From the day Oshun opened in the space that was once the Waldorf-Astoria’s lunch counter, the restaurant has tried to offer seafood dishes that were at least a little bit different.
Fried catfish is given a smoky zing with bacon vinaigrette. Seared bay scallops are joined by contrasting plate partners like popcorn and tomatillos. Calamari takes a pineapple-tamarind sauce over grilled corn salsa.
One completely straightforward item on the opening menu was potato chips, which Oshun makes in-house and delivers to every table, the way some places offer a bread basket. They’re dark, crunchy chips with a touch of salt, good on their own. But this being Buffalo, you start wondering where the chip dip is.
Oshun owner Jim Guarino and kitchen manager Brett Brennan got asked for dip so many times they decided to do something about it. Looking for a dish that tied into the restaurant’s seafood specialty, they came up with a smoked clam dip that’s been winning fans since its introduction in May.
“I wanted something light, so you could eat a lot and not be grossed out at the end,” Brennan said. The version they settled on uses sour cream and cream cheese but no mayonnaise.
They also wanted to give the dip bacon-like flavor – smoky, salty, sweet – without adding pork. That’s where the smoked clams come in. Canned clams are drained and smoked over alder chips for about two hours, then folded into the dairy mixture. A bit of smoked paprika and Old Bay seasoning, and it’s ready to serve. A serving costs $6. (The potato chips are still free).
Brennan’s belief that the people of Buffalo want dip with their chips has been confirmed most emphatically. “It’s been huge,” he said. “People have been going crazy over it.”
(Oshun, 5 E. Huron St., 848-4500, oshunseafood.com)