I did brunch with a friend at Rae today. The short version: food was quite good, service was mediocre at best.
Started with Bloody Marys from the bar. Quite nice...chunky horseradish, just the right amounts of red and black peppers.
We got an order of the Bloody Mary Eggs and Hash. The description provided by our server was: "scrambled eggs with bloody mary sauce served over roasted potatoes". Enough to pique our curiosity. When the dish was brought to the table (nicely presented in a worn looking fry pan), it appeared to be scrambled eggs on roasted potatoes. After the server confirmed that they were in fact the bloody mary eggs, we dug in. To our surprise, there was still only eggs on the eggs (and a bit of fresh chive garnish). So, we asked our waiter to please confirm that these were, in fact, the bloody mary eggs. We finally learned (after the waiter confirmed with the chef) that it was the potatoes that were "bloody mary" style, and the eggs were meant to be plain. OK...we could live with that, and dug in. The eggs were good, fresh, properly done. The first few bites of potatoes were quite good, with a richly flavored tomatoey (sp?) coating. It took until I hit the bottom of the pan to realize the magic of the dish: the spectacular mirepoix that made up the aromatics in the sauce (not exactly a mirepoix -- is that cucumber in there?). I scraped the bottom of the pan clean. I wish I had know earlier, as they would have made a truly excellent condiment for the eggs. This dish is reason enough to come for the brunch, although I'll petition that they should call the dish scrambled eggs with bloody mary potato hash. That would've been truth in advertising.
Other than this, we are from the buffet. This is not the typical scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, dry sausage, pancakes from a box buffet. The presentation was understated and pretty elegant. On one table were roasted fennel; roasted garlic, cipollini onions and shallots; chicken salad with grapes; and baby carrots. There was a pastry table that included some very nice homemade muffins (I saw crumb and blueberry, there might have been more), some other nice cakes and fruit tarts, mini cheesecakes, and some others. The highlight here was the donut holes (if I could have snuck a bag up to the table, I would have simply dumped the whole batch for later consumption). These were cinnamon, sugar and chocolate flavored and not at all greasy. Very, very nice.
Also on the table were jumbo shrimp (a bit overcooked, but nicely flavored), oysters on the 1/2 shell (don't ask me which kind, but they were small enough that I had a couple without being grossed out), and some beautiful smoked salmon - rich, smoky and buttery tasting -- with the appropriate accoutrements. There was a nice selection of fruits, some Irish oats (nicely presented in a tagine) and the reason that I wanted to go: a selection of artisinal meats and cheeses. Nothing makes my day like good charcuterie, so I was very excited about this. There was a nice, eclectic (read: not well matched) group of cheeses. The cheeses were pretty standard fair -- Parmigiano Reggiano (always awesome), some adequate cheddar (just ehh), some spectacular Feta (sharp, but creamy) and some great Bleu (extra funky with rind, more creamy and mild without). I was hoping for something a bit more unusual, bit...the Feta and Bleu required a repeat trip. The meats were nice, but not spectacular. Some spicy chorizo and sopressata, a bit of very nice capicolla, some speck (I think?) and some prosciutto. The selection was nice but, again, nothing unusual. Also on the platter were some figs, cornichons and other accoutremonts. On the down side, the way the the cheese/meat platter was set up prevented me from seeing all of the meat offerings. It took until a trip back (for more cheeses) to notice the proscuitto and capicolla. On the up side, I'd already put some melon (musk and honeydew) on my plate that was just asking for some pork product.
So the food was pretty good with a few flaws (not bad enough to stop me from going back). The service was not so hot. We had to repeatedly ask for things like coffee and soft drinks. Our servers were nice, and seemed to be doing the best that they could, but...considering that the place was pretty empty, and the service was buffet style, I don't think it was unreasonable to think that they could offer to fill my empty coffee mug.
One other problem: who knew that there was a crepe bar as part of the buffet? We sure didn't, and no one told us... I only discovered it as I was standing nearby waiting for my coat.
Summation: Good enough to go back, but don't expect white glove service.