My parents would like this place, I mused, looking at the Mansard Inn menu. ¶ Lots of restaurants take pride in offering customers their chef’s spin on the latest culinary trend. Not the Mansard, where the menu’s Old English typeface is perfect for a lineup of steak-house classics, New England seafood favorites and touches of old-school French cuisine that haven’t changed much in 40 years. There is nothing on it my mother would need explained. ¶ There’s meat and potatoes and seafood, all served with time-honored accompaniments. The “duet of loin lamb chops” arrives with mint jelly. Every dinner comes with salad, potato or rice pilaf, vegetable and rolls. ¶ The Mansard’s interior doesn’t seem like it’s been updated much either, but when we settled in for dinner on a dark and stormy night, the atmosphere was cozy, not tacky.
The appetizer lineup includes filet of marinated herring in sour cream ($6.95), and it’s been a while since I’ve seen escargot Bourguignon ($7.95). Clams raw ($7.25) and casino ($8.25), shrimp both cocktailed and sautéed (both $8.25) join mushrooms Florentine ($7.95) and French onion soup ($6.50).
The entrees include rack of lamb ($29.95), scrod filet ($17.95), liver and onions ($17.95), sirloin ($26.95), filet mignon ($28.95), filet and lobster tail ($44.95) and baked stuffed shrimp ($28.95). But the two dishes recommended by Southtowns tipsters were the turkey Jerome ($17.95), a sort of croquette, and the chicken almondine ($17.95).
Specials, paper-clipped to the pages, included sole francaise ($19.95) and filet in bourbon sauce ($24.95). Throughout our meal in the mostly empty restaurant, our server was attentive and helpful.
Our table ordered escargot, clams casino, mushrooms and French onion soup for starters. Our guests had the turkey Jerome and filet of scrod. Cat asked for chicken almondine, and I got stuffed shrimp.
First to arrive was a basket of warm, puffy, yeast rolls, faintly sweet and big as peaches. There also were fresh corn and orange muffins, but the obviously fresh rolls were an old-time touch that still satisfied.
My appetizer of clams casino featured six clams in a crabmeat-cracker stuffing with bacon. The filling was tasty, loaded with butter and quite rich, but I didn’t like the texture, as the cracker crumbs dissolved into a paste in all that butter.
Now the escargot – that’s right, snails – were all about the butter. In this case, garlic butter. The firm but tender snails, six to an order, were soaking in it. (They taste rather like mussels, if you’re wondering.) After they were gone, the pool was good for soaking up with torn rolls.
The mushrooms with spinach and cheese didn’t skimp on the greens, and were built on fresh white mushrooms. But they were pale in flavor, even with bits of bacon.
The French onion soup was a pleaser, with plenty of soft, sweet onions in beef broth given depth with a dash of sherry. The bubbled cheese quilt topping it rode a thick crouton that there really was no neat way to eat. It was tasty so we didn’t care and made a mess.
A bowl of Italian wedding soup was hot enough, sported decent meatballs and got added savor from Romano cheese. But the pasta balls in it had cooked to the point of mushiness.
A house salad included fresh field mix, sliced red onion and tomato, with dressing on the side, as requested.
The turkey Jerome was a surprise hit, the table’s favorite. It was two fist-sized rounds of moist turkey bound with an unobtrusive white sauce, browned on the outside and covered in smooth chicken gravy. Also on the plate was a decent baked potato and a little paper cup of sherbet, for palate cleansing, our server informed us. (The baked spud was acceptable, but another potato choice, “cottage fries,” thick house-made potato chips, were a crunchy delight.)
My stuffed shrimp were four jumbo crustaceans split open and covered with more cracker-crab stuffing before getting run under the broiler. The shrimp came out properly cooked, not chewy, but as with the clams casino, the lack of texture in the stuffing left me unsatisfied.
Cat’s chicken almondine had two chicken breasts that had been battered and browned before being topped with more of that hearty chicken gravy and almonds. (She also got sherbet.) It was a winning combination, even if pounding out the chicken might have made it more delicate, and toasting the almonds would have lent a deeper flavor.
Dusted with paprika that added more color than taste, the scrod filet was mild and flaky, plain and simple. The mashed potatoes were solid and getting more gravy on them was the right call.
The vegetables included Brussels sprouts cooked to a proper tenderness and crisp canned corn.
Desserts include rice pudding ($3.75) and peach Melba ($5.25), which I had to order. The pudding was not dense but more milky, with raisins that had pretty much been rehydrated to grapes. The Melba, consisting of peaches, cake and ice cream with raspberry sauce and whipped cream, was a simple pleasure, sort of like a glass of English fool, and I was glad to make its acquaintance.
Classic dishes with old-school touches make the Mansard Inn feel like a place to come home to.
Mansard Inn: 7 plates out of 10
Old-school favorites, classic seafood dishes bring regulars back for reliable meals.
WHERE: 3365 Abbott Road, Orchard Park (828-1115, www.mansardinn.com)
HOURS: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $6.50-$8.25; entrees, $16.95-$45.95.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No.
Correction: Previous versions of this review incorrectly indicated the restaurant was wheelchair accessible.