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A menu to savor; Tantalus offers tantalizing array of food options

Talk about multitasking. Here's a multimenu. I hereby present Tantalus the 2011 award for the longest and most varied food list in Western New York. Frankly, I don't know how they do it.

This popular East Aurora restaurant, housed in the (somewhat noisy) site of the former Griggs & Ball feed mill, offers a 13-page listing of culinary possibilities -- and that does not include a separate lineup of evening specials.

Supposedly, every one of the items, sauces included, are made in the restaurant's own kitchen and I ate nothing that gave me reason to doubt that fact.

You want Mexican? It's here. You want barbecue? It's here. Cajun? An infinite variety of pizzas? Farm Raised Rabbit (in mustard sauce)? Even Cassoulet -- though approaching warm weather (please God!) might diminish cravings for this French bean/confit/dish, it will certainly come back with next season's snow.

Closing your eyes and pointing may be the best way out of the how-do-I-ever-choose dilemma. Or maybe, throw the menu toward the ceiling and see how it comes down.

Three of us took the easy way out the other night. We chose from that special list -- an extensive lineup in itself -- sharing an appetizer of Big Easy favorite Crab Remick ($9.50, a rich combination of the seafood mixed with garlic and spices served with toast points). And we were off.

One of us opted for Calves Liver ($14.95), cooked perfectly. A tender slice of meat, cooked properly medium-rare though we didn't specify, served with an apple mango chutney, mashed potatoes and gravy. Nice.

The Companion ordered a Lamb Shank (a big lamb shank, $19.95) braised in Zinfandel with apricots and onions. Lest this quintessential comfort dish get too contemporary, though, the whole thing was served over good ol' mashed potatoes. No complaints.

I ordered the Country Fried Pork Chop ($16.95) pounded, battered and fried crisply. Mashed spuds came along with this, too. And sausage gravy. (It was a diet meal.)

Desserts are made in-house, too. So the three of us shared a Triple Chocolate Cake ($6.75) -- loved the mocha frosting.

The menu is so large here that it's hard to highlight other items. But the "Flats" are noteworthy. Think pizza -- interesting stuff is arranged on freshly baked flat bread. A Flank Steak Flat (with fresh mozzarella, tomato, arugua and aioli) is $7.95.

"Insider Burgers" are intriguing too -- they're stuffed, you see. Like the Bleu Insider ($11.95) filled with the cheese and topped with portabellas and caramelized onions.

Do not overlook the Mexican food -- a whole page is devoted to dishes you might not have thought about recently. The Carnitas Platter features the deep-fried pork, rice and beans with a flour tortilla ($15.95).

In other words -- when ordering, take your time.

e-mail: janiceokun@yahoo.com

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TANTALUS

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

WHERE: 634 Main St., East Aurora (652-0341, www.tantaluseastaurora.com). Is this the biggest menu in Western New York? It could be. Everything from comfort food to Mexican favorites and long hours to eat them in. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Lamb Shanks (evening special)

NEEDS WORK: Food is of high quality.

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $15.95 with salad and starch. Sandwiches from around $6.

SERVICE: Excellent

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: Large lot in the rear.

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.

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