Chopstick Bistro, taking over the Ninja space on North Broadway in Schenectady, has been up and running since late last year. We finally gave it a try recently.
I didn’t really get any useful interior shots, but there’s not a lot to see. A few generic paintings on the wall. It’s really basic looking with clean lines. This shot is of the bar area near the entrance. You walk in and the bar is on your right, a few 4-seat tables along the wall in front of and a much larger space wrapping around away from the street. It wasn’t terribly busy, but service was a little unnecessarily weird/off. If you want to use the Karavalli Rule (Karavalli is very popular with the local Indian population), there were a number of Asian diners when we were there. Maybe due to the fact that in addition to the menu of ‘American Chinese’ dishes there is also a lengthy ‘authentic’ menu? Or maybe they were just college kids from Union that wanted General Tso’s.
Cutting to the chase, our overall impression was positive and we will be back and/or order takeout from Chopstick Bistro. That said, let’s start with the minor negatives. The Americanized dishes were reasonably standard. As noted in at least one other review, there are some temperature issues. And service was slightly confused.
- We got 4 things overall, 3 of them quite standard: chicken with broccoli; orange chicken; pork fried rice; and double cooked pork slices (this from the “authentic” menu). Chicken with broccoli was very standard, served also with carrot slices and scallions. Pork fried rice was typical of every Chinese takeout place. Orange chicken (see below) wasn’t too out of the ordinary.
- The dishes were a mix of hot and not that hot. The broccoli, for example, with the orange chicken was rather cool. Some of the pork dish was also. My own guess is not plating at the same time and not keeping dishes hot while waiting for other items to be ready, but it’s just a guess. It wasn’t disastrous and things weren’t undercooked, it was more like they had sat for a couple of minutes and gotten cool.
- There was clearly some confusion here and there, probably more than necessary for as long as they’ve been open, but maybe there was some new staff? Overall there seemed to lack a strong hand in charge of the main dining room to direct traffic. Our server was great, but he was clearly trying to help out the other staff. We ended up with free eggrolls because they were brought to our table by accident. They were good, by the way, crispy and tasty with, seemingly, a sweet duck sauce to dip in.
Dabbling in the Chinese menu brought a visit from who I assume was the cook or manager to see how I wanted the double cooked pork slices prepared. Unfortunately I didn’t understand a large part of my options, but when she said the typical Chinese style was very good I told her to go with that. It was an excellent choice (unlike my photo quality):
What you see is red and green pepper, onions, and quite thin slices (1/8-1/4″ or so) of flavorful pork in a very slightly warm, sort of oily sauce (my guess is chili oil given the appearance and flavor, but if so it wasn’t overwhelming). I loved this and will get it again. The thin slices of pork are, almost, bacon. But not mostly fat like bacon. What they are is delicious. The veggies were right in the sweet spot of being cooked enough, but still some crunch. I hate when the veggies are basically raw, waved near a wok or steamer for a minute. Very happy to see her come back out and make sure I liked it.
This next picture mostly captures the orange chicken (foreground) and a bit of the chicken and broccoli:
I generally find Chinese American dishes like this orange chicken to be of two varieties. The first is a generic, breaded fried chicken that comes in a big frozen bag that is used in every chicken dish with a variety of sauces and vegetables. That’s not what we seem to have here. We have the second type – smaller pieces with a crunchy fried coating that resists the sauce most strenuously, even on reheating. I like this type. It may still be frozen from a bag for all I know, but it feels like I’m getting a higher quality meal. As with Chopstick Bistro, I encounter this style more often in places that have at least an equal eat-in business vs. takeaway. I might get this again, but probably only after I try many other things that sound good.
The meal, ignoring the free eggrolls, with an oolong tea, all came to under $50 and provided several leftover meals. Most dishes come with either white or brown rice. We both got brown and it was fine, although I like mine just a little softer and stickier.
The Gazette’s positive review is here: review.
All in all this is a nice alternative in the area. On one hand it’s typical Chinese American – but they do it very well, at least as well or better than most generic counter service spots. I have to assume some of their “authentic” menu compares to A La Shanghai (at least reading the names), but not having been there, I can’t make that comparison. It’s too different than Albany’s Rain to really compare them. Rain is probably a little ‘fancier’ and maybe a little lighter tasting in their preparations. I prefer Rain’s brown rice. Quite a different atmosphere than nearby Zen, which has more of a party vibe. I greatly preferred the food at Chopstick Bistro vs. Zen.
It’s worth a try and we recommend it.