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Restaurant notes: Dobutsu, Taqueria Los Mayas, Gino's

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."

Send restaurant tips to and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.

Tacos for Cheektowaga: A Mexican cook is opening a Genesee Street taqueria with the goal of bringing authentic Mexican flavors to Cheektowaga.

Jorge Anguiano, who worked at Niagara Falls' La Galera restaurant for 10 years, said he wanted something more in his own place. "I want to do something really authentic, like a small hole-in-the-wall kind of place you would find in California or Mexico," he said.

He is currently turning 3525 Genesee St., formerly Eat Rite Foods, into Taqueria Los Mayas. He hopes to open April 20, if all goes well, or by May 5, At least.

There have been a lot of new taqueria options opening in the area recently, but the search for authentic flavors continues, he noted. "Anybody can take a tortilla and put meat in it," Anguiano said. "That doesn't mean it's authentic."

He'll be applying for a beer and wine license, but does not expect to serve liquor. The place will seat about 20. Once he's established, he said, he'd like to offer taquizas, which are "Mexican taco parties," he said. "You go to someone's house and cook for them."

Besides tacos, he expects to offer tortas, the Mexican sandwiches, plus sopes and huaraches, which are varieties of topped corn platforms.

Other dishes he expects to offer are charro beans, simmered with bacon and chiles, a pork and hominy stew called pozole, and beverages like horchata, a sort of rice shake. "I want to offer a tripe and chorizo taco," he said. "That's what my mom made, and I loved it."

Pizza in University Plaza: An Albanian New York-style pizza specialist has started serving up slices, stromboli and more from his renovated University Plaza restaurant.

Afrim Rexhepi has opened Gino's NY Pizza at 3500 Main St., Amherst, across Main Street from the University at Buffalo. Pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads and tacos are also on the menu.

Since arriving from Kosovo in 1999, Rexhepi has spent more than a decade honing his pizza-making skills. He started at Gino & Joe's at the first floor of the Main Place Mall before moving to the similarly named location in the upstairs food court.

In 2006, he bought the upstairs location. He eventually sold it to his brother, Bujar. He opened another at 1009 Elmwood Ave., before selling that business too. He opened the University Plaza location in January, in a space that was formerly Zetti's and Slice of Italy. "We did some cosmetic remodeling, to make it brighter," he said.

If you pizza at Gino & Joe's in the Main Place Mall food court, you should appreciate the slices at in University Plaza. The pizzas are hand-stretched and cooked directly on the brick, not in a pan, he said. "It's the same," he said. "Two brothers working together, and I still work there sometimes."

It's open seven days a week. Phone: 768-2462.

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