"A Midsummer Night's Meal: Rue Franklin Restaurant" by Judith A. Sperry
Rue Franklin * 341 Franklin Street * Buffalo, NY 14202 * (716) 852-4416 * Reservations: Recommended * Parking: Adjacent lot for Rue Patrons Only * Dress Code: Formal Attire * Service: Exceptional * Full Bar: French, Domestic, and Dessert Wines, Beer, Vodka, Liquors * RECOMMENDED LITERATURE: 'A Moveable Feast' by Ernest Hemingway
You don’t have to be a Francophile to appreciate Rue Franklin’s gastronomic achievements. If you yearn for the days when food appeared and tasted like it was supposed to, perhaps you are due for a culinary renaissance.
The Rue offers an inspirational twist on French fare, providing nourishment to patrons who want to enjoy a leisurely meal in a worldly atmosphere. Proprietors Joel and Deedee Lippes possess that certain joie de vivre that has enabled Rue Franklin to flourish and charm patrons into becoming regulars. Despite fleeting food trends and monopolizing chain restaurants, the Rue has remained a gastronomic institution.
When asked what the ‘moral of a meal’ should be, Joel Lippes replies, “the root of the word ‘restaurant’ derives from the verb ‘to restore’ and that is precisely how my wife (Deedee) and I want our patrons to feel.” Indeed, an evening at Rue Franklin accomplishes just that; a restoration of the mind, body, and spirit.
The Rue's chef makes sound decisions in the kitchen by incorporating protein, vegetables, and grains into various dishes. Mother sauces (i.e. cream-based sauces indigenous to French cuisine) are used sparingly or substituted with alternative oils (i.e. truffle and sesame), fruit & vegetable purees, and zesty vinaigrettes. In addition to possessing a keen palate, he borrows ingredients and cooking styles from North Africa, India, and the Orient, which add color, texture, and flavor to his recipes.
Rue Frankiln’s bar constitutes the core of the establishment, which was once a neighborhood coffee shop situated below a cozy nest of apartments. When entering the premise, one feels as if they have been whisked into a cabaret adorned with a few sturdy wooden tables dressed in crisp linens and satirical portraits sketched by a 20th century French artist.
The 'Bar at the Rue' may not exude the formality or first-rate service of its encompassing dining rooms but it is ideal if you seek an aperitif, a light repast, or a satiating dessert with a cup of coffee. If you have the fortune of dining at Rue Franklin May through August, you may want to reserve a table in the outdoor garden. There is nothing more alluring than dining at a candlelit table under a starry night sky in a Monet-esque garden.
In altruistic French fashion, one should commence a meal at Rue Franklin with a bottle of wine (preferably French although domestic is available) accompanied by a warm crusty baguette and chilled butter. The combination is the perfect prelude to a leisurely dinner.
One of Rue Franklin’s signature salads is butterhead lettuce (i.e. Bibb) lightly dressed in Dijon mustard vinaigrette. The spring salad (i.e. Salade de printempts) showcases a sprightly assortment of tender baby asparagus tips, hearts of palm, avocado, ripened cherry tomatoes, and supple mâche. One rarely encounters salads that possess such fine seasonal ingredients they can be eaten unadulterated. The spring salad is garnished with olive oil thickened with a bit of crème fraîche (or dollop of mayonnaise) and finished off with a dash of salt-and-pepper. Both salads taste as refreshing as witnessing a budding tulip in April.
Seasonal appetizers may materialize in the form of salmon tartar and tuna carpaccio. The carpaccio resembles a translucent palate of thinly sliced Ahi drizzled in sesame oil and garnished with fresh minced onion. The tartar possesses tender cubes of raw salmon, which banter with crunchy red bell peppers, crisp snow peas, dikon, and red onion. Courtesy of a lime vinaigrette and re-hydrated Nori (Japanese seaweed paper), it invigorates the palate.
If you are accustomed to traditional Bistro fare such as steak & pommes frites, you will appreciate Rue Franklin’s abstract interpretation of meat & potatoes. In honor of France igniting the Gastronomic Revolution, begin with the wild mushroom and potato “Napoleon” embellished with a cream-based tarragon sauce followed by an entrée of tender Filet mignon infused with herb butter.
North African influence allures Rue Franklin's entrees in the guise of fragrant spices, nuts, desert fruits, and grains. The Moroccan lamb tenderloin stew gives way to an intoxicating montage of cardamom, slivered almonds, and sugary dates. It is presented with a crown of couscous embedded with vegetarian jewels in the guise of spring peas and baby carrots.
Whether you seek sustenance from a chilly winter night after the theatre or a repast before you attend the Philharmonic’s summer series, a meal at Rue Franklin sets a peaceful melody for the rest of the evening.