Marble and Rye opened this week on Genesee Street as the newest addition to the “Restaurant Row” downtown that now includes Seabar, Toutant, “Dog e Style (sp?),” Washington Market, and the omnipresent Eddy Brady’s, with Marcos right around the corner. It is owned by Christian Willmott and Michael Dimmer of The Black Market Food Truck, and puts an emphasis on thoughtful cocktails and seasonal, local ingredients.
With all of the restaurants opening in the past couple years, we’ve manage to hit either the pre-open or opening week for just about all of them. It is our hobby. Its what we do. Visiting a restaurant (or any business) when it first opens requires some understanding while the kitchen adjusts, the wait staff gets used to the flow, and the bar dials in their program, so we go in with a very open and observational mind.
The development of Marble and Rye has been interesting to watch. Somewhat overshadowed in our world by the launch of our friend Chef James Robert’s much anticipated restaurant Toutant, they’ve been quietly and diligently cranking along right around the corner at building out this 75 seat establishment. The project really started to grow legs and get interesting to me when some of the top young talent from around Western NY began jumping ship from some of the more established chefs and restaurants and signing on to the Marble and Rye team. Both the kitchen team and front of the house teams read like a who’s who of the next generation of food in Buffalo – fitting, as the owners themselves are young, energized, and have jumped in with both feet into their restaurant.
And I think that is great. Because that is how this great food momentum we have in Western NY keeps going and growing. As we sat there, I joked that we were among the older patrons in the restaurant with most of the diners of the millennial generation, be-speckled with lush beards (why doesn’t my beard grow like that damnnit?) and a refined palate for craft beers, whiskey, and locally sourced food.
Anyway, on to the visit. We got there 45 minutes early and grabbed a drink at the bar. It was nice to see familiar faces there, and we opened up with a Bourbon and Tea for Summer and a drink called “The Coaster” for me. The Bourbon and Tea was delicious. A little on the sweet side, but as I mentioned earlier, this is where the restaurant dials in their program. The bar staff checked on us, and wanted feedback on everything, which I appreciate. I am a big fan of mezcal, which is Tequila’s smokey, unemployed cousin, and I can always appreciate the rare bar that keeps it and has the courage to put a cocktail on the menu. The Coaster is a great gateway cocktail to mezcal, with the right bit of sweet and dry to balance off that smoke and punch. I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different, with a little push behind it. They also make their own soda mixers, and they had lemon-lime and watermelon sodas on tap.
We sat for dinner, and started off with a couple of appetizers. There is a pickled onion ring with garlic aioli dish that was great. The red onions had a light pickle for some bite on them, and they were hand battered and fried. They were light and crispy and reminded me of every good thing I ever had fried at Crystal Beach. They even smelled like that. That aioli was so good and garlicy that I wanted to finger sweep the inside of the bowl. I want to rename this dish “not on the first date” because there is no way anyone not established in a solid relationship would get a good night kiss after eating this – but that stands true for all good and tasty food. I will order these every time I go here.
The other appetizer was a departure for the norm. I love the hype a lot of places get (see: Burger in a few paragraphs) but there is usually a lot of skill behind the door that gets lost and doesn’t have the opportunity to come front and center. So I try to seek out the dish or two that may not seem very exciting at first, but offers some sort of peek into where the kitchen wants to go, and what they really want to show you, given the opportunity. We ordered the “Pinzimoni” which was simply labeled as “daily farm selection; green goddess Tonnato.” – translation – raw veggies and dip.
For starters, the plate was beautiful. The photo at the top does not do it justice. Just absolutely stunning in color and depth. The vegetables were presented in a very simple fashion, either completely raw or with a light pickle, and I believe dressed with a bit of good olive oil and some salt. Each one was cut to give the best mouth of texture, and was just a bite. Its the type of dish that makes you appreciate being in the dead center of our really short summer, driving in with the windows open, and recognizing the huge abundance with have at this very moment, that will be gone in a few weeks. I spend an awful lot of time and money at local farmers markets, and I put in a lot of effort trying to figure out what the hell to do with some of these veggies I buy. I appreciate the lesson in restraint and took that home with me.
Also – their green goddess tonnatto (dressing? dip?) ? I’d eat a lot more veggies if I had a huge jar of that laying around.
On to entrees…
We knew we would want the burger. Just like you get Fried Chicken at Toutant, and a Pork Chop at The Black Sheep… this is the place that has been setting us up for “THE burger.” Instagram and Facebook have been blowing up with photos of this burger. So we got the burger. I did not take a photo of the burger. Unless you’ve given up social media this month -you’ve already seen it.
We were pleased with the burger. The effort of house ground meat shines through this burger and is what sets it apart. The sesame bun has a nice chew to it, and held up to the juiciness of a medium rare patty. I like medium rare burgers, but I don’t often trust the kitchen, because most of the time it comes out almost completely raw and sopping through the bun, or hammered to well done. Not the case here. I asked our server how confident she was in their medium rare and she was 100% on-board with the kitchen. It was cooked as ordered, a perfect medium rare. The sauce was present without being overwhelming and the whole package went together really well. We chose to add a sous vide egg to the whole deal and that was a pro-move and highly recommended, as mopping up egg yolk with bread is one of my favorite food experiences ever. The accompanying fries were European frites style, so thick cut, hot, soft, and salty. As I dipped fries in the errant smears of egg yolk from our burger drippins, I dreamed of a place that served egg yolk as a dip for french fries… then realized that this is probably why Belgians use mayo instead of ketchup.
Our other entree was the Carbonara. This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Simple and rustic, it stands up really well with homemade pasta. Their carbonara was a pretty traditional egg yolk prep, with the addition of peas (peak season right now) and some delicious smoky mushrooms. The pasta was well cooked and was coated with the velvety sauce. The dish felt a little heavy handed on the salt, but as I said, just small twitches that get worked out and dialed in as a restaurant opens. I liked the dish a lot, appreciate the vegetarian approach as I would never knowingly order a vegetarian dish – and would order it again.
We didn’t think we would stay for dessert. We were full, and beignets around the corner beckoned us, but the Butter Block macaroons filled with Marble and Rye goodness and bourbon apple pie made us hang out. The apple pie is a single serving crumb top, finished with goat cheese. It was a good pie. The goat cheese was a nice compliment to the apples. My dad always put a slice of cheese in his apple pie, and I forgot all about how much I liked that as well. I wanted a lighter representation of goat cheese, as it felt a little texturally heavy, but the flavor was great. Can it be whipped? Or maybe goat cheese ice cream? Could just be because I was so full from dinner already. I could crush this on its own, but after a big meal it was a lot of delicious goodness. I look forward to eating this in the fall when its chilly out, with a hot coffee and a little sidecar of bourbon.
Those macaroons though… I believe Dan Borelli is the genius behind this assembly. We got the “number 2” which had toasted marshmallow ice cream with a spiced strawberry jam. I could see us driving there just for these and following the seasons as they change up. The Macaroon was huge, with a delicious flavor on its own and a great chew to it. The ice cream was delicious. Not too sweet – which was surprising for a marshmallow ice cream, and it held up in the 80 degree heat for all 2 minutes it lasted on our table. The spiced jam was a great addition to meld the flavors together and balance off the sugar and cream. We took the liberty of telling all of the tables around us to make sure they ordered it. GET THE MACAROON
The service was good. I say this because, as I mentioned above – there are always systems to be figured out and bugs to be worked on – and to a diner you’re most likely to see this in the front of the house because its right in front of you. But I really didn’t see any evidence of this. You wouldn’t know that they opened last week. Our server knew the menu inside and out, was able to make suggestions and answer my odd questions I always come up with. I wanted wine but didn’t feel like a big cab, which is what I usually get – and asked for something “the opposite” of a big cab. She brought me Leonard Oaks Reisling – and it was perfect and very much the opposite. Thanks for tolerating my indecision. Christian, one of the owners, was working front of house, bouncing around from table to table, and checking in with the kitchen and wait staff constantly. His presence was known and gave the entire dining room the air of efficiency and confidence.
We ran into Donnie and Alli from Buffalo Eats, and ended up meeting for a cocktail around the corner after our meals. I mentioned how young I noticed the crowd to be – not just at Marble and Rye, but at a lot of restaurants we’ve been to lately. I’m only 38, but when I was in my 20’s, I loved food, but going out to a nicer restaurant was something that only happened every couple months. This seems like a regular occurrence for this next generation. Donnie made a good point that this generation is all about the experience, not possessions, and have no problem dropping some coin on a good meal and a great bottle of wine. I have to concur. And I’m kind of jealous of these people in their 20’s, because it took me a long time to learn that lesson of experience over possession.
We’ve recently seen a glut of new restaurants opening up as the latest round of local chefs have stepped up and hung their shingle. Chefs that have 20+ years in the business that built it up over time. Its pretty remarkable to see a well run establishment come out of such a great group of young talent. This is exactly what Western NY needs to continue the growth and momentum we’ve seen over the past few years of food. Congrats to everyone at the Marble and Rye, and best of luck.