COLONIE Reel Seafood has gotten a facelift, and boy, does it look sharp. Aliki Serras has taken over from her father, LeGrande Serras, who opened the restaurant in 1983, and she’s put her stamp on it.
More than $1 million for a facelift and thorough menu revamp has resulted in a swanky and sleek restaurant that will be one of the Capital Region’s best-regarded.
Things were pretty good at the old place when I visited in 2007. It had a solid reputation for serving the best fish around. Service was dependable, desserts were homemade. Now it’s all that, and more.
When Mary and I stopped on a weeknight, every seat at the modernist white bar area was taken.
The main dining room is clean and elegant, with a ring of recessed blue lighting in the ceiling. There are booths on one wall, and banquettes on others. Four large C-shaped private seating areas each face out from the center of the room.
There are two smaller rooms suitable for private parties, and a patio in front, sheltered somewhat from Wolf Road by shrubbery.
The decor is sparkling white with traces of clear blue — a clean Mediterranean theme. Glass turquoise pendant lamps dangle elegantly, the place mats sparkle, and tea lights flicker in cobalt blue glasses.
The lighting is low and flattering, but strategically placed spots shine on the tables so you can read the menu and admire your food. Jazzy music plays softly. Lots of black-dressed, well-trained staff move noiselessly around the dining room. It’s definitely an upscale feel.
We were seated comfortably and immediately attended. The server suggested a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for me, and a cabernet for Mary, selections we both liked.
Reel Seafood Co.
WHERE: 195 Wolf Road, Colonie, 458-2068, www.reelseafoodco.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $98.15, with tax and tip
MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Reservations accepted by phone or at www.opentable.com
And the menu. The raw bar is up first, with an array of fresh oysters at market price and two kinds of fresh tuna. There’s the seafood tower, an extravaganza of Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, crab claws and more, at $55, for two to three people.
Oysters and clams get various treatments in the hot appetizer menu, and they’re accompanied by crab cakes, mussels and escargot. You can get a poached lobster ($15) or a shellfish Cobb salad ($19). I like the chef’s compositions, which include lobster ravioli in cream sauce ($25) and sea bass in parchment paper ($32).
The purest incarnation of fish, steaks and fillets, are simply grilled or broiled, and you’ll find the likes of Chilean sea bass, halibut and salmon.
And for those who don’t care for seafood, there’s roasted chicken ($21), and a good selection of steaks, including a hanger steak ($23) and an 8-ounce filet mignon ($37). Whew.
The homemade rolls were just out of the oven and almost too hot to handle. Steam poured out when we pulled them apart and we slathered them with salty whipped butter. Delicious.
Mary started with the buttermilk fried oysters ($9) which were piping hot, served over mixed greens with a gently flavored jalapeño ranch sauce. The coating was light and the oysters were big, juicy and meaty, she said.
My salad was a sculpted pile of Romaine and mixed greens, covered with grated gruyere cheese, but it was the dressing that really impressed me. Pomegranate, of all things, and its flavor jumped right out at me. The dressing was sweet, but the salty cheese balanced it right out. Really well done.
Mary had the beef short ribs and scallops ($28), a wonderful dish. She is picky about scallops, and declared these perfect: enormous and perfectly browned. The boneless beef fell into tender pieces. The barley risotto was more chewy than she expected, but it was full of mushrooms and tasted delicious, she said.
My swordfish steak ($27) was a thing of beauty, thick with perpendicular brown grill marks. Swordfish is so easy to overcook but, helped along with plenty of butter, this was very juicy. It was a fantastic piece of fish, more subtly flavored than the fish that we often got just off the boats on Long Island.
The mixed vegetables were broccoli, carrots, green beans and thinly sliced yellow squash, some with grill marks here and there, none overcooked and all soaked in butter and salt.
Mary chose dessert from well-priced homemade options that include dulce de leche cheesecake and the obligatory chocolate dessert. We got coconut custard pie ($7) and two spoons.
There was coconut in every part — the crust, the custard and toasted coconut on the real whipped cream topping. The crust was crumbly with shredded coconut and unsweetened, a nice contrast to the filling. The custard had body and was rich and dense. The fresh blueberries that garnished the plate were surprisingly sweet.
The tab for our meal, without the wine, came to $98.15, with tax and tip.
Ms. Serras has preserved the best qualities of Reel Seafood, including the largest variety of fresh seafood in the area, homemade desserts and solid service, while updating the menu and the building and adding an air of exclusivity. I’ll be back.