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Sara Foss's Thinking It Through
by Sara Foss

Thinking It Through

A Daily Gazette life blog
Her column and blog rolled into one

Some new places to eat

The Capital Region is a pretty good place for ethnic and world cuisine, and I keep discovering new restaurants with delicious offerings. And many of these restaurants are fairly cheap, which is a bonus. Here are four places I’ve eaten at recently and really enjoyed.

Charlie’s West Indian Bakery and Restaurant at 1414 State St. in Schenectady — I was unaware of this Guyanese restaraunt until about a month ago, when I shared a meal that a friend picked up there — fried chicken and chow mein, with a hot dipping sauce.

“Where did you get this?” I inquired, because the food was so tasty that I wanted to run out the next day and eat more of their food. I now visit Charlie’s once a week, and I usually get the fried chicken and chow mein — stir-fried noodles that complement the chicken perfectly. I’ve also tried Charlie’s curried chicken, and it’s good, although I don’t like it as much as the fried chicken.

Mr. Pio Pio at 160 Quail St. in Albany — This unassuming little restaurant serves authentic South American cuisine. The menu is heavy on meat, and rotisserie-cooked chicken is a specialty. But last week I picked up an order of Camarones Asados — grilled shrimp served with rice, french fries, plantains and salad — and was blown away.

What made the food especially yummy was a tangy yellow sauce — it was so good I consumed about twice as much rice as I usually do. Mr. Pio Pio also makes delicious smoothies (referred to as Natural Juices on the menu) that come in some unusual flavors, such as mango, sour sop and papaya.

Northeast Dumplings House at 299 Central Ave. in Albany — There are a lot of good Chinese restaurants in the Capital Region, but this nondescript eatery might be one of the best: My friend Kim, who lived in China for a semester, proclaimed it the most authentic Chinese food in the area after sampling the dumplings.

The dumplings are quite good, but I’m a huge fan of the restaurant’s spiced potato with hot pepper, which I piled onto a quesadilla-like wrap called a special pancake, and ate with my hands. (I learned about the spiced potato with hot pepper and special pancakes from All Over Albany.)

I still haven’t tried Northeast Dumpling’s sister restaurant, Northeast Chinese II, but I’m eager to do so. As restaurants go, the Northeast Dumplings House is short on atmosphere, but it more than makes up for that with its great food and affordable prices.

Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar at 236 Washington Ave. — Umana is the priciest and nicest eatery on this list; unlike the other places I mentioned, it’s designed to be a more upscale, sit-down restaurant. And it is really good.

Umana specializes in “street food” from around the world, and the diverse and intriguing menu reflects this. When I was there last weekend, I ordered lamb lollipops on rice with a mint sauce and plantains, as well as corn fritters for an appetizers. There’s a nice selection of wine, and I ordered a white wine from South Africa (I can’t remember its name) that was very good. When I ate at Umana a couple months ago, I ordered samosas, and they were excellent. The restaurant itself is a memorable dining space, featuring vibrant artwork, nice lighting and a cozy yet classy atmosphere.

Anyway, it seems that I hear of a new and interesting restaurant just about every week, and so I’m sure I’ll be trying out some new dining spaces fairly soon. If I like them, I’ll let you know.

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