This is the first year that I have caved-in to the cliche of Valentine’s Day, and boy was it worth it. I’m sure the highlights of my wonderful girlfriend’s holiday were the surprise breakfast and all of her gifts. And I don’t mean to downplay my excitement about my new bottles of harissa infused olive oil and serrano-honey vinegar by any means, but I cannot get the bouillabaisse from Bacchus out of my thoughts.
You would think that a 7 o’clock reservation on theee holiday dining event of the year would mean a crowded, brash dining room with slow service. That was no where to be found. The casual elegance of this restaurant was the perfect setting for a romantic evening. With subtle lighting, up-beat jazz, a cool bottle of bubbly, plenty of table space, and top-notch plates, what more could you ask for?
The everyday menu was just as eye catching as the specials for the evening, which made ordering quite the task. The first dish we decided on was a duck risotto. This quality, seasonal dish might be a little over-played, but it’s still hard to beat. Pearls of rice studded with tender, unctuous, shredded duck leg confit, lightly steamed butternut squash, and crunchy, toasted pumpkin seeds generously filled a bowl topped with freshly shaved fennel and peppery arugula. Considering the portion and mouth-watering ingredients, this dish was a steal at $12.
The second dish decided upon is what I’m considering a staple of the menu – steak and eggs. This isn’t the steak and eggs you’d cook up at home though. A gigantic, beautifully crimson-colored, paper thin slice of beef carpaccio covered the plate, topped off with an arugula and parmesan salad. Just the right amount of truffle oil vinaigrette coated the greens, and paired nicely with a crusty slice of baguette and a perfectly prepared sunny-side-up egg. This is simple yet elegant, well-prepared food that is too hard to come by in this city.
Now for the entrees, and that bouillabaisse that’s still haunting me (in a good way, not the spooky kind)…
My girlfriend ordered the ribeye steak with a gorgonzola crust. Make sure you’ve got the appetite for this 16-ounce beast. Cooked to a better medium-rare than I can manage, just the way she ordered it, there was no disappointing. The bruleed crust complimented the meat with a pleasant tang, and the fingerling potatoes with spinach and a bacon vinaigrette were the perfect match.
Like I’ve mentioned several times already, I ordered the bouillabaisse. Don’t ask me why someone who’s not that crazy for seafood would order this classic fish stew. I guess I’m trying to let seafood finally catch my taste buds (get it?). I cannot say enough how pleased I was with my decision. The base of the stew was an aromatic tomato and fennel broth that had an intense kick from the homemade chorizo, and was finished with just the right amount of cream to balance it out. Although they were slightly tough, the bright red shrimp popped brilliantly against the slate-black shells of the mussels. Its been a while since I’ve had mussels, and let me tell you, I won’t be making that mistake again. The only change I would make to the dish would be a nice caramelization on the scallops, but overall they were steamed just right. Oblong-cut potato gnocchi added a nice twist to the dish along with some extra texture, and the fragrant punch of fresh parsley kissed every heavenly spoonful (in a romantic kind of way). God, I need to at least get some more of that chorizo.
Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant
Located at: 56 West Chippewa at Franklin, Buffalo, NY 14202
Call: 716-854-WINE (9463)
Price Range: Small Plates $9-$15 Large Plates $20-$32