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Restaurants & Bars 4

Brooklyn Fare Report

jonasblank | Feb 14, 2013 08:51 AM

My wife and I dined here the other night, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

Just to provide context, I don't post here much, but I live in north Brooklyn and have lived in NYC since 2004. I have been to all of the current NYT four star places one or more times other than Masa, plus Ko and the other usual suspects. In giving my opinion of Brooklyn Fare, I am trying to compare it to places of similar expense and ambition.

The good:
Obviously, the food quality is exceptional. As they are spending less money on staff, real estate, interiors, etc. and charging more than Per Se, a lot of that cash is going into the ingredients. Multiple dishes with unagi, caviar, etc.

The clarity of flavor of most dishes was also outstanding. I felt especially in the earlier courses, herbs were deployed judiciously and effectively to make dishes "pop". The long procession of single bites is something that is more easily done in the counter setting, and especially in the earlier going, those bites were mostly exceptional.

Watching the chefs up close is obviously a treat.

Some of the best dishes: Turbot in "paella", oyster with caviar, unagi on brioche with black truffle shaving, pretty much all of the one-bite dishes.

The staff is of course highly competent and the cutlery, china and glassware are really cool. Wine glasses are hand-blown Austrian glass that is so light you will think it is plastic.

The less-good:
The menu is almost all fish/seafood (only one kind of sad duck course at the end), which is fine, but as it went on, we felt like certain flavors or components were repeated unnecessarily. For instance, multiple dishes consisted of unagi, or were a custard of some type, or included yuzu (which I found particularly jarring after a while). Multiple dishes that were essentially a single slice of fish, a broth, and a tangy herb. Generally, there is too much repetition of flavor and concept. While the execution is flawless, Brooklyn Fare is also not pushing the boundaries of cuisine the way some other restaurants like Atera are.

Compared to the vibe at other counter restaurants like Ko, I felt like this was less "fun". Partly I think it is that this attracts a certain type of showy crowd that seemed very into how many times they had been there and made a big show of talking to Chef Ramirez. It felt like less of a crowd being wowed by great food than one that was there to wow their friends that they had a reservation/$10,000 bottle of Burgundy/first-name rapport with Chef Ramirez. I'll leave you to speculate on what I mean by "showy" but this place is only a couple stops on the A from Wall Street.....

Also, the counter is weirdly arranged, so there is not much interaction across the counter. There is a person in the center who changes some glasses, but a lot of the service happens from behind you still, which makes it a little less interactive as well as more intrusive. Generally, we felt the service was a bit cold and impersonal, which is particularly odd in an intimate setting. Servers didn't bother to describe essential elements of dishes - for example, the tuna heart being shaved onto one dish wasn't even mentioned, until someone finally asked what type of truffle it was (that's what it looked like).

The wine list is pretty much a "f--- you" wine list with little range and stratospheric prices. Rhone and Burgundy almost exclusively, either very recent vintages in the $120+ range, anything older than 2009 being $500+. Only two or so offerings by the glass in red/white, one sparkling by the glass, and very few half bottles. That said, the wines we had (a Comte Lafon 2009 Mersault, whatever the Champagne by the glass was, and an '09 Burgundy by the glass that was exceptional) were good.

Overall, my view was that if you are paying more than Per Se or EMP prices (it is now substantially more expensive than both) it would be more pleasant to sit in a beautifully appointed room, in fine upholstery, and be served equally if not more excellent food by a large, solicitous staff. I think the total experience of Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, measured against competitors at the highest price point of U.S. fine dining, is lacking. At the previous price point of $165 and BYOB, I might think more highly of it.

As to counter dining generally, I am all for it, but view is if you are going to be "informal" you also need to have a vibe that takes advantage of the informality by being more entertaining and fun. From the start, this place did not feel "fun" or "playful" compared to a place like Ko or (I suspect, though I have not been) Blanca. For that matter, I felt my recent dinner at EMP was more fun and more relaxing than this "informal" one at Brooklyn Fare. It was also a bit frustrating to watch the very high level of deference shown to certain "big spenders" who had been there multiple times. (If you're eating there, you're kind of a big spender by definition, but...)

Sadly, as much as I want to support anything of high quality in Brooklyn, I feel like once again, this is a case of something getting extra attention simply because of its "exotic" location, rather than its merits.

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