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Capital Region restaurateur closing one spot, developing another

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Capital Region restaurateur Sonny Brar has a case of good news-bad news. After more than six years in business, his Indian restaurant Zaika, located at 54 Clifton Country Road in Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs, will be closing. But, he has another venture in the wings.

Brar announced on Thursday that he will close Zaika after dinner service on Sunday, August 31. The hard-luck venue, which opened 17 years ago in a then-innovative structure as the Conservatory Grill, is a standalone building adjacent to the Clifton Park Center shopping mall -- which itself is a reinvention of the hard-luck Clifton Country Mall. Since then, it has seen a succession of restaurants of all types come and quickly go.

The soaring greenhouse, designed by Albany architect Harris Sanders and finished by Fred Hershey of Burlingame Interiors for original owners Robert and Sylvia Phillips, is anything but typical of buildings in its sprawling suburban town better known for its generic colonial-style housing developments and unimaginative strip malls. Large expanses of glass; high-beamed, girdered ceilings; plants; banquette seating -- and light. Lots and lots of light.

The only discernible design flaw in the original design was in having too many unrelieved hard surfaces bouncing sounds back at patrons, making conversation difficult during busy times. That quickly was remedied, but neither that improvement nor the venue itself has ever seen any lasting restaurant operate there.

Next, Brar is planning to unveil Terra International Cuisine, a "vegetable-focused" venture being developed with an eye toward a fall opening at 238 Washington Avenue in downtown Albany. It will feature kosher, pescatarian and Indian food, with a raw-food and juice-bar component.

That project has been in progress for more than a year, but progress was delayed by a fire in March. Repairs to the damage it caused have been made and the originally-planned construction work has been resumed.