The Review / Sear beefs up Buffalo’s steakhouse game
Photoa by Eric Frick
200 Delaware Ave.
319-1090 or searbuffalo.com
Two years after opening, Sear is still a strong contender for the title of Buffalo proper’s best steakhouse. With the established Buffalo Chop House to the north, and newcomer, national chain Morton’s to the south, Sear has obvious competition, but is clearly holding its own. We went in with no expectations other than a desire for top quality beef, enrobed in a hearty, flavor-packed crust that is nearly impossible to replicate at home without serious gear and first disabling all the smoke alarms.
Sear is situated on the ground floor of the Avant building, sharing a lobby with Embassy suites. This attachment to a urban hotel comes with all the standard quirks (valet parking, a long walk to the lobby washrooms), but on our visit the experience was nowhere near the ghost town/last resort of the travel-weary that these endeavors typically are. We found Sear humming even on a dreary night, and needed to wait for our table at the bar, despite having a reservation. The bar has an atypically wide range of cocktails divided into House, Classic, and sparkling. The space is ultramodern, its opulent eye candy unlike anything else in town. There has been a commendable investment in creating a stylish, major metropolis vibe.
Breaking up the main dining room is a massive wall of wine. It comes along with large binder, detailing bottles from appellations all over the globe, at every price point. After a bit of searching, we managed to find a midpriced cabernet franc from Mendoza, Argentina. We were impressed by our selection, as it’s juicy and pleasantly tannic, the perfect match for a hunk of red meat.
Even for those who have a specific cut of beef in mind, wading through the steak options here is no simple task. Taking into account the specials, Sear offers a large range of steaks (fifteen options on our visit) broken down into no less than six different categories, with standard cuts such as filet, strip, and ribeye making repeat appearances. Since all options have their weight in ounces listed, a bit of quick math at home, along with a little primer on types of beef, can help to make sense of things, and get you pointed in the right direction. The USDA prime “signature” works out to be the middle-price option. It’s also a solid choice given that the official prime designation comes with guarantee of a certain level of marbling. For filet lovers, I recommend the USDA prime level for the best bang for the buck; my past experiences with prime graded filet have generally been positive and worth the splurge over lesser grades.
The cuts from Snake River Farms are a step up in price from prime. Snake River Farms of Idaho is a large producer of American wagyu, which crosses the fabled Japanese breed with American stock to create hybrid beef that is intended go over better in domestic markets that generally prefer leaner beef. While (potentially) more marbled than prime, these cuts are not true wagyu, but for those interested in going this route, I recommend the cap steak. Sear splits the rib steaks into the eye and the cap, the glorious outer ring that is easily the best part of prime rib. As a steak, it’s tender, beefy, and richly marbled. Sear typically offers authentic, full Japanese wagyu as a special, but a word of warning, the price isn’t listed and it can create major sticker shock. Nonetheless, this is a once in a lifetime treat and great to see it regularly offered in town for those looking to taste real wagyu.
House prime works out to be the lowest price option per ounce, but unlike USDA prime, there is no guarantee of quality. In addition, these steaks are offered on the bone, which may intrigue some and turn off others. There is a single dry-aged option hidden in here that piqued my curiosity, as my experience has shown me that dry-aging is the key to a great steak, more so than breed or grade. It is also one of the larger steaks on the menu, so, despite the price, it’s a bit of a bargain and more than enough beef for two. Listed as a Kansas City strip, it comes as advertised and mostly boneless, sharing a plate with gruyere popover that’s a little on the heavy side. The steak is acceptably seasoned and browned, but misses the hearty crust that turns a good steak into exceptional. The aged beef is good, but didn’t move me as I had hoped. One of our sides, the millionaire mashed potatoes were certainly a highlight of the meal. When asked what makes them “millionaire,” the server jokingly replied, “all the butter.”
We also ran through most of the “Butcher’s Block” section of the menu, which contains some moderately priced options. The Sear burger consists of a roughly shaped patty topped by a monstrous slab of bacon that’s braised until tender, which makes it more ham-like. Both the steak sandwich and steak frites feature a similar but unnamed cut of beef. It is nicely seasoned, as if marinated in dark soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, and perfectly crosshatched on a grill. These entrees are served with a little wire basket of crispy, blond truffle fries tossed in parmesan cheese.
For those who maybe came along for the ride, Sear has seafood in the form of lobster, tuna, and salmon. There is also a selection of non-cow land animals, including rack of lamb, bison, and chicken breast.
It’s undeniable that Sear has set itself apart from the pack. Its potentially overwhelming number of offerings means there really is something for everyone. Coupled with attentive and knowledgeable waitstaff, it’s hard not to have an enjoyable evening here.