Restaurant Review #4

Restaurant: Shango Bistro and Wine Bar

http://www.shangobistro.com/

Location: 3260 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14214

Telephone: (716) 837-2326

Category: New Orleans/ Soulful                                             Noise Level: Low

Rating: 4/5                                                                              Ambiance: Romantic,Classy 

Price Range: $$$                                                                   Good for: Dinner

Caters to: Adults                                                                    Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Takes reservations: Yes                                                      Wine List: Excellent

Review:

         Shango is a spectacular choice when looking for an upscale eatery to impress a couple of friends. Its location and reputation are not very well-known but after a night of dining at Shango the haunting dreams of the eclectic New Orleans style cuisine will keep you salivating till your next encounter.

The Atmosphere: Shango is located on the forever busy Main st in Buffalo across from the University of Buffalo south campus…The hussle of traffic and bustle of city busses does not take away from this great little bistro. Shango is tucked between two small buildings which drowns out most city sounds and allows you to submerge yourself into the classy New Orleans experience! As you enter Shango you automatically get a comforting feeling as a jazzy pianist keeps the feeling of the restaurant alive. His ragtime and blues makes you feel as if you have stumbled into a back alley bar on Bourbon st. New Orleans. As you approach the bar a host is eager and willing to accept your coat and check you in. The dimly lit restaurant is split into two rectangular rooms. On one half is the bar which extends along the right side. The bar seats about 10 people comfortably on high-top stools with a couple of attending bartenders. Adjacent to the bar along the wall is about 6-7 tables for two which are squeezed in to allow for extra dinner seating. There is no liquor at Shango but they do provide you with over 150 different bottles of wine and many exotic beer selections.

Wine and beer list can be seen here: http://www.shangobistro.com/Wine

They offer about 7-8 glasses of red and white wines by the glass. All have a distinct region and complexity to them. In addition to the wine they offer a variety of domestic and imported beers (about 14 of each). Whether you are looking for a heavy cream ale or a crisp pilsner they have something for everyone so inquire with the bartender.

The main dining room sits about 30 people. Four person booths line the all stucco wall with staggering two person tables woven in. The cherry wood finished booths and white table cloths add to the comfort of the restaurant. Since the dining room seats only about 30 people the noise level is kept low which allows you to engage in conversation with your guests and not be over heard.

The Service: Our Server was very attentive and knowledgable about all of the food and most of the wine. As always I asked my server for recommendations on both the food and wine. He directed me towards a 2008 Ojai Vineyards Santa Barbara County Syrah ($58), which was delicious! Like any great restaurant there were a couple buss boys that were constantly roaming the dinning room floor for any plates to be cleared and food to be wrapped to keep the clutter on the tables at a minimum. The entire staff was very informative and helpful which made my dining experience easy and comfortable. As always, it always feels good to have great service, so don’t forget to reward your server with a generous tip if you feel they deserved it. (trust me they will remember you and go above and beyond for you whenever you return)!

The Food: What is great about the food at Shango is that the cuisine is very different then what most people are used to. The enhanced use of different spices and ingredients brings a whole new meaning to the term soul food! There menu is relatively small with only a couple of salads, about 5-10 appetizers and 10 entrée’s. They do have specials but only one or two additions to each course. There salads are all different in their makeup. The wild mushroom and spinach salad was served warm with fresh shaved Asiago and a delicious andouille sausage vinaigrette ($9). On the other hand they did have a more traditional spring green salad with fresh apples, walnuts and a nice balsamic vinaigrette ($9). The appetizers range from your classics (fried calamari w/ red chilli aioli ($9)) to more unique (Crispy fried frog legs w/ a carrot, celery & smoked blue cheese slaw ($8)). My guest and I ordered the blackened tuna tacos which were scrumtious followed by a muscle scampi (New Orleans style= Spicy tomato cream broth loaded with andouille sausage). The portions of the muscles was large which was always nice to see you get what you pay for. We then skipped right to our entrees. I Ordered the duck special medium rare with a cranberry, balsamic glaze. The portion was generous and the duck brest was cooked to perfection ($22). On the flip side my guest ordered a fabulous seafood Creole Bouillabaisse – (aromatic broth with shrimp, scallops, crab, mussels & catfish, seafood tomato broth, fennel, peppers, onions, red potatoes ($23)). For most of the entre’s you find yourself spending around the 40-50$ between two people.

The entire menu can be found here: http://www.shangobistro.com/Menu

Their wine list was fantastic offering over 150 different bottles from all across the globe. as always I encourage trying something you have never had.

The entire wine list can be found here: http://www.shangobistro.com/Wine

Shango was and has always been a wonderful dining experience with an attentive staff and even better food quality. The next time you and your family are discussing a certain style of food that your are interested in maybe you can say “how about some soul food, I know this great New Orleans style bistro”…let me know the reaction!

and as always

Buon Appetito America!

JCL

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Restaurant Review #3

Restaurant: The Left Bank

http://leftbankrestaurant.com/

Location: 511 Rhode Island Street Buffalo, NY 14213

Telephone: (716) 882-3509

Category: American/European                                              Noise Level: Average

Rating: 4.5 /5                                                                          Ambiance: Romantic, Casual,

Price Range: $$$                                                                   Good for: Dinner

Caters to: Adults                                                                    Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Takes reservations: Yes                                                      Wine List: Average

Review:

Left Bank would not be considered a hidden Jem. Although its location is somewhat off the beaten path, most of buffalo is very familiar with this restaurant for its consistent high quality service and even more superior food. On the handful of occasions that I have dined at the left bank I have never had a bad experience whether I went for simple cocktails or a full three course meal.

The Atmosphere: As you turn down gloomy Rhoad Island street in buffalo your attention is not drawn to the brink vine-covered Left Bank restaurant but the fire station and Prime 490 Steakhouse that sits on the opposite side of the street. When pulling past the restaurant there is ample parking for even the busiest of nights. As you enter through the front doors you get a hint of what your experience will be like almost instantaneously. The all brick walls and hardwood floors add to an ambiance of dim lighting and classy chatter. The fully stocked bar is your first encounter when entering the restaurant. It extends the entire side wall which gives room for ample bar seating. Two or three bartenders are very attentive as to not keep you waiting. There skills are extensive so don’t be afraid of getting a tough muddled old fashion or dirty martini. If you’re looking for a kamkatcha soaked red bull then you may be in the wrong atmosphere. The hostess stand separates the blusterous sounds from the bar and the very eloquent dining room. The dining room is spacious, seating about 60 people at a time. The brick exposed walls showcase a variety of different works of art which add to the ambience. The chairs are enjoyably cozy and the tables are spread far enough apart as to not intrude on the playful banter of the people around you.

The Service: The service is very attentive and knowledgable. Being in the profession myself, I would always recommend asking your server for recommendations since they know the menu better than anyone. It sometimes means being directed to the most expensive dishes; however, it never hurts to ask. Our server was delightful and seemed very pleased to have us. She directed me to the 2009 Le Sughere di Frassinelo super Tuscan which my date and myself thoroughly enjoyed (shown in the entry below). Not only was the server very attentive but there are a team of bussers that assist in running, packaging and filling our glasses and plates. The entire staff was very pleasant, inviting and made us feel very comfortable. It always feels good to have great service, so don’t forget to reward your server with a generous tip if you feel they deserved it. (trust me they will remember you and go above and beyond for you whenever you return)!

The Food: The ambience and service were only a precursor to what was a spectacular and delectable meal. I always love to try new things so I end up over ordering. the menu has a great range of cuisine with many palatable small plates, appetizers and entree’s. From seafood dished like the Ahi tuna tartare ($14) to the hot banana peppers ($9), there is truly something to fit any palate. They also have a special bruschetta and ravioli that is prepared different by the chef each day. We started with the Tuna Tartare (sushi, grade A raw tuna) and the bruschetta of the day, followed by the grilled tiger shrimp which came served atop artichoke bottoms and baked goat cheese ($9)…We then ordered two entee’s to share between the two of us (Pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes($22) and linguine with chicken chorizo and roasted red peppers($18)). The portions are large so we had a lot to take home but there is nothing better than next day left overs!

the entire menu can be found here: http://leftbankrestaurant.com/menu.html

* their wine list offered about 30 varieties of red wine by the bottle and about 15 whites… there were many labels that are familiar such as Mark West, Stags leap, and Mondovi. However there were plenty that were new to me (such as the super Tuscan we had). If you are looking to treat yourself they also offer a reserve list with ten bottles averaging $130+ a piece

The wine list can be found here: http://leftbankrestaurant.com/wine.html

Left bank is a great dining experience and I highly recommend a trip there as soon as you can. When you do dine out, do me a favor, change it up, order something you have never had or something you can’t make at home! it will be worth every penny!

And remember,

Buon Appetito America!

JCL

Restaurant Review #2

RestaurantSaigon Restaurant & Bar

http://saigoncleveland.com/

 Location: 2061 E. 4th Cleveland Ohio, 44115.

Telephone: (216) 344-2020    Category: Vietnamese                                               Noise Level: Low

Rating: 3/5                                                                 Ambiance: Contemporary, Casual

Price Range: $$                                                        Good for:  Dinner

Caters to: Adults, Kids and groups                           Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Takes reservations: Yes                                         Wine List: Poor

Review:

          As you walk down the buzzing street of E. 4th in Cleveland Ohio you walk past a lot of great wonders such as the House of Blues, Lola Restaurant (Iron Chef Michael Simon owned and operated) and Pitwick and Frolick. Saigon is a quaint little Vietnamese restaurant that sits next to some of Cleveland’s greatest titans!

The Atmosphere: As you enter the restaurant it is relatively small in size but can cater still to a nice crowd. the bar is tucked away in the corner and did not seem very inviting. The alcohol selection was not very extensive with just a couple top shelf liquors. Its one large rectangular room with about 10-15 tables in the center which can cause an irritating crowded feeling on a busy night. The booth tables are semi circular along the walls and seat 4+ people in each. I would make a reservation and request a booth to avoid the hustle and bustle of sitting in the middle of the restaurant.

The Service: As my company and I entered the restaurant we felt very comfortable as if we had walked into a Vietnamese style home. The exotic plants and dim lighting was very inviting along with the eagerness of the hostess to seat us. Most of the staff is of Vietnamese or asian decent which added to the experience. Our server was very attentive and kind, however she did not engage in much conversation besides taking our order. Many of the people in our party were dining with this cuisine for the first time and therefore did not understand many of the dishes available to them. Our Server could have gone over a few house specialties and highlighted items we may be interested in as first timers. One of the diners meal was too spicy for her and she almost could not enjoy it. Service was alright over all but it could have used a friendlier more personal touch!

The Food: This section is what really gives the restaurant all the hype. I must say that their flavors and spices are unmatched by any typical european and american flavors. Saigon’s Menu was extensive and stayed true to their Vietnamese roots. It was also very reasonably priced with appetizers stemming from $5-$10 and your average entrée in the range of $15. They had a lot of great selections for appetizers and entrée’s which could appeal to any palate. Whether you wanted a fresh summer roll or beef skewer they had many fresh and deep-fried app’s to share. There entree’s where sectioned into the type of meal you wanted ex..(Noodle bowls, salads, chicken, beef and seafood). Each dish was different in its entirety. They offered many great preparations of each with many unique sauces. A couple of sauces to be on the look out for in any Vietnamese/ Thai restaurants are:

  • Lemon grass sauce
  • Curry preparations
  • Sweet and sour
  • Thia basil

Not only was the food delicious in flavor but it was also healthy in its make-up…Vietnames style cuisine caters very well to the vegans and vegetarians of the world. Saigon like many other restaurants of its nature offer wide variety of tofu and rice dishes to satisfy. Any vegetarian could find themselves in heaven with a number of stir fried vegetables and an extensive array of sauces!

          Earlier in my blog i posted an article that was titled “Joseph Hates you all, im just here for the food” and that is exactly how I feel about Saigon restaurant. The atmosphere, service, wine selection and bar may have needed help but the food and flavors left you wanting more and that’s why we are here after all..Great Food! The next time you are in Cleveland and looking to be a little adventurous, stop by Saigon for a very relaxed and delicious meal.

and remember,

Buon Appetito America!

JCL

Restaurant Review #1

Restaurant: Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse and Wine Bar              

http://www.brasagrill.com/

 

 

 

Category: Brazilian                                                 Noise Level: Average

Rating: 4/5                                                               Ambiance: Contemporary, Dim, Classy

Price Range: $$$                                                    Good for:  Dinner

Caters to: Adults, Kids and groups                         Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Takes reservations: Yes                                       Wine List: Average

*Brasa has many locations in many different cities all over America, so check the website and see if there is a location near you

Review:

         Brasa is a wonderful and very elegant place to take friends, family, business associates and even a significant other you are looking to impress. I have dined at this restaurant multiple times and in multiple locations and it never ceases to amaze me. The ambiance is very dim and trendy in its design and layout. This restaurant is different because it does not have a typical menu to choose from but a variety of different packages. All standard prices and rates are as follows:

Dinner:

Silver $30: unlimited appetizer and salad bars

Gold $40: unlimited salad and appetizer bars in addition to the full dinner rodizio experience which includes thirteen cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork and our famous cinnamon roasted pineapple (highly recommended)

*In some locations price vary on Friday and Saturday

The service at Brasa has always been fantastic with a serving staff that are all working together as a team. When seated you are asked to go to the buffet to start your “first course.” This Buffet is unlike many others, with a bodacious array of foods, The spread includes things such as Different cheeses, meats, pastas, soups and seafood (including shrimp cocktail and crab legs.

At this point many people enter there Brett Favre stage and don’t know when to quit. I recommend not filling up on the buffet because the best is still yet to come. The serving staff will then come around with skewers of the finest cuts of different steaks, chops and meats (this is the time to indulge).

While you are at Brasa be sure to take a look at their wine list or enjoy a cocktail or five at their full bar. Nothing accompanies a meal like this with a hearty full-bodied red wine. So in the words of the old country…

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”

and

Buon Appetito America!
JCL