Take One: Tabree
I love Paris in the springtime. I love Snyder in the fall.
The French bistro Tabree has departed its former, petite location on Elmwood for a larger, more modern space on Main Street in Snyder. The new digs are spacious and inviting, with a comfortable bar and stylish, dimly lit dining room. The signage, however, is lousy. Best to know before arriving that it’s a few doors east from the north corner of Main and Harlem. Unobtrusive acid jazz is piped in, but doesn’t prohibit intimate conversation. Tabree is upscale without the stuffiness, trendy without the arrogance.
On both of two recent visits, we were warmly greeted at our designated reservation time, and seated promptly. There the similarity ended. On our first visit, we found our server to be well-dressed, well-trained, swift, and ready with suggestions. On our return, our server was a bit self-conscious and hesitant. He hadn’t quite mastered what his colleague had accomplished—service so competent you hardly know it’s there.
Iced tap water was kept in a tall, thin glass pitcher on the table at all times—a nice touch. Diners were treated to slices of fresh, warm, baguette served with soft salted butter. It should be noted that the baguette was perfectly chewy; word has it the loaves are flown in from the Tom Cat bakery in Long Island City, Queens.
Tabree’s menu is refreshingly simple, with about ten appetizers and entrees, and a small handful of sandwiches and salads. Apps are in the $10 to $15 range, while most entrees run between $25 and $35. Sandwiches and salads are about $15. One notable exception is the foie gras appetizer, at $20, but it’s worth every penny. A large slice of Hudson Valley foie gras is seared on one side and served with cranberries, maple syrup, and two pieces of pain perdu (a kind of savory French toast). The portion? Large. The foie gras? Like butter, but made even better with the great juxtaposition of crispiness from the seared side against the creamy, rich, soft texture of the liver. The accompanying condiments added a welcome sweet note to a savory dish that was as good as anything you’ll find in a homey, out-of-the-way bistro in Paris.
Escargot are served over a Pernod cream with a couple of puff pastries, and chopped leeks and squash. The dish feels like a deconstructed seafood pie—untraditional and a bit of a miss. On the other hand, a huge chopped beet and endive salad was a hit, with pear, gorgonzola, and walnut vinaigrette combining sweet, savory, and bitter in a unique and well-balanced way.
Grilled squid is a Mediterranean staple, served whole at Tabree in the traditional way with herbs and olive oil, but also with a few dollops of romesco. I thought the sauce was unnecessary, as the squid was cooked perfectly, and the olive oil with herbs would have been fine alone. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the squid, which clearly doesn’t need to be deep-fried to be excellent, as it would seem from its regular appearance as a crispy fried appetizer on the menus of many WNY restaurants. The butternut squash soup was rich and creamy, with an unexpected kick of flavor courtesy of the chef’s addition of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.
The house specialty is steak au poivre. Too often, restaurants serve this dish with tough meat and rely too heavily on the intensely flavored sauce to mask its inadequacies. Not so at Tabree, which obviously used care in its preparation to deliver a twelve-ounce cut of certified Angus strip cooked as ordered—medium rare, soft, and pink throughout. Served with slivers of potato and a housemade pepper sauce that didn’t overpower the flavors of the beef, this was a home run.
The same cannot be said for our other beef order. The herb-grilled filet mignon was overcooked, served medium instead of medium rare. It was tough and disappointing. An accompanying creamy camembert and pecan risotto was tasty, but neither the cheese nor the nuts popped.
We also ordered a burger, which was grilled nicely and served on a soft bun with a massive heap of incredibly flavorful and aromatic smoked bacon, and similarly smoky Gruyere cheese. This is decadently excellent pub grub.
In another entree, a juicy roasted pork tenderloin is breaded with panko and served with a chunky leek and gruyere bread pudding along with a side of pomegranate sauce. In many ways, it resembles a chubby wiener schnitzel, and its sweet glaze works well with it. The bread pudding is a bit bland, but worked well with the sauce.
Striped bass served with grilled zucchini has a smoky, crispy texture on top, thanks to a black chickpea, parsley, and olive pesto. A poached salmon special is served simply with lemon butter over risotto. Like most of Tabree’s seafood, it is downright refreshing.
Coq au vin, that rustic French staple, is fantastic here, with tender, moist chicken—I suspected it might have been prepared sous vide. Topped with a savory/sweet glaze over root vegetables and spaetzle, this satisfying, comforting dish would please even the most hardcore Francophile.
Elmwood’s loss is the northern suburbs’ gain. Tabree’s service and food execution is uneven and there’s room for improvement, but when they’re good, they’re excellent. The foie gras and the coq au vin are standouts, the specials are superb, and they offer some of Buffalo’s best fish entrees. Tabree offers a unique mix of traditional French cooking with a New World twist. It’s worth a try.
4610 Main St., Williamsville, 716-844-8477
Attorney Alan Bedenko’s posts as the Buffalo Pundit can now be found at artvoice.com.