Nouvelle Cuisine, roughly translated, means: I can’t believe I paid ninety-six dollars and I’m still hungry — Mike KalinI have been to Rue Franklin. It was 25 years or so ago. I haven't been back. I have lived in Buffalo on and off since 1976 - spent most of my adult life here. Throughout most of that time, the Rue was the number one destination for fine dining.
There were challengers. Oliver’s with its parade of great local cooks. The Hourglass, with WNY’s best wine cellar. All the others mere pretenders.
Of my first visit I can say very little. I don’t remember the food. I don’t remember the ambiance. I don’t remember the service. What I do remember is that I dropped several bills on food and wine and all I got for it was a goodnight peck on the cheek.
While that certainly colored my opinion, it was by no means the central reason I stayed away, or for that matter hadn’t gone earlier. For some reason the place didn’t appeal to me. I taught myself to cook via teachers from the tradition of French cuisine. I value those lessons in technique and discipline. I decry those who would declaim it's place as great cuisine.
At the same time I became aware of its imperfections. Those Mother Sauces codified by Careme and Escoffier were not simply to enhance the dining experience, but to cover less than pristine ingredients.Then there is the appearance, at least, of stagnation. Recipes carved in stone, unchanging over time.
Of course rebellion would occur. I followed with fascination those magicians of Nouvelle Cuisine: Bocuse, the Troisgrois brothers, Ducasse et al. Frankly, at that time my attention had turned east. My go-to for fine dining was the late, lamented Saki, with its menu inspired by the Pacific Rim.
There was one other reason I likely avoided the Rue. Perhaps the primary reason. The people most enamored with it were, quite frankly, snobs. Snobs of the nouveau riche, my taste buds are doing the Superior Dance, sort. It was also quite obviously the favorite of the then restaurant critic of the News and her Companion. You can find some examples here and here. If they liked it, I was not interested.
These days there are just so many new and exciting places, helmed by so many friends. Our dining out opportunities are really just one or two a year, and often while travelling. The Rue just wasn't on my list.
I may have made a mistake.
We were recently invited there as the Companions of a couple we enjoy dining with, and yes, that means it was for a restaurant review. It also meant that we got to sample everything ordered by the table. It may have been the best meal I have ever eaten – certainly in the top five. The competing meals have been special and fun, but in terms of the totality of a fine dining experience this one takes the cake. (Though it didn't take the Sticky Toffee Pudding - Ellen Gedra's rules).
From the moment my teeth bit into the crust of the baguette to fighting the urge to lick the bowl that once contained my Floating Island, it was a total delight. The mushroom soup, almost inky black, would give a Hobbit orgasms. The squab perfectly cooked, the veal short ribs unctuous, and the waygu tasted like waygu. The foie gras terrine was amazing, enough to dispel any misplaced ethical objection.
I ordered the yellow pike because it's so rare on local menus, odd because it's a local fish. You might find the sauce needing a splash of acid. Like me you are eating it wrong. Mix some of the accompanying braised - almost pickled - cabbage on your fork and it's perfect. That's the way this meal went.
Absolutely amazing. The demographic of the other diners may indicate that I was not alone in my perceptions of the Rue as a place for the blue hair crowd. In a Buffalo restaurant scene exploding with the work of talented cooks there are so many other choices. Keep this on your short list. Don't make the same mistake I did.
After all, this time I got to sleep with my date.
PS: The patio looks really cool in the snow.