Oliver's Restaurant - Simply Perfect!
I have driven by it for years, not paying much attention to it. There are no bells and whistles, maybe a lighted sign, but other than that very little fanfare to announce it to Buffalo. Oddly enough, it's sat in the same place for over 60 years, though, and in that time it's become a true classic of Buffalo's cuisine. Who am I speaking of? Why it's Oliver's Restaurant on Delaware Ave. just near Great Arrow in North Buffalo.
After reading an earlier article by Michael Chelus, our staff food writer. I decided to treat my wife who has never eaten at the establishment. I will say that since it's restaurant week, we felt like it was a great opportunity to eat at one of Buffalo's most respected restaurants, and possibly save a few dollars. It's not often that we will drop over two hundred dollars on a single meal for ourselves, but with my wife's new job we felt we could swing it. In a way I justify the money on one simple point, it's not a meal but an experience. We generally love to eat out, but with a six year old, it's not cost effective to our budget to eat at fine dining establishments. That said, it was worth every penny.
We had reservations (highly recommended) for 6pm, but arrived a little early to check out the bar and have a drink before our meal. We had done a little bit of research and decided on our plates before we went, which simplified things for us. Instead of the bar, though, we were seated as soon as we walked in. Several people welcomed us and explained they would be either assisting our server Jake, who arrived impeccably coiffed and looking every bit of the French Waiter you would find in Paris. Jake reminded me a little of James Cagney, with his slicked back hair, and mannerisms. He asked simply, if we would like to start off with a cocktail before our meal, and we obliged. My wife picked the Oliver's Fizz, and myself the Gin and Juice. As we sipped those, Jake told us of the special menu for restaurant week. He told us to take our time, peruse the menu and let him know when we were ready. We looked through the wine menu and decided on a bottle to pair with our dinner, a nice sweet Riesling which we'd had before. When Jake returned, at what seemed to be the perfect time, we placed our order. I would have the Duck Confit Spring Roll with braised cabbage, smoked paprika aioli & huckleberry catsup as my appetizer, and the Braised Pork Shank & Soft Polenta with braised escarole, marinated olives, vermouth & fresh ricotta cheese. My wife choose the Braised Chicken Thigh Risotto with black cherries, fresh sage, butternut squash, mascarpone & white wine, as her appetizer, and the Sugar Spiced Salmon with poached daikon radish, baby bokchoy, cucumber noodles & mustard buerreblanc. And Michael advised me that the Spinach Loaf was a must have if we were there. He mentioned his grandparents had ordered in it in the 50's and we had to try it. Basically things just got real interesting.
The wine was put on ice by the table and one by one, dishes would be brought out to our excitement. Let me say that my wife and I agreed that her Braised Chicken Thigh Risotto was the item we enjoyed the most. It was almost a meal in itself. It combined all the flavors, so well, and mascarpone left little lines of cheese on your fork. The Duck Confit Spring Roll was elegant and modern, and light. Which we were thrilled about as we had decided to split the appetizers so we could each get a taste. The flavors of the spring roll melded perfectly and left me wanting more, I needn't worry though. My wife was content with letting me help her finish the risotto, honestly, I would've licked the bowl clean if it wouldn't have caused a stir.
The main courses arrived and we settled in, a nice comforting feeling in our heads and stomach's. Jake set the plates down, asked us if we were having fun, then repeated it louder to get us to smile. We certainly were having fun, as we stared down on the plates of love that had been brought to us. The braised pork shank was simply perfect, the ricotta refreshing and the best part was a crispy texture on some of the pork even though it was so moist. My wife's dish left her almost speechless, she marveled at the flavors, and the salmon was perfectly cooked. The daikon radish was a great contrast to the texture of the salmon. We finished our meal, and decided a dessert was necessary, if for no other reason that to try it for the experience.
Jake came back and scooped our plates, and showed us the dessert menu, and we quickly agreed that the Whiskey Caramel Tart was the perfect ending to our evening. As we finished the last of our wine we both thought that this may have been the best meal we had ever had. The tart was delivered to our table by Jake, and it's simplicity was quite deceiving. It looked like a simple tart, but underneath all that, it was so rich (think sugar daddy on steroids) that my wife gave up after a few bites, leaving the tart mostly for me. I didn't complain.
By this time the restaurant was busy, and we sat sipping the last of our Riesling, and got our check. I must emphasize that the waiting staff, was top notch. Again, you need to view this as an experience not a meal, we tipped a little more than 30 percent, then thanked Jake, who made it a point to come back and see him. After we left and got home, my wife and I made a decision, we would definitely take him up on that!