Buffalo Food Otaku

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To conclude our short excursion to Toronto we present an incredible restaurant that was hiding in plain sight, Cà Phê Ra...

To conclude our short excursion to Toronto we present an incredible restaurant that was hiding in plain sight, Cà Phê Rang. We would have never even knew it was there were it not for the investigative efforts of our friend, Lina Tran.

One would think that as food bloggers we would have known that Chefs Rang Nguyen and Matty Matheson opened a restaurant together. We did not. Yet, that fact is a large part of its charm. It is purposely hidden. Even the exterior with its yellow, green, and blue signage blends in perfectly with Spadina looking like any other traditional mom and pop Vietnamese restaurant.

The interior is verdantly lush with rubber plants, and a framed picture of an androgynous Vietnamese pop star—basically your stereotypical grandma’s living room.

The scene sets the stage for a meal that grandma would have made, with some minor tweaks—but those minor tweaks make all the difference. By way of example the Prawn Roll is a traditional fresh roll only with beautiful pink prawns in lieu of the standard U10s, and a praline peanut sauce with caramelized sugars will make any other peanut sauce cow in envy.

The bánh mì strayed into the dry side, but with a bowl of phô dip quickly rectified any complaints. However, be warned that the spicy version transforms simple da chua into an ass-searing Medieval torture device for the entire oral cavity, and remaining digestive tract. This is coming from a person who actually enjoys very spicy foods.

I have purposively saved the best for last, and will now issue a statement that will forever challenge my status as a true Buffalonean:

Cà Phê Rang serves the best chicken wings.

Let us let the impact of this die down for a second…

…please indulge us.

Ten wings, all flats are neatly stacked into a prism, served with a lime, cut properly. The wings are fried to a golden crisp, and covered in what I believe to be a sweetened fish sauce (pure umami by any other name).

This beautiful stack of sticky, crispy wings are served with an undefined creamy concoction (maybe mayo-definitely not ranch) covered in a chili oil that was made so fresh you can still taste the wok smoke. Pair that with a Tiger Beer Tall-Boy on a hot day, and I dare say you will never find a better chicken wing.

I have said my peace. Try it for yourself, and let us know.


The Otaku finally made it to Giulietta, and everything you have heard about this restaurant is true. It is notoriously l...

The Otaku finally made it to Giulietta, and everything you have heard about this restaurant is true. It is notoriously loud, trendy, very difficult to get a reservation, and the food is absolutely delicious. Sadie was diligent enough to score us some bar seats, and we had a wonderful evening.

Dishes tended towards Italian simplicity, allowing the ingredients to shine, and representing aspects of the entire peninsula. This was illustrated most notably by our first course of zucchini croquettes, with some tempura fried baby zuccs, flowers attached. Every bite was the delicious essence of summer.

The finest course of the evening was a low-end favorite, the traditional dish of Trippa alla Romana with grilled bread. The honey-comb tripe was cooked just long enough to remove the rubbery chew, with plenty of its essence remaining in the sauce that we quickly mopped up with some deceptively ethereal bread. This course perfectly paired with another product formerly relegated to the low-end, an organic Royal Cantina Bassoli Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna.

We also really enjoyed the La Giulietta pizza featuring a Sicilian pistachio pesto, lardo from Modena, creamy panna, and smoked scamorza. The lardo took on the flavor of its Emilian cousin, mortadella creating a magical medley of flavors on a beautiful, airy dough.

We finished the meal with a rare Grappi di Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco (Barolo’s less famous Piedmontese Cousin—both made with Nebbiolo grapes, in this case the pomace), and a bitter, citrus, Calabrian Roger Extra Strong Amaro, as their collection was quite impressive, with ample gracious assistance by the bar staff.

Giulietta deserves all the hype, and was truly enjoyed by the Otaku.

#イタリア料理 #トロント #イタリアン #ピザ

In contrast to the meal we just described at Alo Restaurant as being out of balance, we proffer a prix-fixe meal that wa...

In contrast to the meal we just described at Alo Restaurant as being out of balance, we proffer a prix-fixe meal that was so balanced, the Korean name of the restaurant translates to “completeness.” Orote restaurant is located just off of Bloor West right past Koreatown, the restaurant is less than a year old, and owned/helmed by Chef Kwangtaek Lee.

Sadako and I have been searching for restaurants that craft traditional Asian flavors and ingredients with refinement, like MIMI Chinese that we experienced on our last visit. While high-end Korean occupies some of the top rungs in NYC dining with Atomix, and JeJu Noodle Bar, this is a seemingly, relatively unexplored genre in Toronto.

It turns out that Chef Lee is an alum of perhaps the finest restaurant in Toronto, Chef Justin Cournoyer’s Actinolite Restaurant with its ethos of uber-seasonal, foraged, flora-focused, frequently fermented foods. This was the initial draw, but Orote is certainly not Actinolite 2.0.

The menu is a relatively inexpensive ($78/person) 6 course prix-fixe, with some optional add-ons—in the Otaku world these are not optional. Like Actinolite, there was plenty of seasonal fresh vegetables, but chef went his own way, and clearly wanted to elicit traditional Korean, home-style comfort cuisine only elegantly refined.

With the opening volley of a fresh strawberry and current tart over a pine nut butter the links to Korea seemed tenuous, but were quickly cemented with a delicious gochuchang, sesame-oil flavored chicken ssam utilizing a pickled slice of daikon in lieu of a lettuce wrap, or fatty pieces of yellowtail sashimi lightened with soy, yuzu, and shiso.

An Italian tomato, cucumber, basil salad was given the Asian treatment with some Korean melon (Was that a subtle taste of caraway?), but it was the tomato-rich, basil juice that remained which had us barely resisting the urge to take the bowls to our lips and drink. 

Right when we thought the menu would get heavy with some mandu, chef lightened these dumplings with tofu and shiitake, in a delicious, smoky, salted dashi, a hint of horseradish oil for roundness, and shimeji mushrooms for more umami and texture. This purposely restrained dish showed balance perfected.

The mains consisted of a White Fish with crispy skin grilled to a char on a grate, with zucchini and sweet, yellow plum for contrast. There was also a grilled, skin-on chicken breast, prepared moist, paired with a creamy corn purée, textured with crunchy bits. With fresh tarragon, and nasturtium you could experience a different flavor with every bite, a technique Sadako calls 味変 (Ajihen).

These delicious entrees were paired with an optional chive-corn rice dish flavored with that magical synergy of soy and butter, and served in a searing-hot dolsot. This dish was pure comfort, and enough to feed 4 people. This is when Sadako got the brilliant idea to ask for Saran Wrap, which thankfully Chef obliged, and we made some onigiri right at the bar for late night snacking in our room. Chef was also generous enough to share some delicious pickles to pair with this night cap.

With a final course of roasted-rice ice cream (brilliant), peaches, soy cream, and mint we rounded off the evening, but not without one more off-menu treat.

Siena, our friendly server suggested a treat formerly reserved only for Korean Royalty. Sujeonggwa is a cinnamon punch garnished with pine nuts, and at Orote they offer it spiked with bourbon. It was a perfect compliment to finish the meal.

In short, we were “complete,” leaving with a smile, some onigiri, and wonderful memories.

#トロント #韓国料理

Our tour of Toronto’s finest dining continues with Alo Restaurant, a place many have ranked the top restaurant in Canada...

Our tour of Toronto’s finest dining continues with Alo Restaurant, a place many have ranked the top restaurant in Canada. We can understand why.

At a very high price point the hospitality and service was impeccable, the wine pairings exceptional, the ingredients were worldly delicacies, and they were all prepared with pinpoint technique. Individually, each course was absolutely delicious, but the pairing menu itself is where our problem lies. Sometimes you have to zoom out to see the whole picture, or to listen to the flow of songs on an album to feel how they interact. The essence that was missing was balance.

We started with a selections of canapés, and fresh seafood. The flavors of fresh oyster, fluke, scallops, and toro were light, clean, and well paired. There was a wonderful canapé stuffed with foie gras, and jam. It was a delicious bite, that will unfortunately be revisited too soon.

The next course was fresh-sliced Jamon Iberco on a crunchy pillow stuffed with aerated manchengo. This was paired with very buttery potatoes, strips of lomo, and an emulsified clam and butter sauce—a Hollandaise-based sauce by any other name… This obviously was a rich, buttery course.

Our third course was a beautiful foie gras tart with a berry compote—basically foie gras and jelly again. Perhaps, the band picked up a theme in the first song, and wanted to play it in a grander selection. We saw this as chef opting for another heavy course, with flavors we already experienced.

The fourth course was my favorite of the evening. A sushi grade rice was treated in the style of a risotto, with spinach and crunchy puffed grains. I would have requested a whole bowl to eat on the couch watching a movie. It was one of the most comforting dishes I have ever enjoyed with a tasting menu. Yet, what is that splash of buttery, yellow sauce in the corner? More Hollandaise? Once again, it was a heavy course.

The next course was described as buttery scrambled eggs, over king crab, over a quail egg yolk. Call it what you will, but it was Hollandaise again, and the richest, butteriest course of the evening. I apologize for the repetitive writing, but hopefully we are making a point here.

Finally, we lighten up a bit with a gorgeous madai (red sea bream) given the Asian treatment with a light sauce, and some pickled cucumbers and daikon. At this point we were hoping, chef realized he drowned us in butters and fats, and would coast us to airier realms.

Yet, the next two courses went right back into the fatty deep end, with a gorgeous, seemingly lacquered duck breast in a thick, sticky jus, followed by a veal, and A5 Waygu in a similar thick, sticky jus. These courses were absolutely delicious, but at this point our heart beat slowed to a deadly thrum.

With dessert came sweet relief, a strawberry sorbet, and aerated double cream was followed by a composed plate of a matte-white crepe cake, and later assorted petit fours.

It was clear to us at the end that this is a tasting menu designed for people interested in Safe, gilded dining; particularly those that want to brag about their meal without experiencing any flavors that could challenge them. This is not a tasting menu that expands the mind, it merely expands the belly while thickening the artery walls. All the luxurious ingredients and fats could not cover the fact that this was a meal out of balance.

Yet, please to do think we are saying that this meal was without merit. It was clear that the entire support staff was at the top of their game, both in the front and back of house. The staff was absolutely incredible, hard working, warm and welcoming. We were treated like royalty throughout, and enjoyed some truly delicious bites. We understand why people love Alo so much, but the Otaku were hoping for so much more.

#トロント #

Honored to be written up by Canvas Rebel magazine, though it was supposed to be an article about Sadie and myself. Nonet...
Meet Joseph Leta

Honored to be written up by Canvas Rebel magazine, though it was supposed to be an article about Sadie and myself. Nonetheless, check out below to see how the Otaku keep bucking industry standards.

Alright - so today we've got the honor of introducing you to Joseph Leta. We think you'll enjoy our conversation, we've shared it below. Joseph, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. To kick things off, we’d love to hear about things you or your brand do that diverge from the indus...

If you have followed the food adventures of the Otaku then you know that we adore Billy Club. Jack Strawser and Dan Hage...

If you have followed the food adventures of the Otaku then you know that we adore Billy Club.

Jack Strawser and Dan Hagen’s restaurant has been bucking all the trends on Allen attempting to raise up that which is sullied. With its strong cocktail program it has become the favorite hangout of the hospitality industry, but on our most recent visit cocktails were not our focus.

Under the helm of former Chef Nathaniel Beardsley, Billy Club rose to one of our favorite dining destinations in Buffalo, with his vegetable-centric cuisine, beautiful pastas, and a duck breast that could make you cry. But, alas I believe Chef Beardsley went to the woods to live deliberately, and Chef Ian Wortham, with a very impressive resume was hired in his stead. I wanted to give chef some time to change over the menu, and make it his own. Last weekend we finally made it back to dine.

I applaud Billy Club in hiring a chef that shared an ethos with his predecessor for a seamless transition. While there were marked differences in presentation, the proportional layout of vegetables to meat skewed on the side of flora.

In fact, one of the finest dishes we enjoyed was a simple salad with a buttermilk vinaigrette, and cheddar. I do not normally rave about a salad, but this one was just about perfect. It was clear that chef’s comfort zone is taking simple dishes, and augmenting them with perfect restraint.

There was a dish of tomatoes and cukes served with whey and tiny croutons. This simple dish was given a layer of texture by mixing fresh tomatoes with those that were slightly roasted to wonderful effect. Even the omnipresent tuna crudo was taken in a new direction via Calabria with their signature chilis and onions, but muted so the flavor of the tuna was at the forefront.

The most aggressively seasoned dish of the evening was an octopus that was reminiscent of a chorizo paired with diced egg, and tiny, oil-cured olives bursting with flavor. Paired with a beautiful, and slightly effervescent Basque rosado it made the Mediterranean flavors sparkle.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention dessert, especially the almond cake. The crunchy, almond texture sweetened with a thick ambrosia was fine homage to its Turkish counterpart. I am already craving this dish, which only barely outshined a salted, flourless chocolate cake that looked to be laser cut.

After our recent meal we can now state with authority that Billy Club remains one of the finest dining locations in WNY.

Should anyone question where my love of fine cuisine came from, the answer is clearly my parents. They are epicureans to...

Should anyone question where my love of fine cuisine came from, the answer is clearly my parents. They are epicureans to the core. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolved around the dinner table, especially where fine dining was concerned. We would plan vacations around where we would be eating, and had our favorites locally that we would vie to visit.

My sister and I particularly would enjoy nights out at San Marco Ristorante, back when it was located on Elmwood in Kenmore, now occupied by Amici. This was 35 years ago when it first opened. Walking in from the street we would smell meats grilling, and eagerly anticipated crunching on bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, and olive oil. Even more so, and we did not know it at the time, but it was the rare hospitality we loved so much personified in owner, Frank Grimaldi. To this day when I think of great hospitality, the first face that pops in my mind is Frank’s.

As soon as we would walk in the door, he would warmly greet us, usually with a joke. He remembered all of our names, even, and especially the children. Every person who walked in was treated that way, and he immediately made you feel like you were home. This is the hospitality that is all but lost in modernity.

Frank has this mesmerizing Italian accent that can make any dish sound delicious. I can still hear him describing dishes with his refined passion, a rolled tongue, and hand gestures: “six-a large tiger shreemp, grilled;” or a “beautiful tagliatelle al salmone.” His culinary descriptions would pull you in, giving you a taste without ever opening your mouth. He was a poet, and one of the first influences on my food writing.

Of course, his Wife’s cooking gave him ample ammunition for his culinary poetry. Chef Nancy Grimaldi is the backbone of San Marco, and another huge influence on my palate. While the glut of WNY Italian restaurants followed in the lead of Chef's Restaurant or Sinatra's Restaurant, Nancy, being non-Italian forged her own path, and crafted some of the finest Italian foods in WNY.

Red sauce dishes were the exception, not the rule at San Marco. Pounded veals, delicate cream sauces, wild boar, and quail rounded out her repertoire, while the rest of town lazily melted too much mozz over pasta. I can trace my love for pink peppercorns right back to Nancy Grimaldi. As a Chef, her dishes speak with an accent as strong and distinct as that of her Husband’s, in a town that represses Italian culinary creativity.

Over time, San Marco outgrew Kenmore, and moved to their home on Kensington where they have remained to present. With their new locale, they polished up their look without ever changing the flavor profile. The beautiful decor transports you from Cheektowaga, to a magical realm of the Grimaldis where hospitality is still king. Frank may have lost some hair over the years, but that same warm humor, and glad-handed hospitality remains unscathed, and he can still improv beautiful lines of poetry describing Chef Nancy’s creations. To the line-up he has added both his step-daughter, and daughter who share in their family’s ethos, ensuring experiences that fill the belly, and warm the heart.

We get asked a lot what is our favorite Italian Restaurant in Buffalo. With equal parts nostalgia, hospitality, and creative, unique cuisine there is no doubt our answer is, and always was San Marco Ristorante.

#イタリアンレストラン #イタリア料理

We were recently invited as guests to attend Patina 250’s Guest Chef series mashing the culinary talents of Pinoy Boi’s ...

We were recently invited as guests to attend Patina 250’s Guest Chef series mashing the culinary talents of Pinoy Boi’s Chef Lloyd Ligao with house Chef Evan Wargo. For $85 a ticket with plenty of food and drink, like Sobramesa this culinary event is a steal…and a lot of people showed up.

We have done our fair share of pop ups, but with Delaware North’s massive budget this Event was treated like a wedding with a cocktail hour, photographers aplenty, passed apps, and a parting gift of Blue Eyed Baker’s macarons.

Yet, the Otaku are not swayed by optics (though it does help), and ultimately we turn to the quality of the food and drink. Chefs Ligao and Wargo did not disappoint taking full advantage of this unique opportunity to share some refined Filipino flavors in a City almost completely bereft of the same.

While there were some items we have enjoyed (and can continue to enjoy) at Pinoy Boi’s The Broadway Market location like his lumpia (spring rolls), or his delicious Ube Basque Cheesecake with Jackfruit/Coconut Ice-cream, it was the off-menu plated items we eagerly anticipated.

The highlights of the evening included two of the passed apps: his pork sisig in a taco shell garnished with chicharron, and his fresh shucked oysters with a beautiful brunoise garnish of our SE Asian favorite, papaya salad. Chef Ligao explained he had a stint at Re*****on Tavern, and wanted to show off his shucking skills.

From the main courses my highlight was the hamachi crudo garnished with scallion oil and coconut cream, a unique pairing with this almost played-out dish found on many menus throughout WNY. The SE Asian flavors took the hamachi in a new and exciting direction.

I would also be remiss not to mention the Filipino inspired cocktails one being a Tom Collins tinted a vibrate purple with Ube, the other a tropical concoction of citrus and vanilla with Filipino Tanduay Rum, the best-selling rum brand in the world. 2 more points for offering San Miguel Beer for even more Filipino authenticity.

Of course, Otaku style is to sit at the bar and we were lucky enough to have Superstar Bartender Vincent Klie (formerly Buffalo Proper and Angelica Tea Room) pair some cocktails for us to compliment the meal. This added an extra layer to the event with his signature subtle complexity found in many of his drinks. We would highly recommend Vince be unleashed at the next event to let his intoxicating creations loose.

As soon as dinner service concluded Chef Ligao rushed out of the room with his very pregnant Wife to give birth. That is dedication. We wish Chef the best of luck, happily knowing his new child will be proud that his father is one of our regions fasting growing culinary stars.

The next Guest Chef event is scheduled for September 13 with WNY’s Spice Queen Smita Chutke, and controversial celeb Chef Rocco DiSpirito. We highly recommend you grab tickets now. The last event sold out quickly.


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Buffalo Food Otaku 🙏🙏 Nandri ..our authentic way of saying "thank you."...We want to call ourselves authentic but you summed it up very well. The local ingredient and water does makes a difference in the food preparation and taste. We strive for it and try to do best with what we can! Thanks for allmtjr support.
Check out Buffalo Food Otakus newest write up!
🥳🥳 so excited that Smita Chutke Meat and Veggie Spice blends will be now available at Moriarty Meats In store 🥳🥳

❤️The owner Tom and Caitlin Moriarty are such an amazing couple who own and operate with the philosophy to minimize waste by using traditional French butchery, and work exclusively by hand, and offer more variety of cuts than standard American meat shops or slaughterhouses.
🎉And I am super thrilled for this collaboration!

"ABOUT: is a whole animal butcher shop in Buffalo, NY, sourcing local meats and inspired by traditional European butcheries “

Special Thanks to Joe Buffalo Food Otaku and Sadie Japanesey
for always connecting food community around WNY and support the small businesses and reviewing this pairing !! 🙏🏽🙏🏽🎉

Other places you Can find Spice blends:
1) Fresh Catch Poke Co. in Williamsville, NY
2) ShopCraft on Elmwood Ave,
3) Flat #12 Mushrooms , 37 Chandler market
Or just email [email protected]
Throwback Thursday to when Buffalo Food Otaku stopped by in May to try some brisket. (TBT is still a thing, right?)

Sliced brisket is available on Saturdays only, and according to the website inventory tracker, we still have a couple pounds available for this weekend. Head to to grab some.
Hmmmm. Seems cool!

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