We wanted to like this place. We really did, but we left feeling ripped off and unsatisfied.
On Friday, in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, we made our long anticipated visit to Little Dishes on 7th Avenue in Park Slope. The Times had reviewed it in March and said kind things so we were looking forward to the meal.
There were signs of trouble immediately. The menu is short and basic to the point of dullness. Of course one persons boredom is anothers comfort food but we really didnt find too many appealing choices on the minimalist menu. Make up your own mind:
Arugula Salad - hazelnuts & olive juice vinaigrette
Iceberg Wedge - Grafton cheddar & buttermilk dressing
Cheese Plate - three cheeses with house-made fig & almond cake
King Oyster Mushrooms - pan roasted, tossed with parsley
Grilled Eggplant - roasted tomato & arugula
Radish Plate - sea salt, pepper, paprika purée, oregano butter
Grilled Asparagus - extra virgin olive oil & sea salt
Pickle Dish - baby beets with red & white pearl onions
Marinated Sardines - grilled bread & grain mustard
Grilled Baby Octopus - fennel salad
Salt Cod Fritters - celery root with lemon-caper aioli
Mussels - white wine, cream & fresh bay leaf
Pork Butt - grilled bread & yogurt cabbage slaw
American Artisanal Plate - Prosciutto Americano, wild boar sausage, Bayley Hazen Blue cheese
Half Chicken - English peas & tarragon
NY Strip Steak roasted creamer potatoes & cremini mushrooms
Rack of Lamb Israeli couscous & pea greens
Rabbit Leg Olive Oil Confit lavender sauce & mashed
Skate Wing - lentils & bacon
Whole Grilled Fish of the Day
The website leaves out the prices to add an element of surprise to the dining experience. The Littles run from $6 for a bit of iceberg lettuce to $11 for the pork butt with most averaging $8. Billing a cold meat and cheese platter as an American Artisinal Plate with Prosciutto Americano ought to set off warning lights on the Pretentious Meter. I think that was $14 but I could be wrong. The Bigs start at $16 with the steak hitting $24. I believe the lamb was even higher than that.
Deb had the Cod Fritters as a starter which turned out to be the strongest dish in a weak field. $8 buys you two lonely little fritters sitting on a medium sided plate. Tasty enough but unremarkable. I had the Oyster Mushrooms which might have been decent if they had been cooked properly. These were bland, underdone and had an unpleasant fibrous chewyness. Another $8 wasted.
For our mains we had the rabbit confit and the half chicken, each $16. Both were adequate at best and suffered from a severe lack of spicing. Boring. My chicken came with a green ocean of peas, enough to serve 3 people if they liked underspiced peas that hadnt seen a touch of butter. The tarragon mentioned in menu description is a myth. Perhaps the seasoning was intensely subtle, or perhaps it was missing entirely. Who could tell? The portions were decent which would have been welcome if the food had been interesting in any way.
Little Dishes subscribes to the Chef Knows Best doctrine neither salt nor pepper is present on the table and based on the way our food tasted they dont seem to be in the kitchen either. We asked for salt and they managed to find a little bowl for our use. Maybe theres a secret stash? In any case it only helped a little.
The wine list is pricey for Park Slope. There was a token red for $28, a few bottles in the mid $30s and then it was off to the races with lots of choices in the $40 - $60 range. This was an unpleasant surprise and we tried to keep our costs down by ordering the $28 dAlba. Lots of other people must have felt the same way they were out of it. Our 2nd economy choice clocked in at $36 and it was not good. The wine was tight and pinched when it was first uncorked and throughout the meal we kept waiting for it to open up. It never did and instead sat flat and lifeless on the tongue, an absence of flavor. I called it the un-wine.
Little Dishes does not exactly set a sumptuous table. We each got a single slice of bread and there was a shared bowl which contained 6 olives - I counted them. They were not particularly tasty either. There was no butter or olive oil served with the bread. Babbo serves its bread in the same way but when they do it seems to be a nod in the direction of authenticity. At Little Dishes it just seemed cheap. Deb finished her slice early in the meal and was not offered a 2nd slice until we were almost done. You cant attribute this lack of attention to the crowds the place was about ½ full throughout the meal. Other than that the service was correct without being warm in any way.
With tax and tip the meal came in at a little over $100, on the low end of what we routinely spend on dinner. In this case we felt ripped off, having been served bland and boring food and an overpriced bottle of lackluster wine.
434 Seventh Avenue (15th Street), Park Slope, Brooklyn