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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 13, 2008

Chinese restaurant comes to Altamont, Owner Sarong Li wants to settle in village

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT — With a bit of luck, villagers who woefully flambé their Thanksgiving turkey will be able to salvage the day with a crowd-pleasing backup plan: takeout Chinese. 

At the end of October, the Altamont planning board approved Sarong Li’s application and building permit for a new Chinese restaurant in the Altamont Corners Plaza on Main Street. Li, who is already the owner of two Chinese restaurants in the Capital District, is hoping to open his third, called Bamboo Garden, at the end of November.

Along with his son Andy and his son’s girlfriend, Charlene, Li is working to transform the space at Altamont Corners into a restaurant from its previous incarnation as a gym. The trio is also finalizing the menu by combining crowd favorites from their other restaurants, such as General Tso’s and sweet and sour chicken, along with new dishes that have a larger focus on vegetables. 

Using Charlene as a translator, Li explained that, unlike at some Chinese food places, he steams most of his vegetables and adds sauces last, in order to avoid using so much oil. He also gets his meat and vegetables from local wholesalers as well as ones operating out of New York City’s Chinatown.

Bamboo Garden will offer both takeout and limited eat-in seating.  Li will not be offering delivery services.

Although Li has been cooking Chinese food in America for 18 years, he learned to cook in China’s Fujian Province on the southeast coast of China. Fujian is the largest exporter of Chinese migrants in the world, and is the primary source of cooks in America’s Chinese restaurants, according to Jennifer Li who wrote Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a book about America’s Chinese food industry.

After taking cooking classes, Sarong Li earned a certificate in cooking and worked for several years in restaurants in China. When someone offered him the opportunity to work in America, he accepted. 

But when Li arrived in Pennsylvania, he learned firsthand what any American who has been to China knows: Chinese food in the States is basically an American invention and bears little resemblance to Chinese indigenous cuisine.

“I had to start learning how to cook all over again,” he says. 

When asked why he chose Altamont as the third location for his restaurant, Li cited both the good location and the good people. “I want to settle down here,” he said. “Living in Altamont is my long-term goal. I like the environment a lot. It’s easy for people to get to know each other.”

Other business

In addition to hearing about the Chinese restaurant at its Nov. 6 meeting, the village board:

—  Heard from Trustee Dean Whalen, an architect, an update on the status of the Crounse House — a neglected historic home purchased jointly by the town of Guilderland and the village. Whalen stated that, although the roof structures are stable, the rear “L” of the house needs to be re-roofed or temporarily repaired in order to stop further water damage. 

He also reported that the following steps need to be taken to move the project forward: determine the intended future uses of the Crounse House, including the feasibility of relocating the Village Museum to the facility; prioritize the building’s stabilization items; determine the budget and yearly allocations for proposed renovations; and pursue funding sources. 

The following people have formed a committee to address the issues of the Crounse House: Shelly Johnston, civil engineer; Marijo Dougherty, archivist; Alice Begley, historian; Patty Blackwood, assistant village clerk, Cindy Wadach; Guilderland Senior Services coordinator, and Whalen;

— Accepted a bid submitted by Don Cornell, highway superintendent of the town of Wright, in the amount of $8,601, for the village’s 1998 Ford F700 dump truck, which was deemed surplus equipment in October;  

— Set village elections for Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 

— Approved the application from Thomas M. Tubbs Jr. of Main Street for membership to the Altamont Fire Department;

— Approved the request by Paul Miller, chief of the Altamont Fire Department, to include Altamont’s fire department in Schenectady’s Annual Holiday Parade on Nov. 22; 

— Set a public hearing on a new village recycling law for Dec. 2;

— Approved two applications to connect to village water. One is for a multi-family home at 220 Brandle Road and the other is for a single-family dwelling at 12 GI Road. Superintendent of Public Works Timothy McIntyre reviewed and approved both applications prior to submitting them for board approval;  and

— Amended pay for Michael J. Moore, attorney to the village, which will increase his annual fee to $14,400 at $1200 a month. The proposal will take effect Jan. 1, 2009 and all other terms of the December 2007 agreement will remain the same. The raise will increase Moore’s salary by $275 a month. Mayor James Gaughan commented, “I must say for the record that Michael Moore and his firm far exceeds expectations.  This proposal is certainly acceptable to me.”

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