When I first read about Martin Cooks opening a sit down restaurant in Horsefeathers, I was very intrigued. In an interview with Buffalo.com, Chef Martin Danilowicz was referencing restaurants like Blanca, The Chef’s Table at the Brooklyn Fare and Moto. These aren’t just good restaurants, they are some of the best restaurants in the United States and they’re doing things with cooking techniques and business models that are quite revolutionary.
Martin Cooks is indeed trying things that are unique for Western New York. Aside from opening the first true ‘fine dining’ restaurant in the West Side (I’m assuming you’ve read our Left Bank post by now), the restaurant only offers two dinner services a night for just 12 people at a time (reservations are key). The idea is definitely risky and I was excited to see someone willing to try something different and unproven. In that time since they’ve opened I’ve heard mixed reviews about their $60 prix fixe menu; some people have enjoyed the setting/format but weren’t exactly wowed by the flavors in the food. However other friends of ours, some incredibly knowledgeable eaters, have claimed the food is excellent. We are still waiting to try the dinner service for ourselves. We did, however, try their Saturday brunch/breakfast offering on the first day of Horsefeathers Winter Market.
- Restaurant Type: Fine Dining (for dinner service), Casual
- Location: West Side
- Cuisine: Varies
- Prices: Dinner $60, Breakfast/Lunch $9-15
It was our first time seeing the finished restaurant and I think it might be one of the prettiest restaurant/dining room in Western New York. The entire kitchen is open and you can really see what is going on at all times. I love the look and design of the place; exposed brick walls and a gorgeous wooden bar that wraps around the kitchen can make you think that you’re no longer in Buffalo.
We happened to visit on the first day of the Horsefeathers Winter Market and the entire building was packed and insane. Since there were a hundred people just standing around, it was hard to tell who was a server/employee of Martin Cooks or how we should grab a seat. We decided to walk up to the bar and ask if we could sit down, luckily one of the staff noticed us right away and grabbed some menus and a couple glasses of water.
Martin Cooks offers a lunch service during the week but this Saturday menu appeared to be different and definitely focused on more typical breakfast/brunch entrees. Alli and I had a hard time trying to narrow down which dish we wanted, so we ended up splitting three of them. We split their Bolognese, Biscuits with Chicken Gravy and Bibimap. All of which were priced in the $10-15 range.
Everything was great. The Biscuits with Chicken Gravy were quickly devoured; the biscuits were flaky and the gravy had a great texture, lots of chicken and made for a great hearty meal on a cold morning. The Bolognese was also a hit, the veal/beef mixture in the ragu was right on and there was plenty of it. The star of the show was the Bibimap, a Korean rice dish that’s basically their version of a garbage plate. On the plate was some rice, cabbage, steak, a poached egg and small salad. My only complaint about the dish was that it was on a plate, which made it a little difficult to mix everything together (I prefer it all in a giant bowl). Otherwise, all of the flavors on the dish were fantastic. The steak was cooked perfectly, the pickled red cabbage had a nice crunch and I’m not sure there is anything better than a runny egg on top of rice. Honestly, I think both Alli and I could have eaten a full dish by ourselves.
By the end of our service, the restaurant was completely full and every table had a large group waiting to be served. It appeared to catch the staff at Martin Cooks off guard and I don’t think they had enough people on hand that day. It took some time to get our check but the bigger problem was witnessing some arguments between servers as they tried to handle the large volume of customers. I guess that’s the gamble with having an open kitchen; when things are going great it’s a fun show, but when it’s not it can get a little awkward. None of that changed how delicious our breakfast was and I’d assume that in the weeks after their first Winter Market service, things have been smoothed out. It’s no longer a question of “if” we’ll be checking out Martin Cooks for dinner but “when”.