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Jan 26, 2014 04:24 PM

Rochester - anything great?

We visit Rochester about 2x/year and it seems like I always ask the same question. We need a restaurant with very good food, reasonably quiet and upscale ambiance, ability to accommodate 6 guests one of whom is a vegetarian and another a pescatarian, good service, good cocktails & wine list. I travel extensively, and Rochester always seems to be a very tough city for food. We've had good food at Good Luck, but this place is very noisy, and the sharing concept is not great for the guests I'll have. We went to the Park Avenue Restaurant the last time we were there, and the food was very mediocre at best. Would Lento be a good choice…it gets so-so reviews on TripAdvisor? The Erie Grill in Pittsford is ok, but we'd really like something more upscale. Is there something new that you could recommend? Help, please!!

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  1. Hi Josephnl think I've responded to you in the past. If you want good food minus the noise and sharing concept of Good Luck you might try 2Vine Bistro or Max at Eastman Place.

    Fine dining just hasn caught on in Rochester. I love the concept of Lento but after several mediocre meals I can't recommend in good faith. Good cocktails and $1 oyster nights make for a nice snack.

    Cheshire is another place good for cocktails which is located above Solera Wine Bar. Hope this helps.

    1. Have you eaten at Ristorante Lucano in the past? If not, here's an enthusiastic vote for a meal there. The restaurant is known for it Italian preparations of fish. I adore any fish served with the caramelized lemon slices. (The only dish I haven't been totally enthusiastic about is the baramundi in a panko/walnut crust. The crust is too thick and overwhelms the delicate fish). The pasta options are wonderful; many feature shellfish or mixed seafood. I've never had a meat dish there, but my husband has been happy with everything he has eaten. The veal chop is everything you'd want in an upscale grilled veal.

      The service is professional, but, be forewarned, the style is to strike up a bit of a conversation with guests. If you want essentially no interaction with the wait staff since this will be a business dinner, you might have to say something tactful when you make the reservation.

      The restaurant is in a pedestrian-looking strip mall across the street from the newest branch of Wegman's on East Avenue. The interior is pleasant looking but nothing trendy like the high style of Good Luck. The wine room will offer you the most private dining experience but it is not a private room.

      For the most part, desserts are imported from Italy frozen. Of those choices available nightly, the Frutti di Bosco is the best, but all the offerings are nice. Still, the best option is to get whatever the owner Joanne has made. These tend to be simply desserts, but they're outstanding. We've been known to reserve a slice of whatever is available when we arrive for diinner.

      I have no idea if cocktails are available. We only order wine.

      Now, if you didn't need a restaurant that is explicitly high end, I'd recommend you go to Shui Asian Fusion (downtown). There's really very little fusion; the menu is mostly Thai. But what Thai! My husband and I think the food at this nothing-to-look-at restaurant is some of the best Thai we've eaten in the US. If you search on this board for Shui, you'll find two write ups I've already posted down to a discussion of specific dishes. This restaurant is also discussed on Trip Advisor. It's rank isn't high because of the few reviews but the write-ups all echo the same high praise on Chow.

      The restaurant has been granted a liquor license since the time when those early reviews were written. I don't know anything about their skill mixing cocktails or their wine list since the license arrived after we left for our snowbird months.

      If you want the whole deal, I guess Max's at Eastman will best meet your needs. I'm just bored with the food there because there's too little change to suit residents who eat out a lot.

      I think 2 Vine's food has slipped and you know all about Good Luck's appalling noise level.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        Thanks for the two suggestions. I've read but haven't been to Lucano. It seems a bit more upscale than most of the other Italian-American restaurants found throughout Rochester. That said, have you been to Rocco's? For all of its praise, I thought it merely average with a strong lack of regional identity on the menu. It's not bad per se, but considering the hassle for a table it hardly seems worthwhile. I should point out that I've been only once. For what it's worth, I do like Chef Martello's handmade pastas. I understand the restaurant gets a bit noisy but I suppose it never has bugged me coming from NYC.

        Indy, have you been to Cure? Odd location near the public market (Java's) but I had a pretty poor experience there, and chef Martello was in the kitchen. Just wondering if you or anyone else had good experiences.

        Never heard of Shui Asian Fushion. If you don't mind me asking what about it makes it one of the best Thai restaurants you've eaten at in the US? Menu seems interesting if not varied by cuisine.

        Has anyone been to Fiamma on Buffalo road? Read that they were making Neopolitan style pizzas but was pretty disappointed on my one visit. I really like this style of pizza and this is one of a kind in Rochester as far as I know. Any recent experiences?

        Also read decent things about Amaya, an Indian restaurant in Brighton. Anyone know if it's good?

        Sadly, at least to me, it seems nothing particularly interesting or fine dining exists in Rochester. I had hopes for Warfield's but it had an awful location, uneven kitchen and ultimately closed. Black and Blue and other chop houses only offer USDA prime beef sparingly which is particularly appalling for the prices they charge. You'd be far better off going to Wegman's buying prime bone in rib roast at $25.99/lb. over the $40-50 choice steak they are offering to go along with their frozen crab legs. I'm not trying to single out a particular establishment but rather lament in general about the lack of fine dining or even interesting dining options in Rochester. You'd think with all of the international and diverse people thanks to the colleges that we'd have some better "ethnic" options.

        SEA offers passable pho but is run by Thai people. The Korean options are lacking as well as the Chinese and Japanese restaurants. The best bets are Eastern European like Swan or Rio Tomatlan or Rheinblick in Canandaigua.

        Is interesting food just not in the cards for Rochester? I hope I'm wrong and I know I'm being hyperbolic, but it pains me each and every time income home and visit family that for better or worse I'm better off cooking each night. I'd love to hear from other hounds, even to tell me I'm full of it in order to facilitate discussion. If there are hidden gems, and no doubt I bet there are, I want to hear about them.

        Sorry to hijack the thread josephnl but I do think it might turn up some useful info.

        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

          For this group, I'm really not seeking food that is especially interesting. What we need is an upscale dining room that's relatively quiet, has American, French or Italian food that is very good and similarly good service, cocktails and wine. What I want is a really nice restaurant, with very pleasant ambiance that will please some folk who are not necessarily CH's!

          1. re: josephnl

            I still say you ought to go to Max's at Eastman. Quiet ambience: Check. Pleasant ambience: Check. Excellent cocktails. Check. Nice wine list: Check. Well-prepared, appealing food. Check.

          2. re: TheDegustationAsian

            Yes, we've been to Rocco's three or four times but I had a much more favorable impression in the beginning that just didn't hold up over time. In particular, I don't like the cramped quarters and once, horrifyingly, our server was sweating profusely. He kept wiping his brow with his hand. At one point, I told him that I would be happy to wait while he washed his face with cool water. He gratefully took us up on the offer, but he was back to sweating at shocking and likely unhygienic levels within minutes.

            Among Rochester's other Italian restaurants, if I can fid one or two dishes that appeal to me, I'm willing to patronize them when I'm in the mood for those dishes. For example, Tony D's has two great dishes homey dishes: the Sunday Sauce and the escarole with white beans. The portions are obscenely large so my husband and I can make a generous meal out of a shared house salad and one portion of the Sunday Sauce. (Once we were dining next to a father and teen-aged son. The son managed to put away most of a shared pizza and his own portion of Sunday Sauce. Awesome display of eating.)

            We've been to Cure once and enjoyed our meal, but the heavy emphasis on charcuterie isn't the sort of menu I'd patronize often. The cocktails are good at Cure. Ultimately, the biggest think against Cure is it's location; I find it a little creepy to be dining in the only lit building in all of the Public Market at night.

            I think SEA's pho is better than passable.

            Thanks for the reminder about Swan. I love good wurst, but I try not to eat too much of that type of food. It sort of falls into the category headed by Dinosaur: a real guilty pleasure that is best eaten once or twice a year.

            Here's the answer to you question about Shui: It has some of the freshest tasting Thai food I've ever eaten. The sauces are never gloppy. There's enough sauce to coat the food but the taste of the elements -- protein and vegetables -- is allowed to shine through. The restaurant also gets the balance of flavors right. Thai is all about the balance of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. In too many US restaurants, the sweet is allowed to dominate, but Shui gets the interplay of flavors right.

            Shui's chef knows how to cook the elements of the dish so that each is optimal. The protein -- and this varies by dish and by diner's choice -- doesn't get dried out while the vegetable are cooking or the sauce is thickening. The food isn't incendiary, but there is a condiment tray available. Even more than the standard chili in oil, the restaurant has a mixed condiment it calls Shui spice. This adds wonderful flavor without an overwhelming amount of chili heat.

            Disclaimer: We're snowbirds and we haven't been to Shui since it got its liquor license. I assume that development produced an upturn in patronage and I hope the increase did not have a negative impact on the food and service.

            Probably the best dining experience in Rochester is the two-week stint when Rooney invites a chef from Lyon, France to cook there. This chef serves French classics that are amazingly executed.

            I'm also a bit bewildered by the Rochester dining scene. I feel that the city really could support more and better restaurants from hole in the walls to fine dining experiences.

        2. Others have mentioned the Horizons Restaurant at the Woodcliff Resort in Fairport. What do CH 's think of the place?

          1 Reply
          1. re: josephnl

            Horizons has a new chef. It has a decent ambiance and the menu sounds like what you are looking for. I usually eat lunch there as my office is nearby. I have found it to be inconsistent.

            You might try Zeppa Bistro. We have had several great meals there. The service has been very good. The surroundings are kind of bare. The emphasis is definitely on the food.

          2. How is Rooney's...out on Henrietta St.?