Saturday, April 12, 2008

CCK Chinese Restaurant!

UPDATE (07/17/08) : Aha! Mystery solved!

Per the TU's Joe Dalton
, the name "CCK" stands for "Capital Chinese Kitchen"!

Two Italians, a WASPy Celt, and a Jew walk into a Chinese restaurant... and end up in a "Stuff White People Like" blog post.

Passed CCK on Central many times with only a slight curiosity: so many places to go that there's gotta be a hook to grab me. Yelp's own Cynthia C's review was it.

CCK Restaurant

299 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12206

TEL (518) 433-2658


Image yoinked from GoogleMaps

We walked in.

A large group of mixed-ethnicity grad students are seated at one of the two round tables (with lazy susans) and offer up prayers (WASPy Celt thinks they're Seventh Day Adventists) before digging into a platter heaped with BBQ pork (Jew-y thinks they're probably not Shomer Shabbos... that pig was rolling!). If there's only one thing I learned in college (there might be more, but it's outside the scope of this review) it's that grad students are cheap mofos and pride themselves on seeking out the "most authentic" ethnic foods wherever they settle. Kinda like canaries in a Cantonese coal mine.

There are two other families taking up two of the six or so booths. The place is pretty small and overflowing with "busy restaurant in progress" ephemera: bulk take-out packaging, pre-prepped vegetables, huge fish tanks that haven't been populated yet (or maybe were de-populated earlier in the week?), and a lot of construction paper hung over the bar with (I'll take a guess) Cantonese and prices, plus a special board in Cantonese and English.

It's chaotic and was dinged by the DoH for a couple of minor items in January, but hey... show me a working restaurant in the area that hasn't been.

Lot's of kinetic energy in a tiny space. We wait a few minutes while the hostess/waitress does a few laps around the place before giving us the "sit in any booth" sign. The wait irks some of the party. In context, the front of the house seems to be run by one woman, and the back by one man (from Cynthia's review, I'm guessing this is Peter) so take any wait with a grain of salt. In a fully-staffed place with a dedicated greeter, standing around without acknowledgment is enough to get us to walk out. Here, it was the calm before the delicious storm.

The menus are large and dense and we kibitz a bit before settling on:


  • Chicken Feet in a black bean sauce

  • Steamed dumplings

  • "Three Way" platter
    Pork un Duck!
    Image yoinked from the gracious and wonderful Celinabean until I get back there with my camera!


  • Fried flounder fillet (one of the day's specials)

  • Tofu and Pork

  • Shrimp and Broccoli

  • Salt and Pepper Squid
    Image yoinked from the gracious and wonderful Celinabean until I get back there with my camera!

  • Tea and Water - no booze license at this time.
    Some lagers would've gone great.

And then it starts...

Peter is coming out every few minutes like clockwork, bearing another plate or two: first the steamed dumplings (big and moist, but generic) and salt-n-pepper squid (crisp coating and al dente meat, with a biting mix of green hot and bell peppers, still crisp.) We're not halfway through when the next wave hits: two small plates of chicken feet (warm and chewy, and a little sweet) and the shrimp and broccoli and tofu and pork (all very good: like the squid, the meat/meat substitutes are hot and moist and the vegetables are crisp. The sauces light.)

However, logistics kick in.
It's apparent, as Peter is standing there with plates on his arms, that we've "ordered too much food".

The rest of the meal becomes an exercise in Table Tetris as we shuffle around plates and platters, consolidating dishes to make room for incoming. Space is eventually made for the highlight dish of the evening, the fried flounder fillet: Man, it was frakkin' good. One of those fish dishes you could serve to your annoying anti-seafood friends.

Group consensus was "Good call. Let's add it to the rotation."
So, much success to you CCY. We'll be back.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Annoyingly cross-posted to my blog and Yelp.


Albany Jane said...

Score! You're back!

Much, much, much love for posting. I am glad to hear the salt and pepper squid are tasty, as well as everything else you ordered.

Sandor said...

Thanks, A.J.! Getting back in the saddle of actually turning blog drafts into blog posts. :)

Anonymous said...

...the fried flounder fillet: Man, it was frakkin' good. One of those fish dishes you could serve to your annoying anti-seafood friends...

Being someone who loves seafood, I tend to avoid these kind of dishes. If you're friends who don't like seafood will like tit, it generally means that the fishiness is gone, covered by some amorphous batter and sloppy sauce.

Have they retained many of the "exotic" dishes from the Ocean Palace days? I see chicken feet, which is good, but do they still have the Lamb Hot Pot (with the kidneys and tripe) and the aged/salted/dried fish dishes?

Sandor said...

Hi Chris,

It was more along the lines of the batter and sauce complimenting the fish instead of compensating for it. I'd picture someone who's not normally a fishie and ordered it to exclaim "Ah, now I sort of see why people like this stuff."
Some delicious training wheels before moving them to the full head-on dishes.

The menu is pretty deep and there were a number of "off-cut" dishes listed. I understand (from a number of online reviews) that there was a lot of "out of this and that" under the previous owners.
I only find the old menu online and can say that it's different from the one I ordered off of last week:

I'll be heading soon to dig deeper through the menu, and see if I can get translations of the Chinese language-only specials.

Nosher said...

That sounds great-- I am relieved that Ocean Palace lives on in new-ish form. Any sense of how the menu compares to Ocean Palace menu? It sounds similar from your description... I can't wait to try.