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Restaurant notes: Ristorante Lombardo, Balkan Dining

The people behind Buffalo fine dining destination Ristorante Lombardo are opening a wine bar on Hertel Avenue.

The site, 1197 Hertel Ave., was formerly Café Garangelo. The building is across the street from Ristorante Lombardo, established by the Lombardo family in 1975 at 1198 Hertel Ave.

Third-generation restaurateur Thomas D. Lombardo is developing plans for the space, with questions about its interior layout still to be answered. His parents, his wife Mary and Chef Michael Obarka are also part of the effort, he said.

"A lot of decisions still need to be made, but what we do know is that we will be opening a wine bar, to be a space that is Western New York's answer to what Blue Monk was for craft beer lovers," Lombardo said.

It will be a place to explore wine, and wine culture, in casual, lively, unpretentious surroundings, he said. "There is so much good wine out there, and new and exciting things in the wine world, that aren’t being represented at all in Western New York."

The building, unused for a decade, will need work, Lombardo said. Work is planned to start at the end of February. The place will hold 35 to 40 when it's done, he said.

The food menu will include small plates, meat and cheese platters, and other low-key offerings, he said.

Ristorante Lombardo is great from start to finish

Now the goal is to figure out how to do that without competing with the restaurant across the street.

"My intention is to deliver Lombardo hospitality in a welcoming, approachable way, always. My mission is to break down the stereotypes that surround wine. That it's intimidating, that you have to know about it to drink."

At the new as-yet-unnamed place, your wine journey can go either way, Lombardo said.

"If you want to learn about wine, you can," he said. "If you're just there to have a glass of wine, we're not there to give you a lecture either. Not every wine is going to be an orange wine that's funky, but we want to represent some of those wines."

"Wine," Lombardo said, "is too often put in a box."

*Read Janice Okun's 1994 review of Cafe Garangelo, below:

At Cafe Garangelo, pasta with a future

*****

Balkan Dining closed: Balkan Dining, the area's only purveyor of cevapi sausages and other Balkan delights, has closed.

The restaurant opened at 687 Kenmore Ave., Tonawanda, in 2013.

Its cevapi, stubby beef sausages, housemade bread and made-to-order burek, or stuffed pastries, brought crowds.

In August, owner Senad Soteli sold the business.

Afterwards, regular customers said, it wasn't the same. Now it's got a For Sale sign on it.

Try new, fresh tastes at Balkan Dining

Tonawanda Korean: Korean cuisine has arrived in Tonawanda, by way of Burma.

Chin Hills, named after a mountain range in northwest Burma, opened in early February at 2756 Elmwood Ave.

The 30-seat room was last home to Orchard Asian Bistro. Now it's home to Emmanuel Ngun Doi's Korean-dominated menu, with a few Burmese dishes reflecting his Burmese background.

There's chicken coconut noodle soup, owno koksware ($10), and tea leaf salad ($8), but most of the 50-dish menu is Korean.

Seating area at Chin Hills. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Appetizers include kimchi pancakes ($6), mung bean and vegetable pancakes ($6), and fried shrimp in spicy sauce ($6).

Chin Hills has Korean rice dishes served in dolsot, piping-hot stone bowls. When the dish arrives, eaters stir the contents and push them against the bowl's sides. As they eat, the rice in contact with stone forms a crust. Stirred again, it adds a crunchy, toasty contrast to the dish.

The spicy pork and vegetables version ($11) had lots of well-marinated meat (see image at top of post). As with other entrees, it was accompanied by free side dishes called banchan, including kimchi (fermented napa cabbage), broccoli in sweet sesame sauce and chewy fish cake with vegetables.

Jjigae, Korean stews, are a strength at Chin Hills. Kimchi jjigae ($12), came bubbling from the fire, loaded with pork, tofu, kimchi, rice cake and noodles in a mildly spicy broth. In a departure from Korean norms, it did not automatically come with a bowl of white rice.

Kimchi jjigae, mildly spicy kinchi stew, at Chin Hills. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

Bulgoki ($21), marinated beef stir-fried with cabbage, is one of a dozen forms of Korean barbecue available, including orimaeun bulgoki (spicy sliced duck breast, $23) and samgupsyal (thin sliced pork belly, $21). These meat dishes are cooked in the kitchen, not cooked at tabletop grills in the traditional Korean fashion.

Server Val Mawi said that the restaurant does not have plans to serve alcohol. Soft drinks, tea, juices and aloe vera drink are available. Part of the menu can be viewed at its website, buffalochinhills.com.

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. Phone: 877-8800.

Sign at at Chin Hills. (Andrew Galarneau/Buffalo News)

*****

Nickel City Chef finale: Tickets are still available for remaining dates in the 10th and last season of the Nickel City Chef live cooking competition.

After nine sold-out seasons, the series is concluding with three shows, pitting Nickel City "home team" chefs against up-and-coming challengers.

Since 2008, Buffalo-area chefs have faced off in a 60-minute contest to best exploit produce of the area's farms, and other local producers.

The Feb. 18 bout saw Nickel City Chef Edward Forster of Dapper Goose and assistant Scott Crombie knot a first-ever tie against Toutant chef de cuisine Joseph Fenush and assistant Russ Whitfield.

"Battle Mead" featured a selection of honey-based brews from 810 Meadworks in Medina.

Nickel City Chef, Buffalo's answer to Iron Chef, sets final season

As usual, viewers can follow along on a recap video posted to on YouTube.

 

Coming shows include a March 11 bout of James Beard-nominated Nickel City Chef Victor Parra Gonzalez against Manuel Ocasio and David Roque of the Crucible, a popular pop-up.

On March 25, Nickel City Chef Adam Goetz of Craving takes on Satomi Smith of Sato, Sato Ramen and Sato Brewpub.

On April 8, Nickel City Chef Jennifer Boye, formerly of Elm Street Bakery, battles Sam Geyer and Matt Pauszek of Buffalo's "most exciting food truck," Lomo Lomo.

The shows are held in the Artisan Culinary Loft, 200 Amherst St., hosted by Bert Gambini and Chef Mike Andrzejewski of SeaBar and Cantina Loco.

Tickets, $45, are available through nickelcitychef.com.

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