Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cella Bistro - Schenectady, NY

Since I'm still on my hiatus from California,  my family and I went out to dinner at Cella Bistro the other night. This quaint restaurant, located in Schenectady, focuses on "New American" cuisine, and offers both a full plate menu, as well as a frequently updated tapas menu (updated so often that it is only able to be viewed on two chalkboards located on the walls of the restaurant's bar).

I really enjoy going to Cella Bistro because of the atmosphere. In Schenectady it can be more challenging to find "trendier" restaurants, but I would put Cella Bistro (and Aperitivo) in that category.

We made our way into Cella and chose to sit in the bar area where the tapas menu is served. After being seated we were given menus and had our drink order taken. One thing I will say, the service isn't the best, so if you are looking for a restaurant where they bend over backwards to please you... this is not the place. In fact, at times the waitress is down right rude... I say waitress because every time we go we get the same woman. Also, Cella doesn't have an individual tapas menu, so sometimes it can be difficult to read what they are, depending on where you're sitting.

All the being said, we looked over the menus and with cocktails in hand were finally ready to order. 
My dad ordered the Bouillabaise for his dish. This was a traditional bouillabaise, and came with white fish, lobster, clams, scallops and mussels. The flavor of the soup was nice, and the claims were tasty. My dad said overall he enjoyed it, but was underwhelmed at the amount of lobster (just one small claw).
Calamari with aioli 
My brother's friend Ben decided to order the calamari. It was crispy calamari, fried in spices, and served with a side of lemon-caper aioli. I enjoyed this dish, and liked that it was paired with an aioli instead of a red sauce. I would personally prefer a lighter breading, but the overall dish was satisfying, and a fairly large portion for an appetizer.

Tuna Carpaccio 
I ordered the tuna carpaccio. This was thinly sliced tuna, drizzled in olive oil and cream sauce, topped with capers and greens. I enjoyed the flavor of the tuna, but something about this dish was slightly off putting to me. I think that the portion was much more overwhelming than I had anticipated, and the pool of oil it sat in added a heaviness to the dish. I think this dish would be much more successful if the fish had been drizzled with the dressing and oil instead of swimming in it. 

My brother Jordan (left) & his friend Ben

Jordan and Ben trying raw tuna carpaccio for the first time!

One of our favorites at Cella Bistro (well my mom's absolute favorite) is the fried chickpeas with lime. This is a great thing to order as an appetizer for the table, and can be extremely addictive... it's like their version of a "chips and salsa."

Collard Greens
My mom ordered the fried collard greens as one of her tapas. They were fried and served in a very simple presentation. The flavors were clean and we enjoyed the crunchiness of the greens. This dish doesn't really stand out to me, but it was still tasty.

Artichoke-Goat Cheese Spring Rolls
My mom and I both ordered the goat cheese and artichoke spring rolls. The shell was nice and crispy, however I found the goat cheese slightly overpowering (as goat cheese tends to be), so it was hard for the other flavors to get through. I'm not sure if I would order this again... It wasn't bad by any means, but it just didn't really wow me. Also the sauce that accompanied it was runny so it was hard to get any on the roll.

Fried Wonton Shrimp
My brother ordered the fried wonton shrimp, in a sweet chili sauce. The shrimp were lightly battered and coated with wonton noodles and then fried to perfection and served with a sweet chili sauce. This is a fun plate, and the sauce goes nicely with the shrimp. Overall we enjoyed the flavors of this dish.

Venison with potatoes
Lastly, for dinner, my mom and I ordered Venison with fingerling potatoes. The venison was really good but the potatoes were practically raw. This dish would have been amazing if the potatoes either hadn't been on the plate or were cooked.
Lava Cake

Lastly, my brother decided to order dessert.... and in my brother's words, "My second favorite lava cake I've ever had." If you knew my brother, you'd understand how huge a compliment this is. Jordan does not mess around with dessert. In fact, this reminds me of a particular dinner we had at an Italian restaurant at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal in Florida.

Jordan was around 11 at the time, and we went out to dinner at this amazing Italian restaurant, Bice Ristorante, at the Portofino Bay Hotel. Jordan was eager to get dessert and ordered the creme brulee, which came with a side of sorbet. The waiter asked my brother what flavor sorbet he wanted, and my brother asked the waiter for his opinion. The waiter gave him his opinion, my brother thought it over for a minute, and then he ordered his creme brulee with the sorbet the waiter had suggested. Several minutes later the waiter returned with my brother's dessert, and along with the original sorbet he had requested, there were six additional scoops of different sorbets for him to enjoy with his brulee. The waiter said that he was worried my brother might not like the one he suggested (realizing how serious my brother was about this dessert), so he wanted to make sure he would have others to choose from.... I think we have another up and coming food blogger in our midst.

That being said, the lava cake was nicely done. All and all Cella Bistro is a fun place to go if you're looking to get drinks and maybe a few apps, but if you are looking for a truly satisfying dinner I'm not sure if I would recommend it. Although I enjoyed what I ate, I have gotten much better meals in the area. If anyone visits Cella Bistro please send me your comments about what you thought of it!

Cella Bistro on Urbanspoon

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