2 blocks away from newly opened Patina 250 comes SEAR. The swanky new steakhouse is yet another breath of life into the vibrant resurgence that is Downtown Buffalo. Located in the Avant Building at 200 Delaware Avenue, housing the Embassy Suites hotel, 27 Condos and Class A offices, is the next wave of upscale dining inside a building of its type.
The previous space held by Della Terra was average at best. SEAR is a different animal all together. The 6 month, $1 Million renovation is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Yes, Buffalo has steakhouses, but not like this place. Although SEAR opens today, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to try to the food, including at the Grand Opening Party earlier in the week. As you can see’ I’m really liking this place and will do whatever it takes to get back there. The name alone makes my mouth water.
If you have ever been to RPM in Chicago, and STK or Cut in LA then you understand. What I like about the new age steakhouse concept is it brings a youthfulness to a culture that has always been a little, well, “stuffy”. SEAR is not your grandfather’s steakhouse. It will gather together a great mix of people from all walks of life.
SEAR has 7 powerhouse partners in the mix and a well honed design team to boot. For more on the background, please see the previous article by Queenseyes (SEAR Sizzles).
The managing Partner, Dave Schutte of Shutte Hospitalty Group (SHG – Creekview, Olivers and SEAR) says that the “…partnership is excited to be a part of Downtown Buffalo’s renaissance. A few of the partners aren’t from Buffalo, but they built their careers here and are proud to give back to Buffalo and keep their hearts here.”
Schutte is speaking of course about former Buffalo Bills players Brian Moorman, Terrance Mcgee and Fred Jackson. Jackson told me that he is excited to be back, and to bring this great restaurant to Buffalo. “I wasn’t born here, but this feels like home,” he said. He also mentioned he was looking forward to the summer, as there are plans for a big patio build out.
SEAR’s Dir of Ops Brian Harzewski (previously Crush Hospitality) walked me through the restaurant to point out a few features in the 140 seat dining space. A main focal point is the impressive 2,500 bottle wine wall SEAR boasts, as well as a separate white wine only cooler area, just off the bar.
Behind the frosted knife-cladded sliding doors sits a private Chef’s Tasting Room that seats 12. Harzewski will be handling all the day-to-day operations inside the restaurant, along with the hotel needs (Shutte Hospitality Group will be handling the hotel dining as well). He also mentioned that the restaurant will be offering complimentary valet parking.
Behind the scenes, there is no lack of talent with Executive Chef JT Nicholson at the helm. He and Schutte collaborated on most of the menu. Nicholson originally from Indiana, studied under “Top Chef” Trey Wilcox in Dallas, before finding his way to Buffalo – his wife is originally from Batavia.
Although there is a range of sides and dishes, Shutte reiterated that they are a steakhouse and their plan was and always will be to “Raise the stakes, in the steakhouse game.” That includes how they cook them. Different steaks are cooked different ways, however the Maillard effect (or reaction) plays a key role in cooking the perfect steak. “So whether it’s in our 1,400 degree broiler, or in a pan,” Schutte explains. “It’s all about the sear!” Therefore, it was a logical idea for the name of the restaurant.
For Nicholson, he has a French background in cooking, and it seems he has broken the mold from the typical rules of French cooking. “I wanted to create my own experience. I really like this environment. I want people to play with their food. My mom used to yell at me for it, so I wanted to create a place where people can engage and play with their food.” With that, let’s play!
A must at any steakhouse, Lobster Bisque ($12). Rich, flavorful and topped with actual lobster meat – always a solid touch. Served in a cast iron bowl, a good start with the weather changing here in Buffalo.
The locally grown Farmer’s Salad ($9) is light, fresh and colorful. Mixed with shaved vegetables, herbs and spritzed with caramelized onion vinaigrette. The hydroponic greens come from Fulmer Valley about an hour south of Buffalo.
House made Burrata ($14) is something that can stand on its own with simply a drizzle of olive oil. Chef Nicholson takes it to another level by surrounding the hand pulled cheese with a moat of tomato marmalade, then lightly dusting with basil and pepper and finished with a sprinkle of pine nuts. As you cut the soft milky Burrata in half the creamy middle flows out with perfection. The marmalade adds an incredible sweetness and tang to the salty stuffed cheese. This is by far one of the best burrata’s I’ve ever had in my life! I was close to licking the plate.
The eye popping presentation of the Ahi Tuna Tartare ($15) proves that you eat with your eyes first. The squid ink background accentuates the colors of this dish. The tartare “cake” is mixed will with an assortment of goodies, then a half moon of yuzu soy foam hugs the tuna for that salty finish. Puffed rice crackers placed on top and around add a soft crunch to the smoothness of the tuna.
The SEAR menu features some diversity with seafood other meat options. For me, I’m about the steak. Therefore…
For my selection I went with the “Cap Steak” or “Coulotte cut”. An 8oz A-6 grade Wagyu cut ($46).
Plated on top of the demi, the Wagyu cut was ‘seared’ to a perfect rare plus. As is tradition in steakhouses, SEAR offers 12 a la cart sides. “Millionaire” mashed potatoes ($8), lobster mac ($16), asparagus ($8) and garlic parmesan spinach ($8) are a few. There are 5 steak sauces as well. I went with the SEARious Mushrooms ($8) and “SEAR” steak sauce, the restaurants take on A1 sauce.
The mushrooms were a hit, as Chef de Cuisine Mike Swartz explained, “They are cooked in a sherry wine and butter before being finished with a topping of demi (glace).” An excellent complement with a steak of that magnitude.
The dessert section is vast created by Pastry Chef Melissa Garcia. From a monster sundae to the lighter sorbet… there is even the option of a bag of doughnuts. The Chocolate Coffee Layer Cake was in my crosshairs. Rich decadence you would expect from the flowing chocolate masterpiece that’s been topped with toasted hazelnuts. Assistant Manager Caroline Schutte hinted that this will most likely be one of the signature desserts on the menu. Oh by the way bring, your squad, as this is not a small dessert.
One note worth mentioning, the food pictures you see might be slightly different in presentation when you order. Through the soft opening/growing phase, Chef Nicolson said that they have made some minor changes with a few dishes. No matter, the diner is in for a real treat based on the offerings that I have sampled. This is yet another fine addition to the ever-changing restaurant landscape in the city of Buffalo.
SEAR officially opens to the public today, November 17th. Call 716-319-1090 or hit Open Table for reservations.