced at $9.50, a variety of wraps and other finger foods that are the house specialities.
One of these is called “Widowmaker” and is an open-face hot roast beef sandwich topped with coleslaw, horseradish and Swiss cheese ($9.75). You can also find a Reuben, made with turkey, corned beef or pastrami or a fried clam platter with coleslaw or cocktail sauce, each for $9.25. All the house specialities come with french fries.
The sandwiches — which come with macaroni salad and a pickle — are made with Boar’s Head brand meats and range from $8.25 to $8.50. The club version of the same sandwiches range from $10.25 to $10.50.
Our tab for two appetizers, two entree-size salads and coffee came to $43.83 with tax and tip.
Dorato’s Restaurant has been around for 25 years and, after eating there, I can understand its longevity. The food is above average, service is quick and efficient and the prices are reasonable — everything I like in a restaurant. We had reservations, but our server told us they are not usually necessary except on Saturday.