Updated July 2015
5 E. Huron Street, Buffalo / (716) 848-4500
Hours: Brunch: Sunday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Dinner: Monday – Thursday 5 – 10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.
Price: $$$ / Cuisine: New American, Seafood
The past few months have been blockbuster for restaurant openings in WNY. We’ve seen new openings, and re-openings from some of the area’s finest talents. One of those talents is Jim Guarino and one of those restaurants is the brash, new seafood focused Oshun Oyster Bar in the center of Buffalo.
Not limited to Oysters or the bar, the spotlight at Oshun is on seafood, the raw bar and small plates, but there is some meat and poultry too. We love oysters, seafood and small plates, but the most exciting part is it’s a product of Jim Guarino, chef/owner of Shango Bistro (one of our favs), along with his father James. The restaurant is well situated downtown at the corner of E. Huron and Washington Sts., kitty-corner to the Electric building – a glorious site at night. Oshun is named after the Yoruba goddess of the many things, water among them. She is the principle wife of Shango, god of lightning & thunder.
The building was built post WWII as the Waldorf Astoria luncheon counter. The Guarinos did a fantastic job recreating that feel with the Art Deco decor, terrazzo flooring and striking frescos. It onced housed Howard’s shoes, but is now a grand space with tall ceilings, a massive bar area, booths and tables with plenty of elbow room between. There is a raw bar in the back where you can sit, feast and check out the doings in the open kitchen. The atmosphere is stylish but casual, and lively with a pretty good buzz when the place fills up. Anything from jeans and a t-shirt to a suit and tie works. Note they are open for lunch at least five days a week, and I hear Sunday brunch is coming soon.
We started with a bottle of Calera Viognier and a bowl of house made chips. The wine was excellent, almost as good as the chips. The wine list itself is pretty accomplished with many interesting options available by glass or bottle . They also have a superior beer list with a dozen craft beers on tap and more by the bottle, and full bar with a tempting cocktail menu.
From there we went with a dozen oysters while we perused the menu. At Oshun oyster sampling is a bit like wine tasting. The mollusks are brought in from various localities based on season and freshness. Each is described on the Oyster menu. This night they had 8 varieties, we sampled four:
Sheepscot – Sheepscot Estuary, Maine: Sweet and salty plump and full of meat.
Little Island – BugaduceRiver, Maine: Mild salt start and clean finish.
Wallace Bay – Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia: Moderate brine, full-bodied with fresh sea air finish.
Glacier Point – Halibut Cove, Alaska. Crisp and salty, clean finish.
“As good as it can get” were the first words uttered when the slurping ended. Interestingly, when sampled together, you really get a feel for the different flavors of the oysters. Each of us had their favorites although I think Wallace Bay won by a nose.
The menu is an appealing conglomeration of dishes with an emphasis placed on premium ingredients and creative cooking. Not a focus on the type or region of cuisine. Our waitress (Victoria) was friendly, efficient and did an excellent job explaining the different options and sizes. Dishes range in size from small, medium and large so pay attention. We ordered:
BUFFALO CLAM CHOWDER – Bacon. Cream. Frank’s Hot Sauce. Oyster Crackers. $4
Similar to the New England variety but with the addition of Community Beer Works Ale, some Franks Red Sauce and bacon. This was rich, filling and had a nice little kick.
TUNA TARTARE – Everything bagel spices. Pink Peppercure Marscapone $9
A creative concept and I love a good everything bagel. This is small and maybe a little light on tuna but it was good.
BAY SCALLOPS – Plancha Seared with Coconut Rice, Burmese Tomatillos, popcorn and mint. $10
This gets a 10 for creativity. In truth I’m not a popcorn lover, not even with bay scallops, but I certainly appreciate the effort.
SWORDFISH – Grilled Kebabs. White Soy Apricot Glaze. White Bean Puree. Yuca Chips $12
This is a neat presentation and the swordfish was tender and juicy. Grilled red onions and a sprinkle of sesame seed is a nice touch.
RED SNAPPER – Broiled Filet. Veracruz Vegetables. Baby Cucumber $13
The fish was good, the “sauce” fantastic. A delectable combination of fresh vegetables, olives and sage this would pair well with anything, including a spoon.
CHICKEN – Light and Dark Meat. Jamaican Jerk Sauce. Plantain Fritters – $16
The plantain fritters were a huge hit with everyone, and while Jerk Chicken is not exactly cutting edge this was outstanding. It had a unique flavor which I haven’t been able to figure out. Probably I’ll need a few more helpings:-).
BEEF – Grilled Short Rib. French Fries. Parsley Butter – $17
I’ve only had short ribs braised and clearly I’ve been missing the boat- tender, juicy and a flavor even more intense than braised…with a dab of flavored butter- yum. The fries were good too.
Dessert: Cookies & Cream– four salted caramel pretzel cookies with vanilla ice cream; Espresso -twice baked lady fingers soaked with espresso simple syrup, layered with sherry Bavarian mousse and chocolate marscapone ice cream whip (both $8). The creativity shines through to the end. The table was equally divided on which was best, neither lasted more than 60 seconds on the table.
These guys do an excellent job with flavors that are unique. We were on our toes all night trying to guess what flavor was here or what seasoning was there. The menu has a lot of great options and I presume daily specials will be the norm.
I love this style of dining and “restauranteuring” for that matter- refined yet casual, energetic, creative, brash. In truth I can’t wait to get back. I’m hoping weekend lunches are on their agenda. Bravo to the Guardinos for bringing another exceptional, and truly unique dining experience to the nickel city.
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