Imagine you’re going downtown with friends and need a bite to eat, but you can’t decide on a place. Some of you want adventurous food, and some are happy with basic-ass comfort grub. You want table service, but don’t want fine dining.
In this situation, Waves Restaurant on Chippewa can solve all your squad problems.
Serving up Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese dishes, Waves is an all-you-can-eat, upscale Asian restaurant that’s living in 3018. Everything from signature cocktails to tuna sashimi can be ordered through a tablet, which sends your order straight to the kitchen and bar.
“I see a lot of Chinese and Japanese owners, they open buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants, but I’ve never seen any restaurant that has (Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese) cuisines, from New York City to California,” co-owner owner Michael Nguyen told Step Out Buffalo. “So that’s why I decided to offer these three cuisines together – to do something different!”
Service isn’t the only thing that’s different at Waves. Featuring LED lighting, modern crystal chandeliers and wall-mounted flat-panel TVs showing underwater fish, the décor could be a Hong Kong action film set for a movie set in the not-too-distant future.
“We want to make you feel excited when you come in,” Nguyen said. “All the colors we used – brighter colors like white, light blue and orange – are to make you feel happy when you come in.”
All this is to say Waves is very cool and ideal for people who want refined food downtown, but don’t want to think too much about it. Just grab a tablet, do a couple taps on things that look tasty, kick back and enjoy the surroundings.
So, what looks tasty at Waves? Glad you asked. On our initial visit, we found the food to be more refined versions of your classic Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai dishes. The sushi, sashimi and nigiri were on point. The fried rice dishes feature added little bits of texture and green onion that were cut with millimeter-precision.
We found most of the highlights were what you might consider appetizers. The steamed pork buns were as good as any you might find in New York or Toronto. The spring rolls had a real snap to them and were a refreshing contrast to the many fried dishes were ordered. The chicken satay at Waves kicks the ass of all the bad versions you’ve probably had at weddings.
You should know that each single order comes as a small, barely-shareable portion: a single chicken satay skewer or pile of fried rice smaller than your fist. The key is to order a LOT of these small portions. Also, lunch (from open til 4 p.m.) is $19 for all-you-can-eat, while the expanded dinner menu (after 4 p.m.) is $29.
Nguyen said the menu is based largely on lessons learned while operating his other restaurant, Pho Lantern.
“We saw what dishes customers liked the most and the upgraded them,” he said. “We make these dishes a new way, a little bit different, to make Waves a winner.”
When went to Waves, it was incognito, on the first day of its soft opening, and there were definitely some hiccups: a server had to ‘ok’ our order before it was sent to the kitchen and some menu items were unavailable. When Nguyen found out we stopped by on his opening day, he insisted that we come back again.
“We’ve rearranged and fixed a lot of stuff. I’m pretty happy with what we are establishing right now,” he said. “We’re a lot better than on our first day.”
“This concept is so new, even to me,” he noted. “Our chefs and waitstaff are learning pretty quick. We’re making progress and I can see that we’re going to make Waves a spot that people will talk about.”
118 W Chippewa Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.