Sneak Preview: Epic Restaurant & Lounge
As a food editor, restaurant openings can be a blessing or a curse. Each time I visit a new restaurant I hold my breath in hope that it will be noteworthy, exciting, or at the very least, interesting. Often times I am left disappointed, which makes my job harder. On rare occasions I leave ecstatic. After visiting the soon-to-open Epic, located on the corner of Elmwood and Bryant, I am happy to say that I was pleased, verging on thrilled, actually.
Owner Dale Ali has invested effort and cash into upgrading and refining the interior of the former wine bar, and his goal to open a fine dining restaurant with friendly service seems to be on track. With the skills of Chef Sergio Aquino in the kitchen, it appears that Elmwood finally has a fine dining destination that is both inventive and approachable. My experience last weekend was limited to a menu customized for the restaurant’s soft opening, so I have only had a glimmer of the offerings that may be available, but I have had the privilege of speaking at length about food and dining with Aquino in the past. These experiences lead me to believe that his goal of presenting a fresh and seasonal menu with global inspiration isn't just a tag line he read in a food magazine, it's something he is truly passionate about. With global travel under his belt, he has the experience to bring these desires to life. I also believe that diners will be enticed by his use of preparations and techniques ranging from classic French to peasant.
Ali, who owns the Elmwood Market just blocks away, is a man with many interests and enough drive to accomplish them. In addition to his ownership of Epic and the busy neighborhood market, he is also a developer with projects in Chicago and Florida. While they interviewed several chefs for the position, Ali told me that Aquino was the best of the lot, and he is very happy with Aquino’s ability to run the kitchen and prepare great food.
Aquino, a native of Puerto Rico, has been on hiatus for a few years, rehabilitiating houses after having some less than ideal experiences as a chef at local restaurants, “I don’t want to make shrimp cocktail,” he told me as he sat with my table once dessert was cleared. “I need more than that.”
You can see the meal I enjoyed, course by course, in the photo gallery below. Clicking on the image allows you to see the name of the dish and any notes I might have made during dinner. There were a few missteps here and there, and my peers will think I am crazy to openly extol rhe virtues of such a new restaurant, but it was by far the most interesting pre-opening meal I've ever experienced. I can’t wait to get a closer look at the entire menu, and to watch as this restaurant (hopefully) comes into its own.
As with any new restaurant, it takes weeks, even months, to work out the kinks both in the kitchen and the front of the house, so diners would be wise to take these things into consideration when booking a reservation. Ali promises that the restaurant’s website, which is currently under construction, will be up soon. Epic opens this week. Stop in for a drink or call for a reservation.
Epic Restaurant & Lounge
431 Elmwood Ave
Buffalo, NY 14222
**It should be noted that both the chef and menu at Epic have changed since this story appeared in 2011.