Most modern casinos are intentionally showy: massive video screens, eye-catching slot machines, vibrant colors, flashing lights and oft-over-the-top decor temporarily transport customers to a palace of luxury.
The same premise carries over to the eating establishments within these casinos - they're meant to be impressive in their fare and decor. WD Bar and Grille, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino's foray into upscale dining, is now open, serving customers daily, beginning at 5 p.m. on the casino's second floor.
Seneca Buffalo Creek general manager Joanne Israel and new WD chef Montez Crane met with the media Thursday, describing the highlights of the restaurant and giving a tour of the premises.
*LAYOUT: While the two adjoined dining rooms are fairly standard - the room to the west is bathed in natural light, while the eastern room is more dimly lit - at narrow patio on the restaurant's perimeter seats 25-40, with standing room for close to 100.
While it's not exactly a waterfront view, the General Mills plant, the Cobblestone District and glimpses of the skyline aren't too shabby.
*IDENTITY: WD Bar and Grille downtown intentionally separates itself from its sister restaurant, The Western Door, in the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, with a handful of menu options.
Rotating flavors of deviled eggs, a Mediterranean Board, two different flatbreads, the 12-ounce hanger steak and the ahi poke are exclusive to the Buffalo casino; read Andrew Galarneau's recent dining review of the Niagara Falls' Western Door here, especially useful because many of the menu offerings overlap.
*STEAKS: Steaks are the most expensive items on the menu, and Chef Crane clearly cares about tracking down choice cuts across the world. For instance, the grass-fed 10-ounce ribeye ($55) comes from Black River Farms in Vermont, while the 12-ounce wagyu 12-ounce NY strip ($65) arrives from Greg Norman Cattle Ranch in Australia.
While there's some debate over dry-aging vs. wet-aging meat, WD chooses the latter, and that quicker process still results in a tender, juicy product. Crane is an advocate of the hanger steak, exclusive to WD, which used to be called the Butcher's Cut because it was rarely found in stores - butchers tended to hog these for themselves.
*FLARE FLAIR: The restaurant's biggest piece of showmanship comes in the form of a dessert - the tableside s'more, which is a thin layer of chocolate melted with a blowtorch over homemade marshmallow and a from-scratch graham cracker cookie.
The parfait, a spin on Grandma's pudding, starts with peanut butter cake and blends with old-fashioned pudding and caramelized bananas. It has sold out every day WD has been in business. WD makes its own gelato, too.
*EXTRAVAGANT BURGERS: The media tasted slider-sized versions of the WD Burger, which is available with one ($19) or two ($26) 8-ounce patties and is served with Corfu-based Yancey's Fancy sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion rings, with your choice of an assortment of condiments (red chili aioli was a good choice).
Chef Crane raves about the meat mixture in the burger, a combination of ground chuck, sirloin and brisket. Although it was cooked a cautious medium to medium-well for the media, the thick patty was a little more hearty and rich than your average burger. The buttered brioche was a terrific complement.
*EGGS: While WD didn't trot out any steaks for the media to sample (probably smart), the classic deviled egg and an arugula, poppyseed and bacon version ($8) represented one of the casino's specialties. The arugula-poppyseed-bacon eggs were decidedly better, lending a richer flavor (and serving as something that's not as easy to make in your kitchen).
*INTRIGUING SALAD: "House salad" is often easy to equate with "boring." But WD's version weaves together baby bibb lettuce, red and gold beets, radish, Mariposa Dairy goat cheese (from Ontario), sun-dried strawberries and white balsamic vinaigrette, exciting ingredients for a usually drab starter. Although it was served to the media in a rather unwieldy cone, the flavors were sprightly.
*SPECIALS: Chef Crane teased some specials coming in the future, including lamb sous vide, in-house smoked sausage and WD's own charcuterie. The restaurant hopes to start a rooftop garden to grow herbs.
Why not have another look at the tableside s'more, via News photographer Sharon Cantillon?
INFO: WD Bar and Grille inside Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, 1 Fulton St. Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.