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Best Taste in Buffalo: Daniel's Restaurant | Contests

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Best Taste in Buffalo: Daniel's Restaurant
Best Taste in Buffalo: Daniel's Restaurant

I left Buffalo 30 years ago. Since then, I've lived all around the world. From Moscow, to Seoul, to Honolulu, to Paris, to Barcelona, to New York City, to Miami - the list is longer than I care to admit. After so many residences I've come to categorize them by the restaurants they offer. I keep a list of the finest food I've ever eaten; I honestly dream at night of the top five restaurants on that list. I return to those top five cities sometimes just to eat: Barcelona, Paris, New York City, Tokyo and Moscow .

When I moved home to Buffalo last year I thought I'd put that list to rest. You know: carve it in stone, never add to it again. Not a bad thing, when you think about it, since you can't have everything all the time and I was excited to be home again. Besides, I really missed the Buffalo staples you can't get correctly made anywhere in the world: wings, beef on weck and Texas hots. Even kielbasa is better in Buffalo than Krakow.

Imagine my shock when I ate at a restaurant one half mile from my high school and it instantly landed in the number one spot. Hamburg, New York bumped Moscow, Russia clean off the list.

My wife and I were looking for a special place to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Like a typical tone-deaf husband, I had forgotten to get a reservation anywhere. I scrambled to make up for my mistake.

We live in the Southtowns and didn’t want to head to downtown Buffalo if we could avoid it. So I called Andrew Galarneau, food editor of the Buffalo News and an old UB pal. He recommended Daniel's Restaurant on Buffalo Street in Hamburg. We had never heard of it before.

I called and the hostess managed to fit us in. I mentioned in passing that it was our anniversary and we were surprised to be seated at the best two-top in the house – on a little landing elevated above the rest of the dining room. Instant romance.

The restaurant is actually a former single family home, so when I say dining room I mean exactly that. There aren’t many tables in the place, so it is no wonder weekends are booked solid weeks in advance. Weekdays, not so much.

The menu is succinct out of necessity, since chef Daniel Johengen creates every dish himself. The daily specials round it out really well, and we ordered from the list. Unfortuantely, I didn’t take notes on the meal. Why would I - we were eating in a Buffalo suburb so what could possibly be noteworthy? I was dead wrong.

When the dinner rolls arrived it became quickly evident that we were in for a treat. I’ve never had rolls so well made, so light, unique and delicious.

My wife is a vegetarian, which can be a challenge in small town America. Not at Daniel’s – the server, a consummate professional, organized a special dish for her. Maryna had an inspiring salad and an asparagus main course that she still talks about.

I ordered a soft shell crab appetizer that blew me away. Since I’ve caught and cooked soft shells on three continents, I was surprised by the finest rendition of the delicacy I’ve ever had. The sauce was so good there weren’t enough rolls to sop it up. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

The desserts were equally impressive, baked by a top-notch pastry chef from Daniel’s recipes. My wife had a chocolate mousse bathed in a pistachio sauce that was even better than the light and delicious feature. I had a medley of profiteroles that made the best choux à la crème I ever had in Paris look like a day old TimmyHo's doughnut. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Daniels should top your list when you compile it and you should check it out, personally. It is a wee bit pricey for Western New York, a special occasion kind of place, but it serves the finest food on Planet Earth.

I'm not kidding. And I'm not hungry. I'm just stating a fact: Daniel's Restaurant on Buffalo Street in Hamburg is the best restaurant in the world. Not just in Buffalo.  In. The. World.

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