Let’s face it. Downtown Buffalo is a frozen mess.
The Sig Other and I ventured out, only to discover our “go-to” parking lot across from Chippewa’s Papaya Asian Kitchen & Bar was fenced off, as the Delaware Court Building (that curved one) undergoes its transformation.
By the time we were clambering out of our parking space over icy mounds and into Papaya, a drink was sounding really good.
To the right of the entrance, the bar runs along the thin space backed by a wall of windows. To the left is an airy dining area with the visible kitchen in the middle.
The entire space is sleek and sophisticated. All angles, multiple levels, dark colors and wood, Papaya screams, “Are we in Buffalo?” (To keep the fantasy going, face the bar to avoid the wintry view.)
We arrived early. Olympic curling was on until a gentleman (wearing a fur coat à la Joe Namath) arrived. Served a pot of tea, the screen nearest him was changed to the SyFy channel. An intriguing regular, no doubt.
Our bartender filled us in on the construction while I perused drink menus.
Sig went with his standard vodka tonic.
Pineapple Upsidedown, Papaya Love Potion and Sake-tini martinis sounded fruity and fabulous. I went for a summery Strawberry Tequila Revenge, made tart, as requested.
“I love tequila,” said our bartender, as she mixed, to which I eagerly agreed. Pointing to her co-tender she noted, “He can’t stand the smell of it. For me, it’s SoCo.”
Ah, we all have our own demon, don’t we?
After drinks, Sig and I ate a delicious dinner at a table, but we noted that plenty of folks eat at the bar. Papaya’s cuisine lends itself to the endeavor. Sushi, spring rolls, noodle bowls and pot stickers are perfect bar items.
If they’ll make them, we recommend our night’s special: Vietnamese Chicken Wings. Delightfully crispy and spiced, they arrived with a kimchi aioli dipping sauce.
Drinks before dinner, Bailey’s and coffee after, Papaya’s bartender kept things rolling for us.
The postprandial bar was hopping. Fur Coat Man was now chatting with a pretty gal eating a noodle bowl. A “Deep in Conversation” couple was wedged in a corner table behind them.
We claimed a small open space at the bar next to one couple and watched another couple run in from the street.
The woman ran in alone, chandelier earrings bobbing. Poor guy trailed in after. Was it so cold that she couldn’t wait five seconds?
Bracing ourselves to head back out into the cold, we called it a night.
We like to think of Papaya as a great “back pocket place.” When you need a sure thing, it’s a port in the storm, or in our case, a lovely mirage on a snowy Saturday night.
Papaya Asian Kitchen & Bar
Where: 118 W. Chippewa (856-2444, www.papayarestaurant.biz)
Atmosphere: Chic, longtime Chippewa establishment
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 3 a.m. Saturday; and 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Drinks: Martini and wine menus. Beers include regular and imported selections, Flying Bison, Buffalo Lager and Asian (Tiger, Singha, Sapparo, “33” Export, Tsingtao).
Extras: Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. “Thursday in the City,” a business and social happy hour, is 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.
Wheelchair access: Yes.