Mike A’s at Hotel Lafayette - PHOTOS
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • June 15, 2012 @ 10:59am
Thanks to the staff at Mike A’s Steakhouse and head chef Mike Andrzejewski himself, Buffalo.com was invited to sample the tasting menu at the classy establishment inside the newly-renovated Lafayette Hotel.
Before we actually got to eating, we hung out in the bar and lounge across the hall from the steakhouse, gawking at the architecture and learning the expansive drink plans of in-house mixologist and sommelier Tony Rials. He described his style of cocktail creation as “pre-Prohibition Era infused with more modern elements”—he referenced Vera Pizzeria as the closest example in Buffalo.
It was the 10-course meal, however, that was the feature of the night. Each course, roughly a third of the size of the full-price dish, arrived at the table with a wine pairing chosen by Rials, who gladly explained the entree, the wine and why the two were joined.
Far less of a true foodie than my companions—such as Buffalo News food critic Andrew Galarneau, Buffalo Spree online and food editor Christa Glennie Seychew, Buffalo Eats founder Donnie Burtless, Buffalo Spree freelancer Julia Burke and Buffalo Foodie writer Nina Barone—it was a positive experience absorbing their insight and reflections on each course.
Here are five of the courses that I enjoyed the most: (in order)
1) #9 Grade Australian Purebred Wagyu Beef Strip Steak with watercress, black garlic and tomato
On menu: $88 for a 12-oz. portion.
Comments: As someone who’s never spent more than $30 on a steak, an $88 cut of beef has never been a realistic option for me. If Grandma Ellen gives you $100 for your birthday, anniversary or other special day, the #9 Australian Purebred Wagyu Beef Strip Steak would be a worthy expenditure, though. Far and away the best piece of beef I’ve ever munched on, the Wagyu is graded as a #9 on the 1-12 Japanese scale, which takes into account the level of marbling and the “tenderness, juiciness and flavor.” Rials explained that the strip steak was 50% fat and 50% beef, and the black garlic coating lent a flavorful crunch. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
2) Onion Soup Croquette with braised oxtail, thyme leaves and Emmental cheese
On menu: $12 as a first course
Comments: The onion soup croquette was the best received dish at the gathering, particularly due to its unexpectedly effective pairing with the Americano (a mixed drink, not a wine). For me, perplexed in judging all pairings, it was the breaded oxtail that stuck out—in the shape of a giant crouton perched in a pool of onion soup, the fried breading didn’t become soggy, maintaining a crunch to complement the tender braised oxtail. The strong onion flavor of the soup gave life to the oxtail—not literally, fortunately—and I definitely would order this as a precursor to the #9 Wagyu just so my bill would be an even $100.
3) Seared Sea Scallop, black olive, Spanish chorizo, fave bean
On menu: $15 as a first course
Comments: Judging by my experiences at Seabar, Andrzejewski is a seafood master, importing fresh fish of all kinds from Hawaii through FedEx. Sea scallops are a challenge though, particularly because they don’t boast much flavor on their own. The black olive paste actually earned a lot of attention in this dish in terms of flavor and the fava beans in texture. The fava bean, historically under-appreciated.
4) Veal Loin Oscar with king crab, Bearnaise espuma and green asparagus
On menu: $48 as a second course
Comments: With its origin stemming from King Oscar II of Sweden/Norway and Oscar of Waldorf (interestingly, the creator of Eggs Benedict), this dish of royalty was dominated by the peculiar flavor of tarragon and the extremely rich Bearnaise foam. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that kings enjoy relatively obscure spices and buttery foam. While I’m no veal extraordinaire, I do know that it’s hard to avoid toughness in cooking, and Mike A’s chef Edward Forster offered a terrific, soft cut that, again, was complemented by a crunchy counterpart, asparagus. Still, I’d be more apt to spend $88 on the #9 Wagyu than the $48 on the Veal Loin Oscar, mostly because the meat is the focus in the former and not in the latter.
5) Chocolate Pate with blood orange, pretzel crumbs and candied cashew
On the menu: The dessert is not yet on the full menu—ask your server.
Comments: The intensely dense, decadent and gelatinous wedge of dessert included a hint of burnt orange flavor. Perhaps even richer than cheesecake, this is absolutely not a treat you’d eat in quantity. The pretzel crumbs and cashews added crunch for a little balance in texture. Looking back, every dish we were served was balanced by supplemental ingredients that seemed carefully thought out by Mike A’s staff.