The concept behind the X-men or The Avengers movies is simple: Assemble a bunch of unique characters with superhuman powers and watch them do amazing stuff.
That same idea is playing out at the new Waxlight Bar a Vin, where a collection of culinary crusaders are looking to smash Buffalo dining expectations to smithereens.
In the still-being-made entertainment district along Chandler Street in Black Rock, a who’s who of local food and beverage talent has assembled to unfurl the Waxlight banner, each with their own area of specialization: Jessica Railey (sommelier), Joseph Fenush (chef), Edward Forster (chef), Tony Rials (cocktails) and Jeff Yannuzzi (beer).
“We kind of all got to a point where we wanted to get to a higher level, and it was much easier to do that together,” Forster told us in a recent interview. “So (to be) managing a staff of 20, if you’re in the front or the back of the house or whatever, it’s a little more difficult to have your personality or your level of detail come through.”
Forster said the menu at Waxlight will change regularly. While there is a French influence, the opening menu mostly revolved around the ingredients-technique axis. For instance, the eye-popping ‘roast chicken potato chips’ dish ($5) won’t exactly whisk you away to Marseille, but culinary wizardry makes it taste amazing in your mouth all the same. Other early-days menu highlights included barbecued hen of the woods mushrooms ($13) and an omelette topped with caviar and creme fraiche ($19).
At the bar, you’ll find both free jazz riffs on classic cocktails and ingredient-driven concoctions ($12), such as one drink made with fermented banana, citrus and coconut. The cascading wine list covers far too much ground to do justice here; suffice it to say a lot of wineries from Europe to New York State are involved. The more modest craft beer list includes just about every style you’d want, from doppelbock ($7) to lager ($4) to New England IPA ($8).
In addition to focusing on their very particular set of skills, these owner-operators are also personally involved in service; seating customers, taking orders and running food.
“Last night, it was just the five of us without any assistance on the floor,” Forster said. “So, It was Joe and I talking about food while we were plating dishes. I’m actively running (food) to guests, taking water bottles and replenishing them for the front of house staff and shaking hands with the guests – all within a four-minute window. I think being able to see and be a part of the full service element is something we’ve all kind of dreamed of.”
While it’s way too early for such talk, you’d have to be naïve to not realize the Waxlight team is making a lit bid for national recognition. In fact, they’ve already gotten some: Architectural Digest recently featured the restaurant’s elegant decor. Designed by Holy Cow Productions, the loungy Waxlight interior features blue velvet seating, gaslight lamp fixtures and an open floor plan.
Despite these sumptuous surroundings, the weird kitchen magic, a sophisticated wine list and modernist cocktails, you should feel totally comfortable traipsing in to order some steak and potatoes, along with a shot and a beer – all of which was listed on the opening day menu.
“We’re not trying to be hoity-toity elitist dicks and charge everybody a bunch of money,” Forster said. “We’re trying to do things that are approachable. If you want to hear three words from us, eat your beef and be happy – totally have a good time, enjoy your wine and enjoy the night. If you want to nerd out, and geek out and like be like, ‘Ok, chicken potato chips, what the hell is that and how does that come about?’ We can talk about it.”
Waxlight Bar a Vin
27 Chandler St, Buffalo, NY 14207
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., Monday and Tuesday CLOSED