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Tim Schafer’s Cuisine has been a smash since it opened eleven years ago. Now its namesake has left to open a restaurant in North Carolina, and his sous chef, Fredy Umanzor, and partner, Nestor Bedoya, have bought the restaurant. They have added a slight south-of-the-border touch, not surprising since Umanzor is from El Salvador and Bedoya is from Colombia.
Physically, the restaurant remains the same, but the welcome is much warmer. So is the service, though it slows way down when the place is crowded, which is pretty much all the time. The dining room seats about 75 in a space more suited to 65; in a word, it’s noisy.
The menu is intriguing. Tim Schafer brewed his own beers and incorporated them in many of his recipes. Beer still plays a role in about 40 percent of dishes. Good starters in this category included parmesan ravioli with sautéed wild mushroom in a lager cream sauce; a wedge of baked brie in a toasted nut sauce uplifted by tropical-fruit chutney made with brown ale; three enormous prawns wrapped in bacon, served in a pale ale and mustard sauce; and mussels steamed in Stella Artois beer.
Less successful were duck quesadillas filled with so many ingredients they were sloppy and difficult to eat. Asian fried oysters were dry inside, their panko breadcrumb coating overly browned. Leek and asparagus soup had surprisingly little flavor.
Among entrées, a tender, lean buffalo steak wrapped in bacon (a special) made an unbeatable combination. (Buffalo tastes the way beef used to, while beef has become more tender at the expense of flavor.) I also recommend duckling glazed with honey, mustard and stout; and the ostrich filet, which is sweeter than beef, meltingly tender, and comes with an ale-spiked tropical-fruit sauce. Osso buco braised in beer had a wonderful flavor but was served with a gummy goat cheese and mozzarella risotto. The pistachio herb crust on the St. Peter’s fish (tilapia) was far too thick and heavy for such a delicate fish.
The one dish I always loved at this restaurant was jambalaya, the spicy Creole stew thick with scallops, shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, Tasso ham, and vegetables. Umanzor puts crisp tortilla strips on top, which makes it more Tex-Mex. But remove the strips and the jambalaya is as good as ever.
An individual cheesecake coated in dark chocolate was delicious, as was peach bread pudding. Peanut butter crunch torte was heavy but good.