I’m in favor of liberalizing immigration because of the effect it would have on restaurants. I’d let just about everybody in except the English. - Calvin Trillin
Yes I was there. The meal that Andrew reviews in today’s Gusto section included Trish and me. Since I have already written of Andrew as reviewer I will not revisit it here, except to say that once again I concur in large measure with the content of his review.
Instead, I’d like to focus on those issues facing any new restaurant. How the choice of location, and even the selection of the name, can impact the chances of success. Specifically, how it may affect this restaurant: Teton Kitchen.
I will share one moment from the dinner with Andrew and Kat. It was a gut busting, tears streaming down the face, rolling on the floor laughing bit of foodie humor.
Teton Kitchen. It’s a name which evokes the mountains of Wyoming, not the flavors of the Far East. “What's in a name?” Shakespeare once asked. I am not certain how this pertains to oriental restaurants. It may not have much impact at all. Miss Hot Café is not as informative as the similarly delicious Peking Quick One. It took word-of-mouth and Andrew’s mentions to get people through both of their doors.
People still wonder what DACC’s meant, but it still did not stop patrons from dining on our offerings. (It is an acronym for the names of the owners.). So I don’t know if this will affect the Teton Kitchen.
The location, however, is of far more concern. It is located within the village of Depew, and for those who aren’t familiar with the area Depew is mostly within the town of Cheektowaga. Cheektowaga is an ethnic enclave appearing both curious and quaint to outsiders. It is known both affectionately and derisively as Cheekto-vegas or Cheekto-warsaw. Many know it is the place flamingos go to die.
In short, if I were to select a location for this type of restaurant in Western New York, Cheektowaga would be my last choice. As Andrew put it: “it takes nerve to sell sushi to a fish fry crowd".
In another location a restaurant like this could thrive. If I had a bunch of money I’d consider buying out their lease and setting them up in a more favorable location, perhaps closer to UB . On the other hand, I’d really like to see this little joint put up a fight. This is the kind of restaurant I want to succeed. I hope it does.
If I were to have the chance to sit down with the owners and give them my opinion on how to move forward it would be something like this: first, lose the sushi. I have no idea of the actual skills of their sushi chef from what we sampled. The lack of turnover was very evident in the selection of fish.
There are plenty of places nearby to get sushi. Some quite passable. For me, I might choose sushi at some of these restaurants as a teaser, but there are only two places in town were sushi is the primary draw for. I look forward to returning to taste the work of the chef who inspired my love of sushi, Kuni Sato. And I can’t wait to let Ken Legnon show off his chops at Sea Bar.
I would focus my efforts on the foods they do well. While I didn’t experience any of their large dishes if the quality of the smaller dishes is any indication they are top-flight. That may be their strength – work from there.
I also suggested to the owner that they might try something we did at DACC’ s to placate the fish fry crowd: the Lobster Fry. I’m not sure I was able to communicate the concept to him, and frankly I didn’t want to blow my “cover”, but a couple of 3 ounce lobster tails fried in that tempura batter and served with kimchi and another side dish might be a real draw.
A place like this deserves to succeed. I speak often of my desire form better and more varied ethnic food in the area. Teton Kitchen would be a fine addition to our dining world. Only time will tell.
So, onto the levity. When we arrived there was only one other party present. That did not change throughout the evening. Situated in the middle of the dining area was a large flatscreen TV. At some point the owner turned the TV on and eventually it began playing an episode of Iron Chef. The real Iron Chef. The Iron Chef with Chairman Kaga and his pepper, a thinner Morimoto, and the Godzilla movie like English dubbing.
We didn’t pay much attention to it until somebody (either Trish or Kat) noticed that in addition to the dubbing the closed captioning was on. Except the words in the closed captioning was totally wrong. So you had a Japanese television show, badly dubbed into English and closed-captioned with phrases like “Nazi sweaters” floating about. It was hilarious. You couldn’t have scripted it better.
We couldn’t stop laughing. The owners had no idea what was going on, and the language barrier, I think, kept us from getting across the source of the humor. Oh well.
There are some really good offerings here and I’d like to see them succeed. They need to trim their menu and focus on what they do best. It certainly couldn’t hurt to try some gimmicks to fit in with the neighborhood.
Oh, and they really do have to work on the ventilation. The “Eau de Fryolater”, as Andrew dubbed, it clung to my clothes in a way I hadn’t experienced since those long Friday nights cooking Lobster Frys at DACC’s.