It starts with a jovial tale of love, prosperity and fertility. It ends with a marriage between two deities. Oshun, the Orisha of fresh waters, marries Shango, venerated for his powers over thunder and lightening, he was known to be a colorful character.
And so it goes, Oshun’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar has opened in downtown Buffalo; perfectly situated at the corners of Genesee Street and E. Huron and not to far from it’s partner Shango’s Restaurant.
This vibrant Art Deco restaurant has a strong mythological bend that carries you from story to history to present. Jim Guarino, owner/chef, resurrects this voodoo pantheon and shares it with the world. After signing a lease to its current location, Owner and team realized during construction that the once occupied Waldorf Astoria not only had a history dating back to 1946, but that many of the walls held their own mystic. It seemed kismet that this building would become the living space of Oshun’s Restaurant, upon discovery of water themed fresco’s hidden behind drywall. Not one, not two, but several fresco’s depicting water goddesses or mermaids were uncovered. Framed in mahogany wood, these show stopping fresco’s now greet you as you walk into the tranquil and open space.
Seating roughly 125 people, the restaurant has a dashing 60’s style bar. Horizontal to the bar is an oyster bar where you can try your hand at raw seafood. Partitions separate the tables from the lively bar areas, but give you unobstructed views of the beautiful sea blue colors and fresco adorned walls.
The food palate resembles that of the decor. A wild and eccentric menu, all plates are small, giving patrons the ability to share amongst the table or enjoy small portions for themselves. A perfect example of what I mean by eccentric would be the Bay Scallops ($12.00). These plancha seared scallops are served atop coconut rice, Burmese tomatillos, fresh mint and popcorn. Yes that’s what I said–popcorn. My party and I looked at each other quizzically before diving into this strange and wondrous dish. However, it was in fact absolutely delicious. The salty crunch of the popcorn compliments the coconut flavor of the rice so well, that I almost forgot I was eating popcorn. While the scallops are small (roughly the size of the popcorn), they are fresh, and provide just enough chewiness that you don’t become overwhelmed with a giant scallop taking control of your mouth.
Next came the calamari ($9.00). This is a staple for me at any seafood restaurant. And any good restaurant worth its salt knows that in order to make a great calamari, it’s one part breading to two parts flavor. Meaning, easy on the breading–let the flavors from the glaze and seafood do most of the work. Oshun’s hits it out of the park. Lightly breaded, these fried squid are served with basil, pineapple tamarind glaze, atop grilled corn salsa. It’s the perfect portion size for a four top table; each getting at least 2 small servings.
Next we conquered the catfish ($12.00) and the Faroe Island salmon ($13.00). For those who are gluten free, the catfish is breaded in cornmeal; served with bacon vinaigrette and slaw. I’ve never been a big catfish fan, but this flaky fish was so mouth watering, I almost list it as a top contender for favorite seafood’s. That being said, the salmon, which is my favorite dish, is served as a grilled kabob with honey mustard glaze and sauerkraut. I will note it was just slightly over cooked, but delicious all the same. It is cut into five chunks and you are served three kabobs.
Our sides included orzo ($8.00) and olives ($4.00). The olives are the real deal; seeded and lightly tossed in olive oil and various pepper seasonings. The orzo I wouldn’t recommend. While the glazed onions and pancetta it is tossed with are excellent, the orzo itself is extremely overcooked, giving it a slightly slimy consistency.
This swarthy mix of voodoo myth meets city slicker not only works well for Buffalo, but works well for the style of food Chef Guarino has in mind. It’s a great scene that plays to the public nightly.
Oshun’s will be hosting a Christmas Eve. cocktail hour with drink specials and complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 3-6 p.m.
I highly recommend Oshun’s for your next dinner date.