My wife and I joined old friends on Saturday night for dinner at Restaurant Saul, our second visit following a good experience four or so years previously.
Our march down Smith Street from Carroll Gardens confirmed the chorus, Brooklyn hipsters have united and they come out at night to the hundreds of restaurant seats on Smith.
Saul is small and thoughtfully configured and for a few larger parties, we were 6, and had the better option of an oval table in the center of the room. Parties of two and four are awkwardly conjoined around the room’s perimeter, and while the room was not noisy, just bustling, be prepared to whisper sweet nothings to your sweetie and your neighbor’s sweetie. I for one like my romance kept private before the wine kicks in.
What strikes at first glance at Saul is the elevated pricing that surely crowns Saul, Smith Street ’s priciest.
My starting choice of Duck confit over grits rang in at a formidable $19. First courses ranged from 15 – 22, as main courses huddled around $30. As my mother in law appropriately remarked, “Saul is now a special occasion place”, though that transition, equating Saul with Manhattan ’s finest eateries, is not a simple mindset shift. In fact, prices at Saul have risen considerably over the last few years. I guess the pedigree of coming from Le Bernadin added with a Michelin star spells doom for the budget minded foodie.
This all said, The food was very well done. My duck was tender and flavorful, smartly served over grits infused with basil and fresh herbs.. I chose a short rib / rib eye entrée that was expertly prepared and plated quite artfully, garnished with mushrooms and a chick pea puree.. My friend had tagliatelle with a poached egg as its crown that was unique and hearty. My wife had lamb done three ways that was inventive and nicely flavored.
Both seared fois gras and a terrine were available and both looked quite good, as the menu was full of choices, including four interesting fish preparations to complement a panchetta wrapped rabbit, bay scallops and a lovely red snapper.
A lovely assortment of cheeses and a baked Alaska concluded a very fine meal. The food was executed with skill and depth.
Here’s the skinny though, at $250 a couple, the experience was not what I ve come to regard as that occasion place my mother in law so rightly confirmed on Saul., The food was there though you’d be pressed to crown the entire evening as magic. The service was adequate, loose, casual and often hipply distant to despondent. The room is warm, though does not bring to life more than good soft light, exposed brick, and the restaurants guests who fill the space with their own flavor and color. If it were my birthday and I was given next choice, I’m not sure that Saul brings to life more than the other great options in Brooklyn like the Good Fork or Po, Apple wood or Al Di La, where at hand is comparably good food, maybe not quite all the way, though at a price point that is immediately half of Saul.
So go to Saul if your bonus is six figures or if their style meets the occasion mark in your estimation, for me though, I’d go back in a flash for the Sunday – Thursday $30 Prix Fixe and will save my birthday dinner for Grammercv Tavern, where the entire package seems like an event worthy of me, my mother in law, and a celebration.