Restaurant review

Sweets and Madina’s Restaurant on Central

The space is clean and simple with a stainless steel buffet table cleaned and closed for the day, and a lone waiter asking us to order at the counter before giving in – apparently as we’re the only guests – and waiting over. our table. A smoke detector beeps every few seconds before finally erupting into screeches that prompt him to open the front door, spreading the noise down the rain-soaked central avenue, already splashing the headlight windows. mobiles and neon signs.

Madina Sweets is the new kid on a dense block of restaurants in Central, where Vietnamese, Afghan, Yemeni and Caribbean outposts are sandwiched between halal markets, barber shops and barber shops, one with a very clear No Kids, No Strollers sign on its door. It might be an exaggeration to call Madina Sweets “Mediterranean,” as it does on the website, or The House of Refined Taste, depending on the menu’s subtitle, or even its full name, a chain made up of “Pakistanis, Indian, Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern “which suggests covered bets and a menu that’s bigger than you will actually find.

But it’s Indian, broadly defined, leaning a bit more north and Pakistan, where culinary boundaries overlap and halal beef is popular. In the hands of Riffat Islam, the Bangladeshi chef and co-owner, the dishes also sometimes suggest a Southeast Asian influence in the flavors that distort the sweet and thick, light sauces that draw the flavor from the spices without too much heat. . Sweetness is in a sticky tamarind sauce accompanying poppadum chutneys and in mahogany goat karahi, a cinnamon-tinged stew with slowly braised goat cheese falling from cleaved bones.

It is an interesting, though little known, fact that many Muslim Bangladeshis own or cook in Indian restaurants, helping to develop the fusion cuisine widely sold as “Indian” in the United States. The culinary distinction of Bangladeshi food is hidden in maps redrawn after the 1947 partition of British India into East and West Pakistan and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War in which East Pakistan (East Bengal since 1956) became Bangladesh and many Bangladeshi immigrants moved to the United States. States. Maybe now Madina Sweets’ long name makes more sense.

Sweets and Madina Restaurant

295 central ave, Albany

Telephone: 518-449-9000

The Web:

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday; closed on Tuesdays.

Price: Cheap.

Food: Indian and Pakistani menu (to take away or on site) with Indian / Bangladeshi desserts in take out box. Halal meat.

To drink: Soft drinks, fruit lassi, spiced teas. No liquor license.

Atmosphere: Modest, take-out space with a pleasantly updated interior.

Noise: 1

Good for: Lunch, dinner, dinner solo, small groups, families.

Noise level: 1- silent; 2 – comfortable / conversing; 3 – strong; 4 – disruptive.

Price range: cheap, moderate, quite expensive, very expensive

Sweets anchor Bangladeshi cuisine, and it’s no surprise to find swirls of fried and syrup-glazed jilapi (jalebi) bagged for sale, and a cooler half-full of spongy, pistachio-sprinkled dessert dumplings. like gulab jamun, sweet white rosgala (rasgulla) and bengali cham cham milk paste, all holding their weight in a syrup flavored with rose, saffron or cardamom. They are manufactured and packaged in-house and sold, primarily in packs of six, by the pound.

My mind is on baingan bhartha, a delicious Punjabi and Bangladeshi specialty of mashed skinless eggplant with green peas and rogan josh lamb, the succulent “red lamb” stew with its distinct ginger flavor and hue sierra of garam masala, turmeric and mashed tomatoes. Like karahi, the sauce is tinged with garlic, cumin, ghee, and yogurt and balanced with a dash of sugar and citrus, perhaps lemon or shatkora, a bitter lime from Bangladesh.

Mulligatawny Soup, a dish inherited from British rule, is thicker than usual, a comforting and creamy bowl of mashed chickpeas, carrots and apples tinged with turmeric yellow; The sweet hazelnut chana dal, rich in ghee and yellow split peas, has a subtle spicy heat, while the malai kofta (vegetable balls) of potatoes, carrots and paneer is fortified with softened cashews in a cream of tomato and cashew nuts. A red plastic basket of breaded appetizers glistens with oil, and we pluck puffy samosas filled with potatoes and peas, and prickly onion pakora sprinkled with chickpea flour and fried. The pappadums on top are pale, brittle discs; those below are exaggerated in coppery gold.

Of course there is the chicken tikka masala which originated in Britain and is now as ubiquitous as General Tso in Chinese takeout, but there is also the lamb do piaza, a “two onion” dish. South Indian and Persian, as well as diced Balochi chicken in a chili-ginger. garlic paste, a Pakistani recipe also at home in Iranian or Afghan cuisine. We sponge the sauces with white rice pilaf, fluffy naans and chapatti steeper than the expected floppy folds. I later spotted fried tilapia on their Facebook page, a recognizable Bangladeshi specialty, and wish I had known that before.

There is no alcohol permit, so we sip spiced masala tea with milk and doodh patti (plain tea with milk) throughout our meal. They are brought in paper cups with lids, which at least keep them warm. A creamy and sweet rice pudding finish sprinkled with cardamom before paying at the counter, and here we are in the street, comfortably satisfied.

Building owner Mohammed Sajid from Pakistan has transformed his old business, Empire Cash and Carry, with a coat of orange paint, stainless steel lights and the continuing trend of oversized floor tiles. A daytime buffet of about 12 courses is great for dining alone and a bargain at $ 7 for the week ($ 8 on weekends), while the $ 10 buffet on Friday and Saturday nights makes for a good feast. walked before a show at Low Beat or Linda. It helps that Madina Sweets is the last building on the block, conveniently located next to a city-owned lot where parking is just 25 cents an hour.

The buffet lunch or dinner for one costs between $ 6.99 and $ 9.99, before taxes and tip. The à la carte dinner for three will cost around $ 65 with tax, before tip.

Susie Davidson Powell is a freelance British food writer from upstate New York. Follow her on Twitter, @SusieDP. To comment on this review, visit the Table Hopping blog,

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