I’ll admit that when I saw the sign “Taisho Bistro” in a strip plaza in Amherst, I had already written off the restaurant as boring. I hadn’t looked at a menu, but I’ve seen enough boring Japanese/Hibachi restaurants around Western New York, and I assumed Taisho would be the same. I was luckily very wrong. Not only is the menu completely different, serving everything from ramen to yakitori (BBQ) to sushi, but the actual location is pretty unique. You’ll not only find a bright/flashy bar but also a full izakaya style dining room and lots of J-pop.
When we walked into the restaurant on a Friday night, we luckily didn’t have the wait for a table. After briefly considering the izakaya dining room and how nice it might be to sit on the floor without shoes, we decided to sit at a regular ole’ table. The location is very nice; the owners of Taisho have really put some money into the place. When we arrived they were blaring some pretty energetic J-pop too, which was more enjoyable than I would have thought and also added a feeling of ‘authenticity’ to the restaurant. However, as more diners started to arrive, including some older guests, the music was changed to a station playing ballads and softer music instead of the dance-y/pop music.
- Restaurant Type: Japanese Izakaya style Bar/Restaurant
- Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi
- Location: Amherst
- Prices: Yakitori (BBQ) ~$2/piece, Sushi $5-15, Ramen $7
At the moment Taisho doesn’t have a website, so we weren’t exactly sure what would be on the menu when we arrived. Their menu is gigantic (see in gallery) and it takes some serious effort to go through and check out everything they have to offer. We managed to order decent variety of the menu but after talking to some friends and looking at online reviews, there are plenty of the items I will be going back to try soon.
Our meal started with a couple different skewers from their yakitori menu. We ordered the chicken, shrimp and pork but also decided to be a little adventurous and order the chicken heart and gizzard. The shrimp was pretty good, not over cooked and very tasty albeit a little messy to eat. The chicken and pork were OK. The chicken skewer included was a mixture of dark and white meat but was a little tough while the pork was very juicy but flavorless. The sauce on the plate tasted great but the actual meat itself was pretty bland and definitely needed the extra kick. I wanted to really liked the gizzard and hearts but I wasn’t that big of s fan of either. The texture and flavor of the gizzard put me off and the chicken hearts were tender but not exactly flavorful. It’s pretty easy to try a bunch of different skewers, their prices are all between $1-2 each.
We also ordered two bowls of Ramen. Alli ordered the Taisho Ramen (gallery) while I ordered the Miso Ramen. Again the prices were very affordable, both bowls were under $7 and pretty large. Alli was pretty disappointed with her bowl, even though it looked near identical to mine (minus the carrots). The broth in the Taisho wasn’t that great and resembled a watered down chicken stock. My bowl of Miso Ramen (pictured above) was the complete opposite. The broth was much thicker and had a wonderful flavor and texture. In both of our bowls, the fatty slices of pork belly melted with each bite and the eggs had a very rich yolk. We finished the meal with two Spicy Crunchy Crab sushi rolls (gallery). The roll was delicious; I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but a really good spicy miso sauce just hit the spot.
Our meal had some ups and downs and since then we’ve talked to several of our foodie friends about the restaurant; their opinions have been incredibly polarizing. Some people consider the restaurant one of Buffalo’s best new ethnic restaurants while others were pretty disappointed with the food and discouraged from going back. I think Taisho is definitely worth checking out, there is literally nothing like the place in the area and the menu is large and full of interesting dishes. So get a group of friends, share a bunch of small plates off the menu (our bill total was less then $40, and that included a $6 beer!) and try something new. I am sure we will be going back soon to try more of the menu and will keep you updated.