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Ruby Asian Bistro is a Gem

July 21, 2010

Last May, when I first heard about the new Ruby Asian Bistro, located at 875 Madison in Albany, I dismissed it as just another Chinese take-out joint aimed at college kids.  How wrong I was.  Ruby is a little jewel in a sea of mediocre Asian food in this town, and a welcome addition.

The décor of the bistro is strikingly beautiful.  Light and dark wood abounds, with hand-carved (or at least the appearance of hand-carved) wooden chairs and tables, brick flooring, bamboo trees, and ceiling lanterns.  It’s very Asian without being ostentatious or overwhelming; the large bay windows allow the natural light to create a relaxed atmosphere.

Ruby’s menu can best be described as “pan-Asian,” featuring cuisine from China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but with a large focus on sushi.  The majority of the menu is comprised of sushi creations, from traditional hand rolls and finger sushi to eclectic “Chef’s Creations” rolls featuring a nice variety of ingredients.  There are a decent amount of appetizers, noodle and rice dishes, and a selection of skewers with an assortment of meats, fish and vegetables.

We ordered five items: cha shao bao (steamed pork buns); Vietnamese sugar cane shrimp; shrimp finger sushi; Pad Thai with chicken; and most unexpectedly on an Asian menu, French fries.  I better explain that last one – it’s beyond rare that one sees fries in an Asian restaurant, but the description said they were cooked with garlic and hot peppers, so we couldn’t resist trying them (and at only $3 we didn’t have much to lose).  These fries were fantastic!  Unlike some places that offer “garlic fries” where all they do is sprinkle garlic powder on the fries, Ruby’s are cooked with a mound of minced garlic, so the flavor is infused with the potato.  Our fries did seem to be lacking any hot peppers, but the garlic alone was enough to make it a marvelous dish.

When I went to China, a culinary highlight for me was the cha shao bao that I ate nearly every day at breakfast.  The gooey yet light dough filled with savory shredded pork in a sweet sauce was absolutely delicious.  Ruby’s are just as good as what I had in China – truly a delight.  The Vietnamese sugar cane shrimp were odd in appearance – the shrimp had been lightly breaded and then skewered on a thick piece of sugar cane, and then cooked.  The shrimp was very flavorful, and the spicy chili sauce on the side elevated the dish to an exquisite level.  I wasn’t sure if the sugar cane was meant to be eaten or not – it was a bit tough, but the sweetness from it had been absorbed by the shrimp nicely.  The shrimp sushi was very traditional, served with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce.  The shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the rice was just right.  The one poor spot of the meal was the chicken Pad Thai.  It seems no eatery in this town can get this dish right.  Ruby’s lacked seasoning and was somewhat dry…certainly disappointing after the success of the other dishes.  It was served with vegetable soup, which was also pretty bland and uninteresting.

Ruby’s drink menu features a wide variety of concoctions made with exotic fruits, yogurts and jellys, but we were not feeling adventurous enough last night to try one…but I will at some point. 

So overall I was very impressed with Ruby Asian Bistro, and will certainly return to try some more sushi and other dishes.  Our five dishes came to a very reasonable $24, well worth it. 

The MHK gives Ruby Asian Bistro 3.5 out of 5 stars!

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