Local Restaurant Week Oct. 2010 – O’Connell’s American Bistro & Nektar

Last week was Local Restaurant Week! For those who are unfamiliar with it, Local Restaurant Week is held twice a year (typically in March and October) and, during that week, specials are held at many local restaurants. Each restaurant holds a special menu priced at $20.10; what you get for that price is determined by the expense of the restaurant (places like Buffalo Chophouse offer an entrée and side while cheaper diners give 4 courses for 2 people). This month, I went to O’Connell’s American Bistro (Kenmore Ave.) and Nektar (Elmwood & Bryant), both of which proved to be as excellent as hoped.

O’Connell’s American Bistro

My family and I had originally planned to go to Shango Bistro and Wine Bar on Main St., but they were booked solid for 4 days when we called. We ended up getting a last-minute reservation to O’Connell’s in Kenmore, in what used to be The Hourglass. We’d never seen the place that packed, and because of the prices on the regular menu, were cautiously anxious as we sat down to eat. For $20.10, each diner could pick between an “old world” or “new world” tasting menu.

I opted for the “new world” menu, which included beef tartare, sausage and escarole soup, braised local rabbit over house-made penne, grilled swordfish, and petits fours. (Just a note: I didn’t get any pictures of the food, but everything was plated beautifully and presentation was certainly a priority in the kitchen.) The beef tartare was a wonderful start, fresh and cold. The piping hot soup — with a definite kick — was probably the highlight of the tasting menu; the flavors were spot-on and the soup was seasoned perfectly. I’d never had rabbit before that night and, honestly, it tasted like chicken. The result was almost a broth-less chicken-soup-like pasta dish that was actually quite good. The swordfish, while a bit overcooked, was seasoned well but left plain. The star of that dish was the ‘artichoke caponata’ that lay underneath the fish. I’m a huge fan of anything artichoke, and this was no exception; it added a succulence that the swordfish needed and was just simply great (I actually took a piece of leftover bread to swoop the rest of the caponata off of my plate.).

The meal ended with petits fours, which arrived as three little pastries: a lemon shortbread, an Almond-Joy-type creation, and a chocolate caramel. Each bite was delicious, but the coconut-almond petit four, with coconut that literally melted in my mouth, ended up being the perfect end to a great dinner.

Overall, O’Connell’s ended up being an exceptional “second” choice (although Shango remains high up on the to-do list). The attention to classic detail made the meal seamless, and the portions (and overall amount of food) were surprising given the $20.10 price. Due to the extraordinarily high prices on the regular dinner menu, we probably won’t be back there anytime soon, but it was a great deal to take advantage of during Restaurant Week.

Nektar

Later on in the week, my friend Rick and I had dinner at Nektar, a small restaurant and wine bar on Elmwood near Bryant. I’d been to Nektar in March for Local Restaurant Week and enjoyed my dinner immensely: the short ribs and polenta that I had were incredible; I haven’t had better short ribs anywhere else since then. While we had planned to order off the special $20.10 menu (which offered a salad plus an entrée), we ultimately decided to order just entrées off of the regular menu (i.e. paying the same price but forgoing the salad). I ordered the pistachio-crusted pork tenderloin, served with sweet potato purée and sautéed escarole, finished with an apricot-bourbon beurre blanc. For Rick, the shrimp and chorizo pasta (the details of his dish escape me, and it’s not currently listed on the menu online).

Our food was phenomenal. My pork was the ultimate savory, Thanksgiving-esque dish; the sweet potato and apricot-bourbon sauce put this feeling over the edge. It was classy comfort food at its best. Toward the end of our meal, I tried a bit of Rick’s pasta – the complete opposite of my dish. It was spicy and palette-awakening, delicious in a different way than my pork. Due to prior time commitments (and the fact that I’m late for everything), we weren’t able to stay for dessert, even though I’ve been wanting to try their bread pudding since I’d read about it on Buffalo Chow. Next time, for sure!

O’Connell’s American Bistro
981 Kenmore Ave
Buffalo, NY 14217

O'Connells American Bistro on Urbanspoon

Nektar
451 Elmwood Ave
Buffalo, NY 14222

Nektar on Urbanspoon

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