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Daily Gazette Review

A Special Thank You to The Daily Gazette for a Wonderful Review. Check it out:

Daily_Gazette

— Reel Seafood has gotten a facelift, and boy, does it look sharp. Aliki Serras has taken over from her father, LeGrande Serras, who opened the restaurant in 1983, and she’s put her stamp on it.
More than $1 million for a facelift and thorough menu revamp has resulted in a swanky and sleek restaurant that will be one of the Capital Region’s best-regarded.


Things were pretty good at the old place when I visited in 2007. It had a solid reputation for serving the best fish around. Service was dependable, desserts were homemade. Now it’s all that, and more.
When Mary and I stopped on a weeknight, every seat at the modernist white bar area was taken.


The main dining room is clean and elegant, with a ring of recessed blue lighting in the ceiling. There are booths on one wall, and banquettes on others. Four large C-shaped private seating areas each face out from the center of the room.
There are two smaller rooms suitable for private parties, and a patio in front, sheltered somewhat from Wolf Road by shrubbery.


The decor is sparkling white with traces of clear blue — a clean Mediterranean theme. Glass turquoise pendant lamps dangle elegantly, the place mats sparkle, and tea lights flicker in cobalt blue glasses.
The lighting is low and flattering, but strategically placed spots shine on the tables so you can read the menu and admire your food. Jazzy music plays softly. Lots of black-dressed, well-trained staff move noiselessly around the dining room. It’s definitely an upscale feel.


We were seated comfortably and immediately attended. The server suggested a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for me, and a cabernet for Mary, selections we both liked.

Reel Seafood Co.

WHERE: 195 Wolf Road, Colonie, 458-2068, www.reelseafoodco.com WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday HOW MUCH: $98.15, with tax and tip MORE INFO: Children’s menu. Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners Club. Reservations accepted by phone or at www.opentable.com

And the menu. The raw bar is up first, with an array of fresh oysters at market price and two kinds of fresh tuna. There’s the seafood tower, an extravaganza of Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, crab claws and more, at $55, for two to three people.


Oysters and clams get various treatments in the hot appetizer menu, and they’re accompanied by crab cakes, mussels and escargot. You can get a poached lobster ($15) or a shellfish Cobb salad ($19). I like the chef’s compositions, which include lobster ravioli in cream sauce ($25) and sea bass in parchment paper ($32).

Sumptuous selection

The purest incarnation of fish, steaks and fillets, are simply grilled or broiled, and you’ll find the likes of Chilean sea bass, halibut and salmon.
And for those who don’t care for seafood, there’s roasted chicken ($21), and a good selection of steaks, including a hanger steak ($23) and an 8-ounce filet mignon ($37). Whew.
The homemade rolls were just out of the oven and almost too hot to handle. Steam poured out when we pulled them apart and we slathered them with salty whipped butter. Delicious.
Mary started with the buttermilk fried oysters ($9) which were piping hot, served over mixed greens with a gently flavored jalapeño ranch sauce. The coating was light and the oysters were big, juicy and meaty, she said.


My salad was a sculpted pile of Romaine and mixed greens, covered with grated gruyere cheese, but it was the dressing that really impressed me. Pomegranate, of all things, and its flavor jumped right out at me. The dressing was sweet, but the salty cheese balanced it right out. Really well done.
Mary had the beef short ribs and scallops ($28), a wonderful dish. She is picky about scallops, and declared these perfect: enormous and perfectly browned. The boneless beef fell into tender pieces. The barley risotto was more chewy than she expected, but it was full of mushrooms and tasted delicious, she said.


My swordfish steak ($27) was a thing of beauty, thick with perpendicular brown grill marks. Swordfish is so easy to overcook but, helped along with plenty of butter, this was very juicy. It was a fantastic piece of fish, more subtly flavored than the fish that we often got just off the boats on Long Island.


The mixed vegetables were broccoli, carrots, green beans and thinly sliced yellow squash, some with grill marks here and there, none overcooked and all soaked in butter and salt.

Homemade desserts

Mary chose dessert from well-priced homemade options that include dulce de leche cheesecake and the obligatory chocolate dessert. We got coconut custard pie ($7) and two spoons.


There was coconut in every part — the crust, the custard and toasted coconut on the real whipped cream topping. The crust was crumbly with shredded coconut and unsweetened, a nice contrast to the filling. The custard had body and was rich and dense. The fresh blueberries that garnished the plate were surprisingly sweet.


The tab for our meal, without the wine, came to $98.15, with tax and tip.


Ms. Serras has preserved the best qualities of Reel Seafood, including the largest variety of fresh seafood in the area, homemade desserts and solid service, while updating the menu and the building and adding an air of exclusivity. I’ll be back.

Voted #1

Reel Seafood Co. has been named the #1 Seafood Restaurant in the March 2014 issue of Capital Region Living.

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People to Watch

Capital Region Living Magazine has named Aliki Serras, owner of Reel Seafood Co., one of the featured "People to Watch" in the March 2014 issue.

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ALBANY, N.Y. - When Aliki Serras took over her father's 30-year-old Colonie restaurant, she heard a lot of "Oh, you're LeGrande's daughter."

That was to be expected. LeGrande Serras has been a fixture of the Capital Region restaurant scene for more than four decades. His establishments included The Lexington Grill, Kirker's Steakhouse and, most notably, The Reel Seafood Co.

It is Reel Seafood that 28-year-old Serras now owns. She and a private investor spent more than $1 million to purchase and renovate the fine-dining restaurant on Wolf Road, which opened in late January, with fresh decor, a new menu, a larger bar, an expanded raw bar and a banquet room.

Serras, who lives in Guilderland, knows the community is watching her, and she has felt the pressure.

"Initially I would get some anxiety," she said. "People would say 'You have big shoes to fill,' and I would think 'how am I going to do this?' Then I had a revelation of sorts. I realized that I didn't have to fill his shoes, per se. I could create my own path, my own identity."

Donna Purnomo, co-owner of Yono's, a fine dining restaurant in Albany, has known Serras since she was a little girl. She said that while it is evident that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Serras has her own strong qualities.

"She is such a smart, well-rounded, warm, personable young woman," she said. "She also strikes me as a very practical young woman. I think she will do very well."

Purnomo was impressed with how much Serras and her team, including TMP Construction Services of Clifton Park, accomplished in the three weeks the restaurant was closed.

"That renovation was major in that period of time," she said.

The new Reel Seafood is very much a reflection of its young owner. Serras hates clutter, so designer DeLaCruz Enterprises of Niskayuna created an unencumbered look with clean lines. The blue and white Mediterranean theme was inspired by a photo Serras took on the Greek island of Santorini, which she visited as a child and remembers as "the most beautiful place on earth."

Since her overarching goal was to attract young professionals like herself, Serras thought about what she looks for in an establishment when developing her business plan. She also considered what needed to be done to make Reel Seafood stand out among the 55 restaurants, including some popular seafood chains, that operate on Wolf Road. Many have opened just in the past few years, and have made their mark.

"I'm going to be very candid with you, it's been tough. Especially when Bonefish Grill came in, we took a hit."

The revised menu includes more smaller-plate, lower-priced items, updates some classic Reel Seafood dishes, and highlights the expanded raw seafood bar.

The cocktail bar doubled in size and was made sleeker and more contemporary.

"I think people by nature want to be in an environment that is hip, where there is a lot of energy, where you can people-watch and be seen," she said. "That is the environment we looked to create in the bar area."

Serras also put Reel Seafood in the banquet and meeting business, a market in which it never competed before.

But she has not changed everything. All of the employees, half of whom have been with the restaurant for more than a decade - including five who have worked there for 25 years - stayed through the transition. Serras is committed to maintaining the warm atmosphere that has kept not only the staff, but many customers, coming back.

"The biggest thing I am keeping is the way [my father] treats people," she said.

Like Purnomo, these long-time employees and customers have watched her grow up. She began helping out in the restaurant as a child.

"As young kids we would go in there on Sundays after church," she said. "At first it was scary, being in this big space with all these customers around. My dad would say 'Okay, you go portion pasta' and my brother would peel potatoes. We had a ball with it, though."

Even so, Serras went off to Ithaca College with no intention of coming back and joining Reel Seafood. She studied Spanish with the thought of possibly becoming an interpreter.

But the restaurant business kept calling to her. Even when she did a semester abroad in Spain, she found herself befriending people in the industry.

"I knew I was legitimately being drawn back to it," she said. "Coupled with the fact that this restaurant, in particular, has afforded me the life that I have been privileged to have. And you can't really get away from the familial obligation because that's a big part of it – the opportunity to carry on a legacy and a name."

She is actually the fourth generation of the Serras family to own a restaurant.

But her father never pressured her to keep that legacy going.

"Quite the opposite, really," she said. "He almost tried to talk me out of it. 'Are you sure? Are you sure?' He, more than anyone, knows what a commitment it is."

She closed on her purchase of the restaurant in early December, with financing from her investor and Berkshire Bank.

Prior to that, she spent five years working as a server, a hostess, a bartender, a kitchen helper and weekend manager.

"I said 'Okay, I am going to immerse myself in this business and work in every possible capacity,’" she said. "I wanted to understand the lifestyle, the hours, the level of commitment, and figure out for myself if I was going to be happy and healthy living and working in this way."

As much as she takes after her father, Serras also has much in common with her mother, a reiki massage practioner and sound healer who introduced her daughter to new-age thinking and yoga.

"I don't think I would be able to work the schedule I do if I didn't make a conscious effort to maintain balance in my life and yoga helps me create that balance," she said.

She is an avid reader, a passion developed while living in her first post-college apartment on Madison Avenue in Albany with no television or Internet. One favorite is Mists of Avalon, a fantasy novel that allows her to escape to a world far different from the one in which she lives.

Serras also has acquired her mother's taste for holistic nutrition, which she realizes may seem odd for the owner of a fine-dining establishment.

"I am very much a product of both my parents," she said. "I enjoy eating a really good piece of foie gras and I don't feel bad about that. But I'll also drink my green juice in the morning. I am a walking paradox, but that is okay. You can be this contradiction, this person who loves yoga and reading Mists of Avalon and still achieve success in business."

Purnomo agrees.

"I would hope that every restaurant has someone like Aliki," she said.

For Aliki Serras, success in business may eventually go beyond operating a flourishing seafood restaurant on Wolf Road. She sees possibilities in catering, as well as in other area cities.

"I have always envisioned this kind of spinoff, a smaller bistro version of Reel Seafood Co.," she said. "Even if it is just seasonal, wouldn't it be great to have an oyster bar, a few entrees and some interesting cocktails and have it be in Saratoga Springs or downtown Troy or Schenectady?"

But that is in the future. For the moment, Serras’s focus is on making Reel Seafood a destination for both young professionals and the not-so-young customers who have patronized the restaurant for decades.

"I still have a long way to go, but this is the first step," she said. "And it's a big step in allowing the community to see me as Aliki rather than LeGrande's daughter."

Barbara Pinckney, Capital Region Living Magazine

40 Under Forty

Our very own Aliki Serras, Owner of Reel Seafood Co., has just been named one of the 40 Under Forty class of 2014 of the Albany Business Review.

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Ribbon Cutting

IT'S OFFICIAL! The Reel Seafood Family & The Colonie Chamber

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Grand Reopening

Check out the newly renovated Reel Seafood Co.!

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Day 2 of Renovation

Kinda sad to see our restaurant gutted, but it's all for a good cause.

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Ownership of Reel Seafood Co. Passes to Aliki Serras

Ownership of 30-year-old Reel Seafood Co. passes to a second generation of the Serras’ family; $1 million renovation planned.


ALBANY, N.Y. – LeGrande Serras announced today that he has sold his Reel Seafood Co. to daughter Aliki Serras. The sale marks the first ownership change at Reel Seafood since LeGrande Serras opened the independent seafood restaurant in 1983.

Aliki Serras will invest more than $1 million to renovate the fine-dining restaurant that her father opened in a former pancake house 30 years ago. She has also hired a new executive chef to lead the kitchen team and the restaurant’s other staff through the roll-out of a new, innovative menu that will elevate many of Reel Seafood’s traditional dishes and highlight a major expansion of its popular raw seafood bar.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for me. There are so many great opportunities here for the restaurant, for our staff, and for the community,” Aliki Serras said. Both the sale and remodeling costs are being financed through Berkshire Bank and a private investor. The general contractor is Tom Picozzi of TMP Construction Services LLC in Clifton Park. Valerie DeLaCruz, owner of DeLaCruz Enterprises in Nisakyuna, is the project’s designer.

Reel Seafood will close briefly following dinner on Jan. 5, with renovations scheduled from Jan. 6 through Jan. 20. During that time, the restaurant’s 50 employees will receive extensive training on the new menu.

A grand reopening is planned for the weekend of Jan. 25. Reel Seafood’s new look will be Mediterranean- and Aegean inspired, with an overall contemporary décor, a predominantly blue-and-white color scheme, and clean, distinctive lines throughout. Bar seating will double to 32; restaurant seating will increase slightly to 228.

Aliki, who is 28, grew up in Reel Seafood. She was 9 when she started portioning pasta in the kitchen there on Sundays, after church.

LeGrande Serras and his daughter had their first conversation about Aliki buying Reel Seafood and becoming the Serras family’s fourth-generation restaurant owner, in the summer of 2011.

“My first words to her were, ‘Are you sure?’ The restaurant business is relentless. When I opened, there were fewer than a dozen restaurants on Wolf Road. Today, there are 55. She said yes, she was sure,” said Serras. His own entrepreneurial path followed that of his father and grandfather, who owned restaurants in Schenectady and Troy beginning in the early 1900s.

Aliki Serras started working full-time at Reel Seafood in 2008. She held jobs as hostess, waitress, bartender and assistant manager before being named the restaurant’s general manager in October 2013.

About: LeGrande Serras invested more than $5 million during the 44 years he operated successful restaurants in Colonie, Latham and Schenectady. In 1983, the third-generation restaurateur spent more than $1 million to renovate and equip a former Perkins Pancake House at 195 Wolf Road, and open it as Reel Seafood. Serras also owned and operated HP Mulligan’s (later the Lexington Grill), on Wolf Road and Kirker’s steakhouse in Latham, each of which he later sold; and Peggy’s diner in Schenectady.

His introduction to restaurants began at age 9, when he started peeling potatoes for a penny a piece at Peggy’s, the diner that his father and grandfather operated for more than two decades. LeGrande Serras bought Peggy’s in 1970, selling it 10 years later to local restaurateur Angelo Mazzone, the owner of Mazzone Hospitality.

Serras, who is 68, has mentored dozens of chefs and restaurant owners in the more than four decades he has been in business. He will continue his efforts for local charities, for which he has raised more than $13.5 million at 1,200 events.