The Family Chow’s latest food adventure took us to the island nation of Japan via a small strip mall on Western Avenue. While we prefer using trusted friends’ recommendations over internet searches, we came across Sushi Tei using an old fashioned Google search. We were looking for a reliable and, most importantly, fresh Japanese dinner for our sushi-wary guest Granddad.
We reserved a table the day before after noting online the diminutive size of the restaurant and the fact that we were eating out on a Friday night. Sushi Tei was a little hard to spot, located as it is in the far corner of a strip mall. But there was plenty of parking and we were seated promptly. Our party of 5 occupied the biggest table of the restaurant and was situated nicely between two half-height bamboo screens for a bit of privacy. The small sushi bar in the back, the rice paper lanterns, and painted wall hangings all added to a cozy and traditional atmosphere. Despite the fully packed house, we could hear each other over the din, including the non-stop ringing of a phone we assumed was for take-out orders.
1800 Western Ave, Albany
Food 3.5 C’s (out of 5)
Service 4 C’s
friendliness 3.5 C’s
Sushi Tei’s menu includes sushi by the piece or by the roll, several soups and salads and various preparations of proteins and vegetables including tempura, teriyaki and hibachi. We decided to start with a shared order of Gyoza pan fried dumplings filled with pork, along with an Angel Roll spicy shrimp and crab with avocado. Son and Daughter ordered a round of flavored Ramune sodas while Mom and Granddad ordered beers and Dad stuck with water. Although soda is not usually described as “kid-friendly,” the Ramune would qualify. The small bottles (only 7 ounces) are uniquely shaped to contain a glass marble that moves around and makes a great (or annoying) “rattler” after the soda is drained.
The service was pleasant and surprisingly quick, given the number of diners. Our appetizers arrived with barely a wait and we placed our main course orders. The Gyoza was not up to par for both Daughter and Dad who thought they were a bit undercooked and “squishy”. Mom and Daughter both loved the Angel Roll, however, which was just spicy enough with perfectly ripe avocado beautifully arranged on top of the rice.
Next to arrive was the miso soup and salad courses which came with several of the entrees. Granddad found the soup to be “wonderful” with its bits of scallion, seaweed and diced tofu. Mom and Daughter both enjoyed the salad a mix of julienned carrots, cucumber and crab in a spicy but light creamy dressing topped with crunchy panko. Son got to work right away on his Hibachi Steak pronouncing the side of noodles “good” and the steak “chewy.” Dad has tried his fair share of Pork Katsu in his day and judged the version at Sushi Tei to be the “best in years,” although he would have preferred the dish minus the mushrooms. Daughter loved the egg rolls that came with her Dinner Roll box and was happy with her choice of California and Tuna rolls. Granddad’s dish, which was ordered from a specials menu, was the most interesting of the night – a mix of beef and onions bathed in an egg-based sauce. After polishing off his plate, he would recommend it “without hesitation.” Mom also enjoyed her combination dinner of salmon teriyaki and tempura calamari roll, preferring the roll over the somewhat bland salmon.
For dessert, we ordered a tempura banana and mango mochi for the table and both were universally enjoyed, from the artful presentation to the not-too-sweet ingredients. Daughter’s favorite being the rice cake-covered mango ice cream and Dad’s the red bean ice cream that accompanied the fried banana slices.
Overall, we would have to agree with the internet praise for Sushi Tei. Although the total bill ($150) was on the steeper end for a casual night out, the traditional atmosphere, combined with efficient service and fresh, thoughtfully prepared food made for a wonderful virtual trip to Japan. We give Sushi Tei 4 C’s for service, 3.5 C’s for family friendliness and 3.5 C’s for food.
The Family Chow hails from the Capital District and review area restaurants based on service, food and family friendliness.