1 Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga, NY 14225
Web: Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
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Cheektowaga Fine Dining Seafood Steak
"We noticed quite a few improvements in service and preparation; our server was considerably more attentive, taking care of drinks and plates with care, and making smarter, more personal recommendations."
Over the past year, we've had occasions to revisit quite a few restaurants we've previously reviewed, and only on rare occasion have we re-rated them based on substantial positive or negative changes - half saw their stars dropped, and half gained stars through superior food, decor, and service. Cheektowaga's Hyde Park Prime Steak House is thankfully one of the climbers, a restaurant that was far more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll one year ago, and has improved enough that we felt that a full-length update was in order. Despite our prior issues with the place, we were truly glad to see these improvements: they demonstrate that the restaurant was, after time, willing to remedy problems that had turned numerous customers away.
Menu Changes. In a touch that Bills and Sabres fans will appreciate, Hyde Park's menu now prominently includes a celebrity steaks section, with choices named after Marv Levy, Ralph Wilson, Rob Ray, and others. Unlike the standard steaks and chops, each celebrity steak is a preparation with a handful of unique ingredients, such that the Steak Levy ($29/$36 for 7/10 oz.) is a lightly buttered peppercorn filet served with ribbon-thin fried onions, the Rob Ray Steak ($30/$37 for 7/10 oz.) is a filet topped with goat cheese, cranberries, and pine nuts, and the Steak Kelly ($22) is a 7 ounce set of two filets wrapped in bacon, served with Dijon hollandaise sauce. Hyde Park offers the recipes by default with one type of steak - generally filet mignon - but will apply the same ingredients and preparation to any of its cuts of meat, so you can peppercorn your porterhouse or ribeye if you desire. Some of the prices have become a little more reasonable, such that a 12 ounce plate of lamb chops now sell for only $19.50, though most plates are still a la carte with two-person sides offered at premium prices. On the other hand, "American Wagyu" - fake Kobe beef - has disappeared from the menu, and what's described as 100% authentic Japanese Wagyu remains, at prices high enough ($110-$160 for 6 or 9 ounces) that no one at our table was interested in sampling it. One day, perhaps.
Interesting Touches. Seafood picks vary from night to night, and apparently, from batch to batch of what's shipped to Hyde Park. A special chalk board of fresh fish choices indicates several different options on a given evening, ranging from salmon to lobster tails, and different oysters are brought in from the East and West Coasts. Originally, we were told that three types of oysters were available during our visit, but after inspecting one of the three batches, the kitchen deemed them unsuitable to serve. Raw Miyagi oysters from the West Coast were smaller but better than the East Coast ones we were served, but both were pretty good. On a related note, every member of our group was genuinely impressed by the quality and sweet soy flavoring on Hyde Park's fried Calamari appetizer, which was both locally unique and memorably delicious - surely worth ordering again.
Noticeably Improved Service. Though the service hadn't completely changed from our prior visit to Hyde Park, we did notice quite a few improvements. Our server was considerably more attentive, taking care of drinks, plate delivery, and plate clearing with obvious care, and making smarter, more personal recommendations as to menu choices that we genuinely appreciated. The overall dining experience still isn't purely classy, as one might expect for the prices, but it's a lot closer to the caliber of Buffalo Chophouse than it was before, and suited well enough to the location that most patrons will be satisfied.
Some Speed Bumps. We passed on ordering the Lobster Bisque ($8), described by our server as a creamy version that was basically missing chunks of meat, and instead ordered the Baked Onion Soup ($6), which came out too hot to safely consume, staying that way for a few minutes. Topped with a full layer of cheese that wasn't quite right for the soup - a little too crispy and grainy - the broth, onions, and croutons were otherwise pretty good. The cranberry, pine nut, and goat cheese topping of the Steak Rob Ray sounded appealing, but turned out to be off balance; it was too soft of a cheese, and between the cheese and cranberries, the steak was overly sweetened. Similarly, the intense peppering of the Steak Levy really needed to be counterbalanced with salt, and overwhelmed the natural flavor of the filet mignon - the preparations are likely better suited to lower grade beef.
That having been said, all four of the steaks we ordered were cooked properly to order, and apart from small issues with the flavors, everyone felt satisfied with their meals. The fat issues mentioned in our prior review were entirely resolved this time; not only were our varied steaks all relatively fat free, but our server explicitly noted which cuts could be selected for higher and lower fat content, including a bone-in filet mignon for those seeking more fat and flavor than the typical boneless filets.
A Monsterous Dessert. Outside of Western New York, the Claim Jumper chain offers a chocolate cake known as the Motherload, so gooey and stacked with different types of chocolate that four people could easily share one slice. Hyde Park serves the Gigantic Chocolate Cake ($10), a similarly tall, thick slice that looks like two big cakes stacked on top of one another, with layers of thick frosting and icing separating the cake. On first glance, the piece looked as dry as the edge of a cliff, but when we actually started taking bites, it was obvious that while neither the frosting nor the cake was dripping with moisture a la the Motherload, the only problem we'd have in eating it was the density of the layers. Our server separated the piece horizontally into four pie-wedge parts, leaving at least two with sickeningly dense layers of frosting rather than the softer, creamier mousse or syrup we've actually enjoyed in similar cakes in the past. Not one of us finished his or her piece, but everyone had enough to feel filled, and at least satisfied if not thrilled by the quality of the cake.
Though Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse still isn't the top steakhouse in Western New York, there's no doubt in our minds that the changes it has made have dramatically improved the appeal of its menu and the overall quality of the dishes we sampled: even the disappointing aspects of individual dishes generally struck us as minor, apart from the cake layers, and the positives more than counterbalanced them. Having fixed many of the issues we noted in our prior review, Hyde Park is now deserving of a 2.75-star rating; we would gladly return again, and though we'd still exercise some caution when choosing certain items from the menu, we'd feel a lot more confident in the overall quality of both the food and service than we were last year.