Usually a week or more passes between my restaurant visit and writing my review. Time is an effective winnower, leaving the most impressive dishes in high-contrast Technicolor memory while I check my notes to describe lesser offerings.
Flipping through the calendar looking back on the places I’ve reviewed in 2016, here are 10 dishes I remember the best.
Decadence of Eggs at Oliver’s, 2095 Delaware Ave. (877-9662, oliverscuisine.com)
Chef Ross Warhol called it Decadence of Eggs, and it started off his Tuesday tasting menu with a gasp. An eggshell, its top snipped and contents removed, became a vessel for custard. It was bedecked with crispy prosciutto crumbs, then topped with potato foam redolent with truffle oil. An everyday staple turned extraordinary was, on this night, delicious foreshadowing.
Tonkotsu at Sato Ramen, 3268 Main St. (835-7286, sato-ramen.com)
The city’s best bowl of traditional Japanese ramen soup starts with housemade noodles, with the characteristic springiness of fresh pasta. Tonkotsu is my favorite of nine versions regularly offered. It’s the thickest, creamiest broth, from pork bones. It has pork-infused soy sauce and garlic oil, with sliced barbecued pork, bean sprouts, pickled ginger, bamboo shoots and soft-boiled egg. $12.99.
Bass fish special at 800 Maple, 800 Maple Road, Amherst, 688-5800, 800maple.com
My favorite part of a fine dinner here was a fish special, a slab of bass that emerged from 800 Maple’s wood-burning oven with cracker-crisp skin, thanks to a cast-iron pan. Served on a bed of Israeli couscous, it wore a light and bright frame of orange sauce, and a shaved fennel and asparagus salad for a sophisticated and well-balanced dish. $32.95.
Roast pork plate at Black Forest Adler, 2447 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst (564-2447)
Schitzels and sausages abound at this Swabian German restaurant, but the most compelling dish in my meal was the roast pork plate. The sliced meat, with minor veins of fat, was spoon-tender. Plus it came swathed in a gravy made with dark beer that soaked into a pile of buttery spaetzle, fresh egg pasta. Straightforward rib-sticking comfort food, with a German accent. $15.95
Yum Seafood at Jasmine Thai, 1330 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda (838-3011, jasthai.com)
The area's oldest Thai restaurant has had its ups and downs, but as its consistency has returned and so have I. Try the Yum Seafood, a salad of squid, shrimp, scallops and shelled mussels tossed with shaved red onion, chile paste, lime juice and cilantro. It is an invigorating and light dish that will light up your taste buds. (Singha Thai beer is on call for firefighting duty.) $14.95.
No. 45 at Home Taste, 3106 Delaware Ave., Kenmore (322-0088)
The best Chinese dumplings in town are here, but I keep urging people to try No. 45, because it starts familiar and ends up in Adventureland. It’s a stew of bone-in chicken simmered with potato, carrot and green pepper. It’s ladled over housemade pasta that soaks up a brown gravy enlivened with ginger slices, dried chiles and touch of Sichuan peppercorn, to tingle your tongue. $18.
Chicken breast at Seabar, 475 Ellicott St. (332-2928, seabarsushi.com)
Dinner at Seabar can take many paths to satisfaction, from Buffalo-style sushi to French-inflected duck or foie gras. What I was left yearning for was the chicken breast. Crazy. Maybe it was because it’s so often dried out and flavorless. This one was stuffed with sausage, seared but moist, and surrounded with toasted pastina and pickled mushrooms. $24.
Patatas bravas at Aro, 5415 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (631-1000, arotapas.com)
Delights abound at this Spanish-styled restaurant, but I keep coming back to the patatas bravas. Fingerling potatoes are split and fried to a golden brown, then jumbled with sauces - garlicky mayonnaise, plus tomato-chile sauce, like spiked ketchup – then dusted with smoked pimenton, or paprika. I kept telling myself it’s just potatoes, then asking why I couldn’t stop. $8.
Flat 12 Mushroom Toast at Carte Blanche, 61 Buffalo St., Hamburg (649-2101, carteblanchehamburg.com)
I’ve eaten a lot of toast, but this one made the everyday memorable. A slice of housemade sourdough bread is broiled until golden-edged. Then it's lined with First Light Creamery goat cheese and Flat 12 mushrooms, which taste better because the Buffalo-raised mushrooms are fresher, and because they’ve been deftly sauteed in garlic butter, anointed with a yolk-vinegar sauce and dusted with chives. $9.50.
Hamburger at Marble + Rye, 112 Genesee St. (853-1390, marbleandrye.net)
The hamburger at Marble + Rye is not an everyday burger. It is a splurgeburger. It is made from beef chuck, brisket and short rib, juiced up with a dose of bone marrow. The sesame-seed-speckled bun is housemade and keeps it all together in style. Depending on the time and season, it might be topped with a slice of fried green tomato and pimiento cheese, or kimchi and such. $17.
Andrew Galarneau's next restaurant review will appear Jan. 12.