Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hiro's Japanese Restaurant In Albany, NY

It's not often one sees a restaurant that has been around for thirty-plus years. It is even less often one sees a Japanese restaurant around for that long, but there is one in Albany, NY that has the unique distinction. Hiro's Japanese Restaurant on Central Avenue is a main-stay that has been brining in patrons far and wide from the New York Capital District since 1972.

I have driven by this restaurant for many years and I am ashamed to say that I have only recently taken the time to go in for a meal. Seeing the restaurant from the road I have always remembered people telling me that I needed to have reservations in order to visit so I think this kept me at bay. I just happened to be driving by this past week and decided on a whim to stop by when I saw the "open" light on.

Having an early dinner is usually odd to me, even on a Sunday, but on this particular day dinner was to be had at 3:00pm which luckily was their opening time on Sundays which is a great thing for an early dinner or a late lunch. Their sign upon entering also stated that they serve lunch Tuesday-Saturday earlier in the day.

We were greated by a nice young lady who asked us if we were interested in the dining room or the cooking table. I had not known this, but Hiro's not only serves traditional sushi, but they also feature two Teppanyaki tables. Teppanyaki for the uninitiated is what many refer to as a habaci grill. It is pretty much a large flat-top grill where a "chef" puts on a show for the crowd. If you have ever seen a Bennihana, you have seen this style of cookery. As for myself I get little joy or excitement from watching this show-over-flavor American version of Japanese cookery, so we opted for a regular table.

The building and dining room have started to show their age a little bit and sitting near a window seat gave me a bit of a chill. I was a little put off by the vacuum cleaner that one of the servers kept trying to run when we first came in, but one of the other servers, probably more seasoned kept trying to stop him.

The menus at first look were nice, but limited compared to what is offered at many of the numerous Japanese restaurants now found in the Capital District. As with my personal tradition, I decided to order a couple cooked items from the (stained) menu as appetizers and go with a sushi/sashimi combination dinner. An interesting offering is the personal choice to add a multi-course experience to the meal. I suppose to some this might seem like an "extra" but in most Japanese restaurants these days this "option" is part of any dinner entree one might order. Usually one gets a crisp greens salad with a ginger dressing and miso soup and a piece of orange. This option included that, along with pork katsu and green tea ice cream.

The first appetizer was mushroom terriyaki, a dish of button mushrooms stir-fried with terriyaki sauce. Not all that exciting, but not bad. It could of had a variety of mushrooms, especially shitakes or something else in the Japanese realm along with some ginger/garlic and some green onions, instead of leaves of iceberg lettuce.

The second appetizer was a vegetable tempura, at first glance it was attractive, the batter looked light but then I took a few bites. The broccoli had a large amount of raw batter inside, and all of the pieces were pretty greasy which is odd for tempura. The final appetizer was stir-fried spinach with bonito flakes which I actually enjoyed except the portion size was absurdly small.

The pork katsu arrived next, it was nice in contrast to the other appetizers. Very crispy exterior with a contrasting softness of onions and pork on the interior. The sauce on the outside was a nice contrast to the fried texture. Again, presentation took a side seat here with the katsu sitting on a piece of iceberg lettuce. Perhaps some shredded shiso or daikon radish may of added to the dish.

The miso soup was OK, generic and lacking in the normal bites of tofu or shitake I am used to, there was however some wakame seaweed present. The salad was truly unexciting as it was a combination of shredded lettuce, celery, cucumber and a chunk of iceberg lettuce with an odd watery dressing on top.

My entree as I mentioned earlier was a sushi/sashimi combo. Four pieces of sushi along with 2 pieces of salmon sashimi, 2 pieces of tuna sashimi, 2 pieces of mackerel sashimi, and a piece of nondescript white fish along with a tuna roll. The fish was very fresh, the rice was properly cooked. The presentation was a bit plain but was not unappealing, again some shredded daikon or shiso would've been a nice touch instead of batons of cucumber and is pink pickled ginger popular anymore? The white ginger without coloring seems to be the more popular way to go over the odd looking pink stuff. My dining partner had the Salmonyaki, I'm guessing Salmon Terriyaki. It seemed very over cooked, again sitting on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Someone surely must have stock in iceberg lettuce in this place.

A great end to the meal though was the green tea ice cream, which ever brand Hiro's purchases should be purchased by everyone else in the area that serves it. The green tea they offered was hot and flavorful as well. A request for bottled water during the meal gained an odd look and a glass of tap water was brought to the table. In a day when there are so many warnings about drinking tap water thee should be the option, not to mention a loss of potential revenue for the restaurant for such a simple item to carry.

My server was excellent, she was attentive and cheerful. She had a smile on her face the entire time and any requests were fulfilled quickly. The woman behind the sushi bar who I assumed to be the owner came over and said hello to us and thought we were someone else from a local newspaper who ironically just happened to give a review for the restaurant a couple weeks ago.

The prices weren't all that bad for the average Japanese restaurant. Two people, with three appetizers (very small however) along with two entrees, soup, salad, pork katsu appetizer and ice cream came up to just around 75.00 with tip. It may seem a little high for lunch in the Capital District but sushi/ sashimi is always expensive no matter where you go and although the appetizers were a bit small, it was still quite a bit of food.

Hiro's Japanese Restaurant

1933 Central Ave
Albany, NY 12205
(518) 456-1180

Reservations suggested, especially for the teppanyaki tables as they only have two.

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Dinner, 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; closed Monday.

No comments:

Free Blog CounterHandelshaus ...