by Matt Steinberg

papayaMy wife and I had dinner at Papaya (118 W. Chippewa Street, downtown Buffalo) on Saturday night before attending Mamma Mia at Shea’s Performing Arts Center (I think I’m the last person on Earth to have seen this show, by the way). I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion – it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. The dining room ambiance is quiet and sophisticated, just the right environment for lingering over a fine meal with a good companion. The menu is Asian-based, featuring standards such as sushi rolls and Pad Thai, but also has unexpected items like Indian Clay Pot and calamari.

We began our meal with Thai calamari, served with a slightly sweet tamarind sauce, and a crab and avocado sushi roll. Both were delightful and just enough to tease our palates for the main course. My wife ordered a filet mignon from the special menu, and I selected the Papaya Fresh Catch, their fish du jour plate, which this particular night was salmon. It was a tough choice, as many of the options sounded good, but I was intrigued by the roasted pepper basil relish description on the menu. And once both plates had arrived, I realized that I had made a good choice. The salmon was delicious, and the pepper relish’s slight spiciness complemented the fish perfectly.

As good as my dish was, my wife’s was even better. It was filet as it should be prepared – medium rare, crusted slightly, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. She was very generous in sharing two bites with me, which I don’t think I could have done. The beef was steakhouse quality in what’s essentially a seafood restaurant, and if it’s on the special menu when you go there, order it – it’s worth every penny. And if you go on a holiday, like we did (Valentine’s Day), you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the absence of that scourge of diners everywhere – the “special holiday menu”.

Papaya isn’t the type of place you drop in on – reservations are recommended – but if you can do a little advance planning, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic meal.