Buffalo Food Otaku

Buffalo Food Otaku Otaku is a Japanese word meaning obsessive (or nerd )
(3)

We have nothing but tears for this giant loss to our City’s cultural infrastructure. Our hearts go out to all the wonder...
06/18/2024

We have nothing but tears for this giant loss to our City’s cultural infrastructure. Our hearts go out to all the wonderful employees over the years, and the friends we shared laughs, and a [beer] with. While it was a small consolation we cherished our last steak sandwich there less than 48 hours ago.

RIP the “Old Pink.”

Damage to the Old Pink at 223 Allen St., was listed at about $1.25 million, city spokesperson Mike DeGeorge said.

Perhaps one of the most yawning gaps in the WNY culinary scene was the lack of Turkish fare. While there have been a sca...
06/06/2024

Perhaps one of the most yawning gaps in the WNY culinary scene was the lack of Turkish fare. While there have been a scant few placeholders in the past, I am hoping its newest iteration will hold a more permanent position.

Hailing from nearby Rochester, Sofra recently opened their second location on the Cheektowaga/Depew border just minutes from the airport—in a large, open palace gleaming with mid-90s chic.

Upon arrival one’s attention is immediately drawn to a colorful assortment of house-made confections, clearly crafted with a skilled hand. But sweets would not drag me out to the recesses of Cheektowaga.

The draw was an ancient cuisine with echoes and influences drawing from the Levant through the Mediterranean. Here you can taste the roots of our modern pastrami made famous by the Jewish Deli, or the glory of spiced/skewered meats (sans pork) grilled to perfection as adored throughout the Muslim world. Was it not Dooky Chase who suggested that many of the world’s problems could be solved by a shared meal…or maybe it was just her delicious gumbo?

While Sofra’s donar (like a gyro) is presently relegated to the weekends, you can still enjoy some unique eats with a strong traditional Turkish coffee, or their more tame black tea. By way of example is the pide or lahmacun—basically two types of pizza one shaped like a boat, the other traditionally round. Yet, these “pizzas” are unlike any others in the area boasting topping ranging from pastrami to a runny egg in a bed of cheese.

Yet, the real find was the Iskender Kabob featuring meat wrapped in a thin pita. This is then topped with a tomato sauce (tasting of caramelized t. paste), and paired with a raw yoghurt. The compliment of flavors was a perfect pairing echoing those ancient roots that stretched so far as to find similarities with my family’s Italian cuisine.

We think you will really love it, and suggest a visit in the near future.

Anyone who has read our posts long enough surely would have heard us refer to chef Bryan Mecozzi, owner of Kenmore’s Bla...
05/11/2024

Anyone who has read our posts long enough surely would have heard us refer to chef Bryan Mecozzi, owner of Kenmore’s Black Iron as the “King of the Small Plates.” You would also know that we do not go around dropping titles haphazardly.

Through the years, chef Bryan has created approachable dishes that are as flavorful as they are beautiful. It is the reason why he is one of the first names that slide effortlessly from our lips when someone is searching for a private chef for a special event.

At the aesthetically pleasing Black Iron, his newest homestead decked in blacks and neon purples, you have two dining options: a prix fixe tasting menu, or a series of simpler dishes at the bar.

While many are tempted by the prix fixe meal, which is quite excellent, Sadie and I prefer a series of small bites at the bar paired with some cocktails or wine, and Black Iron is one of the best places in town for such an experience—with arguably the most comfortable bar stools in NY—as Bryan said: “The vortex of seats.”

Chef Mecozzi has a real talent for Lebanese flavors so we would always recommend ordering anything of that ilk, especially spiced with za’atar. On our most recent visit it was a Man’oushe (a za’atar-laden flat bread pizza), and despite our food-laden bellies we indulged heartily.

Another of his prominent talents is in hiring bar staff, as some of the finest in WNY have showcased their skills at his establishments. Presently, the restaurant has two wine wünderkinder in Derik Moy, and Zach Hakes, though Zach’s clean, crisp cocktails underscore a protean skillset. Yet, it is my understanding that Zach will soon be off to take a lead at The Little Club, and the vivacious Cassidy Barnes will be returning, whose rosewater-scented Negroni still haunts my dreams.

While Black Iron is certainly deserving of a night out in its own respect, may I suggest you include it as part of the “Kenmore Triumvirate.” You start with snacks and drinks at Black Iron, stop into the nearby Nøwhere Lounge for one more cocktail, and then finish off hard at Home Taste, which are all within walking distance. Of course, that leaves Jay's Artisan Wood Fired Pizza (a wee bit further up the road) for a belly-busting night cap before you sleep like royalty.

It all starts at Black Iron.

Duck, Duck, Why not Goose?Generally, as American Carnivores we love duck meat:  the succulent breast à l’orange, its glo...
05/07/2024

Duck, Duck, Why not Goose?

Generally, as American Carnivores we love duck meat: the succulent breast à l’orange, its glorious rendered fat cap, a glistening confit thigh, and let us not forget one of our most taboo culinary delights, foie gras. Yet, while 90% of all foie is duck, historically it was a goose liver.

Goose is anatomically similar to duck, only larger and a bit darker, with a rich meat flavor. Goose also has that same glorious fat cap that creates an incredibly flavorful schmaltz. It could be argued that goose is every bit as delicious as duck, but somehow it rarely finds its way onto the American plate.

Part of the issue is cost, as goose tends to be prohibitively expensive-it has something to do with the fact it grazes. Yet, I am sure I am not the only one with thoughts of dining on those nasty Canadian Geese that frequently attack us in WNY parking lots.

Taiwan on the other hand has wholeheartedly embraced the goose as a culinary delight, and we had the opportunity to sample some of the finest examples in Taipei. The breast was sliced thin, roasted, and spiced with Taiwan’s omnipresent Wu Xiang Fen (5 spice powder). It retained its succulence, and was paired with a julienne of fresh ginger.

Yet, the standout was the rendered schmaltz mixed with rice, and a touch of salinity. It sounds simple. Too simple in fact. But maybe that is why it is so perfect. While the taste of the meat gives you a good understanding of the beast, it is in its fat that we derive the true essence. Here, the goose essence shined mixed with perfectly cooked grains of the Orient’s most celebrated starch.

Perhaps, with this post we can remind our readers of the glory of the goose, and forego your next duck breast for its fatter, delicious cousin.

Osaka is densely populated with restaurants. There are so many that the City’s nickname is “Heaven’s Kitchen.”  This mak...
05/02/2024

Osaka is densely populated with restaurants. There are so many that the City’s nickname is “Heaven’s Kitchen.” This makes competition fierce, keeps costs/prices very low, and causes many restaurants to specialize in either one style of cooking or one type of food.

So what draws an Otaku into a restaurant? When I saw Sadie’s eyes glaze over when reading a menu, it took me a second to see why she was so excited about a back-alley hole-in-the-wall. The first picture is what she saw, a menu; and even if you don’t read kanji, you may notice a pattern. The kanji that repeats itself looking like a ladder and a wing, or a window looking out on a rainy day, 豚 means pig, and the kanji next to that are a list of parts: head meat 頭 肉, ears 耳, feet 足, stomach 胃, tongue 舌, etc.

As usual, Sadie struck gold in her hometown. With friends and family, we sat at a converted cupboard in an alley, perfumed with pork essence, while downing chu-hi’s, and absolutely delicious pork bits.

Gnawing on the unctuous collagen from a grilled pig’s foot (toe nails in tact) with Sadie’s 4 year old cousin only made the experience that much more memorable.

If you are going to learn any kanji, I suggest starting with 豚.

Would you buy sushi that is sold in a box at room temperature?In Nara, an ancient former capital of Japan, we experience...
04/30/2024

Would you buy sushi that is sold in a box at room temperature?

In Nara, an ancient former capital of Japan, we experienced a rare culinary treat called kakinoha-sushi.

In the past, while visiting Japan you have seen us dine on dishes that fly in the face of American food safety rules, like raw chicken at a yakitori restaurant. So today, in that same vein we feature unrefrigerated, room-temperature, raw fish.

Kakinoha-sushi is actually marinated in vinegar pressed onto seasoned rice, and wrapped in a kaki (persimmon) leaf, the “divine fruit” widely grown in this region. It is believed that the leaf not only helps preserve the room-temp sushi, but adds a sweetness to which we can attest. It is sold in beautiful boutiques in boxes, and should be eaten within 48 hours of purchase. However, no refrigeration is needed.

We sampled some seasonal varieties featuring saba (mackerel), ebi (shrimp), sake (salmon), tai (snapper), and seasonal vegetables topped with chirimen jako (baby sardines). They were all mild in flavor with a noticeable sweetness, and a beautiful chew on the rice—like an onigiri. The standout was clearly the saba which seems to be made for such a preparation.

We would recommending buying some to snack on, on the train ride back from Nara. It is safe, and quite delicious.

The typical impression of a great Japanese sushi restaurant usually resembles the following: the master chef is at least...
04/27/2024

The typical impression of a great Japanese sushi restaurant usually resembles the following: the master chef is at least an octogenarian who spent his whole life dedicated to the craft, while for decades a slew of acolytes work at sub-par wages just to learn from him, maybe eventually touching a fish after many years of rinsing rice.

While this is a popular model it is not the only way to the top, especially if you are a chef with talent—and a quality palate certainly helps. Chef Masaya Komori went at the whole process backwards—with the business model first. He determined how much he wanted to earn each month, with the possibility for growth and expansion, and minimal cooking. This lead him to omakase sushi. He spent a year going from sushi restaurant to restaurant watching the masters work, dining on their end product, while spending all of his remaining time on YouTube combing through scads of cooking videos. This led him to the concept of aged sushi—which can now be found at his 6-seater restaurant, Aged Sushi Rita in Osaka.

Since we are familiar with the concept of aging beef, aged sushi seems to logically follow. Yet, let us not forget the problem of trimethylamine (fish odor), and ammonia build-up as seafood loses its freshness. As diners, it is rare we are seeking a more intense fish flavor—as it is already quite strong, opposed to beef. Chef Komori’s aging actually changes the texture of the fish due to water evaporation, more than the flavor—and he generously explains his process on his YouTube page for the young acolyte in search of wisdom as he once did.

Chef Komori was kind enough to give us, and our friend chef Vic Nachampassak (Kuni’s Restaurant) a peek behind the scenes on how a modern, youthful sushi restaurant is set up in Japan. We watched him prep our omakase from a box of room temperature fish—a benefit of aging, artfully skinning and slicing depending on the shape and species. While many of the fish were aged about 9-10 days, a Canadian salmon was stretched out for 21 days.

In one course, he highlighted the difference in chutoro that was farmed via aquaculture vs. wild—the wild having both a stronger flavor and darker color, yet a wonderful mildness was found in the farmed version.

We dined on raw unagi-a rare treat, which is almost always grilled due to the toxicity of its blood. It takes iron nerves to serve this at your restaurant, and it retains some of the creaminess found in the grilled version.

Also paramount in his cuisine was the selection of rarer seasonal fish like kue (long toothed grouper), shima aji (striped jack), kuromutsu (Japanese bluefish) or shiro amadai (white horse head fish) which were paired with a variety of seasoning at his arsenal like citrusy yuzu/sudachi, searing hot binchotan or hojiso (shiso flowers).

Finally, and most impressive to us diners was the flow in temperatures of the fishes in each course, from warm to cool, to a buri (large hamachi) hand roll that was so hot it was hard to hold.

Chef Komori impressed us with his skill, drive, and creativity in finding his own way. He finished the meal with what could only be described as a sushi parfait consisting of leftover scraps, and the sweetest Hokkaido ikura (salmon roe) I have enjoyed. We found that this young chef barely tripped while skipping so many steps on his way to the top.

As Americans we are very familiar with the concept of Japanese tempura (deep fried battered bits), but somehow kushikats...
04/20/2024

As Americans we are very familiar with the concept of Japanese tempura (deep fried battered bits), but somehow kushikatsu never gained the same traction. I would like to change that.

Kushikatsu are breaded (versus battered), and fried bits on a stick, and if done artfully, like at Kushiage Kenkushi Shop in Osaka, they make an incredible meal. This meal was done omakase style where the only questions asked were: 1) any allergies; and 2) do you eat natto? After that it was sit back and say stop when you are full.

Course after course came varying seafood, meat, and fresh vegetables, illustrating the remarkable creativity and diversity a kushikatsu restaurant could provide, without the proper formality I found at tempura omakase.

Dishes ranged from whole shrimp (you have to eat the head) to daikon wrapped in ham, to cheese stuffed tomatoes topped with a pesto-like sauce. Chef presented, told us which sauce to use, and followed up with something completely different. While we would have liked to see how far chef could go, especially after a riff on mapo tofu, we eventually called it quits after far too many courses of crunchy delights.

While the average kushikatsu restaurant may not be omakase style, and much more limited in scope, finding an outlier like this, with a talented chef, you will crave the art in this shamefully neglected corner of Japanese cuisine.

As a follow up to our last post, and after a Dark Night of the Seoul [imbibing culture], one of the dishes we could not ...
04/19/2024

As a follow up to our last post, and after a Dark Night of the Seoul [imbibing culture], one of the dishes we could not miss in Korea was gopchang. This is one of many local meals that are specifically designed to be eaten while sipping on Soju, called anju.

Gopchang consists of cylinders of beef small intestines that are encased in a fluffy layer of fat. When griddled at the table to perfection they get chewy and crunchy-with a soft center, perfect when dipped in a sweet chili sauce, and tasting like beef-butter bombs. When not cleaned well they could have some barnyard funk, but luckily this back-alley locale put in the time to wash this treat thoroughly.

As the tallow renders, it is used to cook other vegetables like king oyster mushrooms, nira, soy bean sprouts, and most-notably potato. The vegetables get crispy and beefy creating perhaps one of the finest late night treats in Korea.

Through the culinary lens, as with most cultures that have struggled with poverty in the past, they have adapted what li...
04/17/2024

Through the culinary lens, as with most cultures that have struggled with poverty in the past, they have adapted what little they could get their hands on, and made it as delicious as possible. Korea is no exception, and from their delectable fermented foods, dried fish, and manipulation of offal, they are clearly one of the world’s finest examples of this principle.

As Otaku, while we can certain enjoy a marbled hunk of Hanwoo Beef (the Korean alternative to Wagyu), that is not the cuisine from which we tingle in excitement. Instead, it is the permeating funk of offal that has us salivating like Pavlov’s pack.

Walking down the streets in Gangnam, Seoul just like a cartoon, Sadako caught a faint whiff, and started to Toucan Sam. This olfactory path of black pepper and funk led her directly to Park Seo-bang Sundae Gukbap, where she quickly gleaned, and related to me it was an obachan (grandma) restaurant. Yet, while the kitchen was dominated by older women, this packed locale had nary a woman in the house, and even less English.

Eventually, the kindly and patient staff delivered us, amongst a slew of banchan and dipping sauces, a glistening plate of pork offal consisting of sundae (blood sausage), collagen-rich cheek meat, ears, tongue, and placenta. Small plates contained a whole bean miso, a miso spiked with garlic and chilis, a dried shrimp (umami bomb) sauce, egoma (Korean perilla leaves), spicy green peppers, chili salt, nira (garlic chives), and raw onions. It was as simple, as it was intense, and absolutely delicious.

They are also known for their Sundae Guk, a bubbling hot soup served in a dolsot with the aforementioned offal, a crimson chili paste, and seasoned with perilla seeds and black pepper.

This hearty meal was everything we could have ever hoped for in Korea, and prepared our stomachs from a long night of imbibing—as well as a permeating funk on our persons that followed us for the next few hours, and perhaps explained the manly preponderance in attendance.

Head to our IG page for videos of the experience.

Perhaps one of the biggest heroes of the Quarantine, outside of the medical community, of course, was Chef Massimo Bottu...
04/14/2024

Perhaps one of the biggest heroes of the Quarantine, outside of the medical community, of course, was Chef Massimo Bottura, made famous by his OSTERIA FRANCESCANA in Modena. Every day as we quietly waited out the plague, Chef Bottura would live broadcast with his family as they would laugh and cook. Sadako and I fell in love with this warmhearted family, and especially Charlie, their developmentally disabled son with a famous sweet tooth.

While we have nary a chance of ever getting a reservation to his Osteria, he has opened several boutique restaurants in collaboration with, and designed by the House of Gucci, one of which is in Itaewan, Seoul. To celebrate my first anniversary of marriage to Sadako, this was sine qua non. Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura (Seoul).

While the cuisine has the footprint of chef Bottura, it is interpreted by a local chef with local ingredients, brought under the guise of Italian cuisine. (Need I even use the too-oft abused word “fusion”?) In Seoul, it is chef Hyungkyu Jun, and his dedicated, hospitable staff that runs the show.

The restaurant is decorated in a manner that can only be described as Gucci with pastel greens and pinks, in the most elegant manner. The mirror-lined bathrooms echoed royalty, while the animal-clawed furniture can almost be deemed ironic as they are reminiscent of 18th Century Europe, which was meant to be reminiscent of the orient, now artfully found in the orient.

The seven small courses, studded with an amuse bouche, and perfect tortellini, left us beyond sated, especially paired with some soju, and wonderful wines. It was clear that chef Jun understands balance and flow as the courses seamlessly grew in richness peaked by a succulent tenderloin of Korea’s lauded Hanwoo Beef, and paired with a spring, stuffed morel, and local bitter greens.

Yet, the highlight for Sadie and I, was a dish of conchiglie (conch shaped pasta) in the style of a Livornese stew made with local abalone, and purple seaweed. The flavors were bold, enriched with abalone liver, served with some of the most tender abalone slices I had the pleasure of enjoying.

To cap off this Korean-Italian meal with a complimentary Vin Santo to celebrate our first anniversary was a chocolate dessert named for the beloved Charlie Bottura, and a fitting conclusion to a glorious meal with the Korean-Japanese woman that this Italian-American was locked in with during quarantine.

Should you find yourself Sleepless in Seoul, due to haphazardly dashing through too many time zones, might we suggest a ...
04/10/2024

Should you find yourself Sleepless in Seoul, due to haphazardly dashing through too many time zones, might we suggest a subway trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market, bustling in the wee small hours of the morning.

While some relish a trip to the Aquarium, we find the same frustrating due to our inability to eat that which is so beautifully presented before you.

The same can not be said for an Asian fish market chock full of exotic fish on display, including plenty of luscious, giant crab. After being attacked by an escaped hirame, we selected some beautiful abalone, and bay scallops from immaculate tanks, and were led on our journey to a nearby restaurant. There our selected seafood was prepared to our liking, in this case sashimi, and steamed respectively, and paired with some banchan.

While the large, slimy, raw, sea green abalone livers were a bit daunting, like intrepid food travelers, and thankfully wrapped in egoma, lettuce, and plenty of ssamjang, we took them down like champs—clearly making this the breakfast of.

Should you find yourself overnight at the Toronto airport, eschewing the cuisine of Asia because of the fact you will be...
04/06/2024

Should you find yourself overnight at the Toronto airport, eschewing the cuisine of Asia because of the fact you will be flying there the next day, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle. While Missisauga, and its surrounds revel in Asian cuisine, fine outliers from outside the world’s largest continent seem few and far between.

We would suggest a short drive to Vaughan (NW of Toronto) to try out BUCA’s newest location. Over the years be have become enamored with its original King Street W. location, but it was the seafood-focused Yorkville location in the Four Seasons munching on fried smelt or pasta seasoned with house bottarga which set us atwitter.

Open for less than a year, in the first floor of a large apartment complex, in an otherwise depopulated region, this gorgeous locale with vaulted ceilings seems to be a greatest hits mashup, featuring classics from both menus. From King Street you can find their signature eggplant tower and mammoth curing room, while from Yorkville they feature that hand-sliced bronzino crudo, and other oceanic bits.

While I could wax poetic on the refined, vermillion, tomato sauce supporting the eggplant tower, presumably enriched with butter ala Hazan, or the grilled octopus-which we are well aware perhaps could contain a wee touch of sentience-but is so damned delicious it sticks you in a moral dilemma that slippery slopes into a Modest Proposal-swimming in a rich, beef bone marrow brodo with clams and fried artichokes, the cuisine was shockingly not the highlight. Nor was the incredible back-bar, which contained an amaro and grappa selection which would put any similar restaurant in the States to shame.

At Buca, it was the hospitality underscored by the obvious fact that the staff has a deep pride in their employment. You can tell they love the menu, the wine, the spirits, and they are proud to be serving such a high quality fare. It is exactly that pride, which turns high-end dining into an experience.

As we downed our final bites of Abruzzese pizzelli, stacked like the Torre del Cerrano supported by whipped cream and marzipan dollops surrounding pools of strawberry compote, and a mizzle of white chocolate ganache we knew we would have no problem sleeping by 8 pm to catch our early morning flight.

Far too long absent from our radar was a perennial Buffalo classic, oft-lauded by the Otaku in days of yore, shamefully ...
04/04/2024

Far too long absent from our radar was a perennial Buffalo classic, oft-lauded by the Otaku in days of yore, shamefully overlooked whilst searching for new and different, yet constant and steadfast in its errand of escalating Southern Fare: James Robert’s Toutant.

While Buffalo has undergone seismic shifts in its culinary landscape, Toutant has survived shifting norms, shifting foundations, and shifting frozen pipes, not to mention a pandemic. Perhaps, it is due to Robert’s unrelenting demand for excellence, which culinary certainly has been true, especially after enjoying an ephemeral, stick-to-your-ribs special of chicken and biscuits, littered and essenc-ed with bits of their famous fried foul.

Pairing our feast with the fabulously balanced cocktails of Jill Huntyan, and the witty repartee of Buffalo’s most colorful front-of-the-house persona grata, Adam Smith (not the Scottish economist). Toutant offers one of the finest dining experiences in WNY, and one we hope to cherish for years to come.

Buffalo’s prodigal pizzaiolo has returned, and established a wonderful, new restaurant in East Aurora, dubbed Pizzeria F...
04/02/2024

Buffalo’s prodigal pizzaiolo has returned, and established a wonderful, new restaurant in East Aurora, dubbed Pizzeria Florian.

For those unfamiliar with the tales of Chef Jay Langfelder, he emerged in WNY when our pizza culture was dominated by Bocce-ian excess cheese, canned sauce, and a crust with density that can best be compared to neutron star. While there were some Italian outliers, none took dough as seriously as this Otaku, whom we have, on more than one occasion, tried to coerce him contribute to our site with a treatise on the alchemy of yeast and flour.

While perhaps mesmerizing the fire inspector with his incredible pies, Jay was somehow allowed to install a wood-fired oven in a food truck, and single-handedly, offered an alternative to the dense norm we called the “Buffalo-style” pie.

The OG Wood-fired truck eventually morphed into Jay’s Artisan Pizza in Kenmore. From here some of Buffalo’s finest pizzaiolo’s honed their skills from Joey Pucciarelli (Extra Extra), Mike Thill (formerly 100 Acres/The Grange), and Joe Powers, who eventually bought the place, and excelled it to what has been ranked as one of the finest pizza spots in the World. Sadly, that is when Jay decided to leave us for Florida.

Fast forward from Jay’s departure, while remnants of the old remain, we have a new and exciting Pizza culture in WNY focusing on taste and quality, and breaking old norms.

Like many restless souls escaping from our harsh, cold winters, one can only assume that Jay was drawn back by the warm hearts of our populace, and for that we are lucky. Yet, East Aurora’s Pizzeria Florian is not Jay’s Artisan Pizza 2.0. It is something new, and different.

Like a true Otaku, Jay likes to play with recipes, where nothing becomes sacred. He tweaks ingredients, and techniques to his ends. For Pizzeria Florian he created a new type of pizza that does not readily fall into any of the traditional categories (Neapolitan, NY, Detroit, etc.) The dough has tensile strength, with the ability to remain erect when hoisted by the crust, which is puffy and airy from its 3 day proof, yet retains its crunch. Perhaps, we are witnessing the evolution of the Buffalo pie.

Instead of a glut of ingredients, dotted with cup and char, we see culinary restraint in his pies bursting with creativity. My personal favorite was the sausage and fennel, featuring pickled fennel and cherry peppers, reminding me of everything I love in a good pie. He features a classic cheese pie, but also a seemingly similar Margherita; an intentional move by the chef, highlighting the vast difference in quality and flavor of a fine Buffalo-milk Mozzarella.

His Calabrian Crunch pie features an Italian chili-crisp made daily, in-house with those famous, spicy, Italian peppers. While the citrus pie, with mandoline-d clementines, and rosemary had us diners agog with flavors generally not found on dough.

To pair with the pies was a Parmigiano-dusted chopped salad, looking so delectable that we watched several tables jump up and follow our lead. When there is a leg of prosciutto on a slicer you never skip the charcuterie board. However, the real surprise was a small plate of beautiful pink speck, paired with hazelnuts, and Fuji apples topped with a miso vinaigrette.

We went with a table of distinguished eaters, and ran the menu. Pizzeria Florian left the entire table sated. The restaurant is small, and features counter-service, but soon the patio will be open. They also have a liquor license, which presently only features wine and beer. I would suggest going on a weekday, ordering a bottle of sparkling red, a small plate, a pie, and some delicious cannoli. Perhaps, you will get a hint of how lucky we are to have this prodigal son return to the fold.

In the 80s my parents were certified Chinese cuisine enthusiasts, so much so the modern writer might deign use the term ...
03/14/2024

In the 80s my parents were certified Chinese cuisine enthusiasts, so much so the modern writer might deign use the term “obsessed.” Almost weekly we would cross the border where Chinese cuisine reigned far superior to the WNY alternatives. Our most frequent stop was the nearby lacquered palace called Jade Garden, which is still there, but a far inferior version of its former self. Yet, when we wanted that special meal we would drive out to Fort Erie to Ming Teh.

Situated on the Niagara River with a “beautiful” view of the waterfront I190, and the Col. Ward Pumping Station, this strange building is a mix of Chinese restaurant, art studio, and sauna, with its preponderance of wood paneling. Playing to my nostalgia it has barely changed in over 4 decades. Yet, still meticulously clean, and sporting that same Cubist sculpture announcing its presence.

Ming Teh was always set apart from its neighbors (Happy Jacks, and the former May Wah), by its unique menu with a higher quality of dishes. There are still only a scant, few restaurants featuring Peking Duck locally (at Ming Teh you have to remember to order 48 hours in advance), and to have proteins like escargot and lamb featured at a Chinese Restaurant was almost unheard of.

Yet, over the years Ming Teh has garnered a following by not following the trends. They have a unique style, and stayed with that style for better or for worse. Here, the worse being that the restaurant has been pretty much empty on my past several visits.

So where does my deep love for this artistic institution stem? Why, the food of course.

Simple dishes like chicken with sweet bean paste bust with flavor. With their Mu Shu Pork you can trace my love of hoisin sauce right back to the source, with their chewy, rice pancakes. Newer menu items like their salt and pepper fish were perfectly seasoned with the aforementioned, as well as crispy and delicious. And, need I even mention the Chewy Dry Fried Beef Strips which is the most unique, crave-able menu item you may ever find at a Chinese restaurant.

Ming Teh offers a menu that rewards straying from the well-trodden path, as the kitchen staff is talented enough to make just about anything delicious with their signature flavors. I would also highly recommend taking the time to read the descriptions of select items at the back of the menu. This is where I found the uniquely basil-spiced pork dish entitled “Fragrant Clouds.” A combination of Nabokov, and Japanese Iron Chef judge these snippets of literatura are worth every penny. And, with most menu items costing less than $20 Canadian, this high-quality experience is a steal.

Go with a big crowd, and go now! They have a huge space, and it’s completely underutilized. Let us not lose another culinary institution. Rotate your trips to Rizzo's House Of Parm with the shorter trek to Ming Teh, and experience what a unique sense of individualism tastes like.

#中華

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