The Review / A deep dive into The Dapper Goose
Korean fried chicken at The Dapper Goose comes with sides of kimchi fried rice and cucumber pickles.
Photos by kc kratt
The Dapper Goose
491 Amherst Street
thedappergoose.com or 551-0716
Once considered as a potential spot for the terminus of the Erie Canal, the independent town of Black Rock missed out on its shot at becoming the gravitational center of Western New York. Its prime location, proximate to the narrowest river crossing with Canada, became a liability during the war of 1812, so focus shifted to Buffalo. Canal construction was ordered to continue past Black Rock, and, in a final slight, its namesake, a dark stone outcropping that marked the crossing, was lost to canal construction.
Despite this, Black Rock continues to resist obscurity. Standouts like Spar’s sausage shop and the Sportsmen’s Tavern music venue have long anchored the neighborhood. Now with Buffalo re-pat Keith Raimondi and fiance Peggy Wong breathing new life into 491 Amherst Street, The Dapper Goose joins the list.
Striped bass with mustard greens, celery root puree, and roasted root vegetables
Toast with figs, hazelnuts, Concord grape reduction, and housemade ricotta
While the bar is an altar of simplicity, the cocktails are not. An uncluttered workspace features taps hidden under the bar, a large spray of fresh flowers in the corner, and a cast aluminum citrus juicer, gleaming as a monument to an bygone era. Out of this environment comes heady cocktails like Broken Garden Tools, which is structured around gin, lemon, and Moroccan spices and infused with a bright shade of green from a healthy dose of parsley and celery. It evokes a refined, tomato-free Bloody Mary, crystal clear, light-bodied and pleasantly devoid of acid. The Skyway Between Us also drinks like an appetizer with smoky charred-corn-infused tequila and red pepper lending a vegetal sweetness. A dollop of oil-cured chiles are precariously perched on a single large ice cube, insuring that their aromatic fumes hit your nose and a fiery slick of oil coats your lips with each sip. The draft beer list is short, with only local craft selections and a Basque cider, but the can and bottle selection is well curated from locations far and wide. I was especially intrigued by Stillwater Artisanal’s Cellar Door, a dry hopped farmhouse wheat ale that nicely incorporates sage, complementing the hops without an overbearing herbacious single-note. Several wines are on tap, and TDG boasts one of the most interesting lists of bottles in WNY, including a wide variety of boutique and natural wines. Bar manager Tim Leary has put together a program that will surprise even the most seasoned imbiber, regardless of choice of drink.
Gin-based “Fishtown Heights;” “Broken Garden Tools” with gin, lemon, Moroccan spices, and parsley and celery juice
The menu, constructed by chef Jesse Ross, divides the kitchen’s offerings into small and large plates. Item descriptions consist of a string of ingredients that are typically sufficient to get a feel of the dish, but we’ve encountered a surprise or two, so feel free to ask your server for more details. The menu features a hodgepodge of global flavors, with an overarching theme of creativity and harmony with the bar program. While some menu items read as standard cocktail cuisine fare (ahem, chicken liver mousse), the bulk of it is outside the common run, with a few hidden gems.
Particularly intriguing are the small plates that elevate humble vegetables to star status. Blackened green beans, with roots in the classic Chinese dish of dry fried green beans, have an intense smokiness, not from wood or charcoal, but from a brief scorching on hot steel. This unique and addicting flavor is referred to as “wok hay” in Chinese cookery and is often absent in most restaurant stir fries. These beans abound in it. They’re seared and slightly shriveled with crisp cores. A puree of charred onion provides a hint of sweetness and pumpkin seeds offer a textural contrast. The finished dish has a bit of chili heat to it, which isn’t noted on the menu, so enjoy with caution.
Dry fried green beans, and chicken liver mousse
Equally compelling is the cauliflower preparation, with its deeply browned exterior and a richness that hints at a fry in schmaltz, lending a hint chicken wing flavor. The benevolent chef provides an adequate foil of a tart and chive forward green goddess dressing to keep the fat from overwhelming. Duck fat, along with a duck egg, find their way into a potato hash that is more potato than mushroom, despite being called a dish of mushrooms on the menu. Well browned and meaty, the mushrooms are superb, especially when dragged through the gel-like duck yolk.
Proteins also dazzle in the small plate format. The beef tartare, brightened with a hint of citrus tang and a grating of horseradish elicits the pleasure of a perfectly rare roast beef sandwich minus the carbs. A special of the Spanish meatballs, albondigas, is built from a sturdy, coarse grind and drowned in a velvety red sauce. The spicy heat of the sauce invokes the flavor of chorizo sausage, which isn’t unwelcome, and is enjoyable with the provided toast points. Crab toast is nicely composed with flavors of lemon, herbs, and crispy leeks kept understated so as to play well with mild mannered crab. Toasting of the bread foundation is kept to a minimum, preventing sogginess, while retaining all the enjoyable squishiness of white bread.
Veal shoulder special
Large plates are sizable portions that can easily be shared. The Korean fried chicken is a monstrous leg quarter with crisp skin, lacquered to deep red gloss. The sticky sweet sauce is tamed by the salty and funky Korean chili paste—think American barbecue sauce with Asian influence. Kimchi fried rice and cucumber pickles are complementary accompaniments. A veal special is worth a try if you’re lucky to come across it. Veal shoulder, braised to tender, is pressed into a pan until it forms a thick golden brown crust. We were warned that some diners find the veal dry, but we enjoyed ours and felt the benefits of browning outweighed the potential for overcooking the meat. Parsley salad, grilled beets, and a swirl of floral lavender mustard round out the plate.
A selection of artisanal cheeses is also available, and can be ordered individually or in groups of three or five. Each cheese is paired with a complementary flavor expertly highlighting the nuances of each.
With its dressy yet minimalistic interior, impressive bar program, ranging menu, and professional service, The Dapper Goose is helping to put Black Rock back on the map.
Jeff Biesinger is Spree's fine dining reviewer.