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Toutant owners opening second restaurant with seafood focus

Toutant owners Connie and James Roberts are opening a second restaurant featuring American and Pacific seafood, Asian street food and ramen noodle soup.

The restaurant, called Dobutsu, will be part of the 500 Seneca project. The first-floor space will offer 80 seats and 20 more at a sit-down food bar. A patio should seat 20 more.

If all goes well, it should open in July. Planned hours are Tuesday through Saturday, for happy hour and dinner, and lunch Wednesday through Friday.

The restaurant will use a Japanese-style robata grill to offer signature grilled seafood dishes, James Roberts said.

[Toutant got a 9-plate review from News restaurant critic Andrew Galarneau in 2015]

Hawaiian poke bowls, grilled seafood and meat options like donburi rice bowls, steaks and chops will also be on the menu. Vegetarian-focused offerings will include Pacific-inflected salads with avocado, citrus, and when possible, local produce. "Seafood, healthy, fresh, big flavors," will be key descriptions, he said. "We're going to draw from the world seafood market, bringing Buffalo food Connie and I love to eat."

The goal is to bring in the best seafood available, he said, and display the day's highlights on crushed ice beside an eating bar with seating where diners can see their selections prepared. The menu will change daily or weekly, with fish and other sea creatures offered on a market board until they're gone, replaced by the next seafood star.

[Toutant was recently named to OpenTable's "Top 100 Hot Spots in America"]

Another theme will be representing Asian street food like steamed buns, seafood cocktail, grilled pork or beef skewers. "We're going to bring it inside, with our touch, of course."

The Roberts chose 500 Seneca because "the building and space are beautiful," and there's a cluster of offices and apartments they can be part of, he said. "We wanted to get in on the ground floor, and we are."

Dobutsu is Japanese for "animal" – homage to "the little animal inside me that I gotta feed," Roberts said.

"This is the late-night food I've been making us and my chef friends late at night," he said. "This is the other stuff I want to eat, besides fried chicken."

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