For six years, the Dapper Goose has been a neighborhood place that does Black Rock proud.
The cozy restaurant across Amherst Street from Casey’s Black Rock is a special-event space, a zone of respite, release and reward. What makes the Dapper Goose an odd bird among upscale dining establishments is, among other things, its stability.
Keith Raimondi and his wife, Peggy Wong, moved from Philadelphia to Buffalo in 2015 to open a restaurant, with chef Jesse Ross and bar manager Tim Leary following them from the City of Brotherly Love to the Queen City.
Together, they have given the Dapper Goose an admirable record of consistency. The Broken Garden Tools cocktail ($12, made with gin, celery, parsley, lemon, Moroccan spice) first won my heart during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The healthiest-tasting cocktail I’ve ever sipped is the same vibrant emerald elixir today because it’s still Leary’s hands at work.
At our most recent meeting, in late spring, fully half of the menu were familiar dishes from day one. All have been refined and reformatted, though, enabling Ross to maintain a brisk business in plates of blackened green beans ($14). Now the dish hides the charred onion aioli in the bottom of a broad bowl covered with beans aggressively seasoned with black pepper and other spices, then blackened in a screaming hot pan, bedecked with crunchy toasted pepitas.
People are also reading…
For all its finesse, the place is shy about the premium ingredients that help their dishes shine. Allow me to toot their horn.
It starts with the daily bread. All loaves, rolls and pastry are made in-house. Most include a helpful ration of sourdough starter, the one Ross brought from Philly, and has kept going since.
A sourdough-informed boule provided a foundation for the ricotta toast ($13), another original dish that has remained, in various guises. Ours was a sweet-savory-toasty snack of roasted yellow beets dressed with orange miso and black sesame seeds, tufted with fresh mint chiffonade.
Another slice of sourdough bore the beef tartare tartine ($17). Diced Plato Dale beef on horseradish aioli, accented with grated cured beef heart, pickled onion and cured egg yolk, was a moving symphony in animal. Cut into fourths, it was just enough beef.
Most of the beef comes from Plato Dale, the birds for the Korean fried chicken from Erba Verde. Part of the reason Dapper Goose dishes hit harder is that they’re made of better stuff.
Ross’ vegetable classics still hit, too. Charred broccoli ($14) over romesco, roasted red pepper sauce, gets bursts of sweetness from smoked grapes, balanced with bitter endive and toasted almonds.
Fried cauliflower ($13) with Green Goddess dressing hidden underneath, turning its face from plain to party time in one good forkful. Why this famed salad glace hasn’t had a wider comeback eludes me, but as long as Ross keeps whipping parsley, mint, dill, basil and capers into an aromatic green jungle gym, I’ll be swiping right, and left, and whatever it takes to get the last smudge out.
Mushroom arancini ($15) with hummus provided lighter than the usual fried risotto balls, with pickled beech mushrooms providing woodsy acid to lighten the fried rice’s richness. Fried Brussels sprouts ($14) in cashew Caesar dressing are tossed with diced apple, and fish sauce croutons made out of more sourdough boule.
Bites of grilled octopus ($18) are offered with grilled broccolini, over a housemade XO sauce, a fine pas de deux of sea and land. That’s a chunky brick-red sauce of chiles, ginger, cured ham and dried scallops, a flavor-bomb that peg your tongue’s umami sensors.
The entrees typically include a housemade pasta, like tagliatelle ($29) in pork-fat-crisped breadcrumbs, plus the cured pig funk of pancetta, over sunchoke soubise, a type of onion cream. It was a welcome indulgence, divided among friends.
Smoked duck leg ($28) on polenta cake with mole thrilled with lush dark meat undergirded with even darker chile-spice notes, with a frisson of pickled onions. A cheeseburger ($19) of Plato Dale beef, fromage fort, dill pickle mayonnaise and fries still stands as a celebratory splurge burger.
Korean fried chicken ($32) is a Dapper Goose flagship entree, a half-chicken fried and lacquered in a glossy, spicy, smoky and sweet sauce with a backbone of gochujang, Korean fermented chili paste. Served over kimchi fried rice, with a handful of cucumber pickles, it’s one of the most formidable birds in Buffalo.
If you want a sweet exclamation point on the end of your meal, may I suggest the olive oil cake ($8) with lemon curd and whipped cream? Its lush poundcake qualities make it the perfect foil for sunshiny-bright citrus pudding and luxurious, airy dairy.
With its focused menu of cocktails, wine and food, the Dapper Goose isn’t trying to please everyone. It doesn’t have to, though, since it found its faithful flock.
491 Amherst St., (551-0716, thedappergoose.com)
Hours: 5 to 9 pm Wednesday through Saturday; closed Sunday through Tuesday.
Prices: small plates, $13-$20; large plates, $19-$32.
Atmosphere: quiet satisfaction
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Gluten-free options: many options
Outdoor dining: rear patio
Photos: Explore The Dapper Goose
blackened green beans
korean fried chicken
Black Rock Restaurant
olive oil cake
Send restaurant tips to [email protected] and follow @BuffaloFood on Instagram and Twitter.