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A Buffalo, N.Y., Restaurant With Bona Fides From Acapulco, Quebec and Beyond

A Buffalo, N.Y., Restaurant With Bona Fides From Acapulco, Quebec and Beyond


Hung like artwork, 26 white doors decorate the dining room of Las Puertas, Victor Parra Gonzalez’s tiny nouveau-Mexican restaurant in a gray gabled house on Buffalo’s West Side.

“Every one represents a person of major importance who told me I would not open this restaurant,” the chef said. “Seeing those doors every day tells me we accomplished something.”

The doubters had a point. Mr. Gonzalez’s first restaurant, the ambitious Jaguar at the Bistro near Niagara Falls, closed in 2015. As a follow-up, a deeply personal food venture in Buffalo’s emerging Five Points neighborhood seemed audacious.

A year after Las Puertas’ debut, though, the Acapulco-born chef is having the last laugh. Marrying the earthy cuisine of his birthplace with rigorous French technique, the 29-year-old earned a 2018 James Beard Awards semifinalist as Best Chef/Northeast. His highly photogenic plates — luscious duck breast in subtle pipian verde, translucent scallop aguachile, rich chicken confit in mole rojo — make fond allusions to his homeland while showcasing his precision and wit.

Tlayuda, a beloved Oaxacan street snack, gets bright textural counterpoints from radicchio and chayote. Hints of sesame and ginger peek through sweet-tart tuna ceviche with hibiscus aguachile and lime curd. Buffalo even gets a sly nod in seared, pistachio-crusted cauliflower; its frothy sauce combines Green Goddess dressing with tomatillo salsa, an oblique shout-out to wings and ranch dip.

Cocktails skew traditional-with-a-twist, like a Warm and Fuzzy made with mezcal, dark rum, apple cider and butter, or a Mexican Mule with tequila blanco, ginger beer and cilantro. Among the memory-making desserts created by Jenn Batt, the pastry chef: a rich cajeta custard with semolina cake, and a brilliantly complex sticky toffee pudding with sweet-cream ice cream, pomegranate, candied mandarinquats and dried persimmon.

Mr. Gonzalez boasts a back story as dramatic as his dishes. While studying culinary arts near Montreal, he landed a coveted sous spot at Martin Picard’s celebrated Quebecois mother ship restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. Changes in Canadian immigration law forced him back to Mexico in 2010. Three years later, Mr. Gonzalez moved to Buffalo to join his family, where his mother had sought treatment for cancer.

While his troubled first restaurant lasted only two years, it also inspired boundary tweaking at Las Puertas. The chef serves and buses tables, aided by a small staff that includes his sister and their mother, the sometime hostess. “In Buffalo, it’s unheard-of for a chef to cook, pour your water and tell you what you’re eating and why,” he said. “Only sushi chefs do that here.”

The room feels just as idiosyncratic, with squiggle-shaped muslin light fixtures (“they cost $59 in materials, total,” Mr. Gonzalez said with a laugh), burlap-covered banquettes and a huge cartoon of an octopus and snake by the local artist Caroline Perillo behind the eight-seat, blonde-wood bar.

Las Puertas has come a long way since its opening, when Mr. Gonzalez couldn’t afford a stove. (“We cooked whatever we could cook on an induction burner,” he said.) He has since outfitted the kitchen, expanded his menu and won over Buffalonians — including naysayers.

“This is an eclectic neighborhood populated by people who are seeking with fresh eyes, willing to experience new things,” he said. “Buffalo diners are very generous. They trust us with the choices we’re making.”


Las Puertas, 385 Rhode Island Street; laspuertas-buffalo.com. Dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is $130 for a five-course tasting menu, $150 for a seven-course tasting menu, or about $100 à la carte.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Earthy Cuisine Married to French Technique. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe



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