June 21, 2022

I returned here after just 2 months to celebrate my son's 21st birthday. It was his request. Given my last disappointing experience (see below), I arrived with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Others have shared in my criticisms. Here are some recent reviews on Google:

"Rushed meals...does it deserve 3 Michelin? I would revisit and challenge this rating."

"I am a huge foodie and I work for Michelin. This place has two too many stars. The service was horrible, it was rushed..."

"What a disappointment. My husband and I spent three hours in this restaurant wondering where the third star is coming from. This is a one star restaurant at most."

"Perhaps here the food was once innovative...but the cuisine, while good, is not worthy of the accolades to which it still lays claim much less to the price that is charged. [T]he experience...is sorely disappointing."

My concerns centered around how far they had fallen in the three key places:

  1. Quantity of food (for such a high price point)
  2. Quality of food
  3. Quality of service

While #1 remained unchanged, I'm delighted to say that #2 and #3 shot back through the roof. It was unexpected, and hopefully a sign that they are listening and fixing what has been broken.

The restaurant is still stand-offish. From the scowl on the greeter's face as we arrived to Chef's distant greetings around the dining room, the experience is not "warm". Case in point: I had emailed to ask if my son (a chef) might be able to meet the Chef before the meal. They declined in a pretty direct reply that showed little (if any) generosity. The decline was fine, but surely could have been delivered with more empathy. Contrast to Atera, who offered for Ryan to come stodge with them for a day.

The large bar that separates the diners from the kitchen seems to speak visually to the overall tenor of the place. The team is invested in their food, but not in you.

That said, the FOH (front of house) staff was vastly improved. Friendly, engaged, interested. The sommelier was miles better than our last version. Full explanations, delivery of each pairing well before the food arrived...it was as it should be. The restaurant was very full and the staff was quite busy, but always had time to answer a question with clear focus on the moment. Waters were kept full. A number of genuine inquiries on how we were enjoying the experience or a specific dish. They were attentive and caring and the experience is far better for it.

The food was also vastly improved. Even the same dishes as before (such as the starting canapes) seemed to have the magic that was missing last time. Every single dish was stellar and beautiful to look at. Flavors were on point - diverse, interesting and lively. The mackerel dish would have been better served with 4 thin pieces of mackerel rather than 2 larger pieces. Other than that, I have not the slightest adjustment to recommend.

The highlight was the corn cappuccino. What a bowl of food!! In "chef's secret broth" (I really wanted to know what that was made of! They wouldn't tell me.), corn, mushrooms, snails and fois gras pushed flavors to the extreme, providing mind-blowing contrasts of sweet/savory, creamy/chewy/crunchy and extreme deliciousness. Each spoonful was better than the next and required a moment to savor and figure out how this was even possible.

While the quantity remained on the lower end (compared with my first visit), we left quite sated. Properly full, but not painfully so.

It is difficult to know whether my varied experiences (just 2 months apart) indicates inconsistency or a more permanent recovery from a temporary dip.

It is quite likely that I will return down the road and let you know.  :)

Sugar snap peas, herb tartlet
Aji (Japanese mackerel)
Keluga queen caviar, veal tartare, oysters, potato croutons. Incredible balance (salty caviar, unctuous veal, chewy oysters, crunchy croutons)
They offered a supplement of these black truffles. Wow! And...
They did not go light! Hokkaido uni, Australian black truffle, brioche. One of the best bites of food anyone could possibly enjoy.
Japanese mackerel, bone broth, ginger, yuzu kosho. This dish would have been far better with 4 thin pieces of mackerel, rather than the 2 larger pieces which made it difficult to portion out as you ate through it.
Corn cappuccino. This was a truly world-class dish. Corn, wood ear mushrooms, fois gras, snail and "chef's secret foam" (broth). It tasted like coconut milk to me. The flavor of this cup of food forced you to sit back after each bite and marvel at what you were eating. Definitely one of the best dishes of my life.
Medai (Japanese sea bream), gooseberries, caviar. Brilliant. The gooseberries were the star, providing just the right punch of sweetness bite after bite.
Squab from northern California, maitake mushrooms, endive, figs. Brilliant. The meat alone was so stellar. Accompanying elements (including that jus!) were tremendous.
A4 wagyu, langress (cows milk cheese). They do wagyu so well. (The portion was far smaller than prior visits though.)
Wild blueberries, (something) blanc sorbet (a type of cheese)
Early summer corn souffle. I love their souffles! The corn was an interesting twist though least successful among the 3 I have enjoyed (coffee & strawberry being the other two).
Black tea cake
Raspberry choc tartlet
Soy caramel cream puff (which was incredible!!), Milk chocolate banana
April 2, 2022

Returning to Chef's Table 1 year later, this restaurant remains at the top of its game...with a few notable asterisks. The food here is sublime - prepared in front of you with expert precision (if you sit at the bar, which you must!). Watching this kitchen run is a true privilege. Copious amounts of groaning comes with the territory as your taste buds absorb flavors that subtly but confidently overwhelm and excite. 

The experience took a step back from my previous visit, however. Certainly, the quantity and selections of food was noticeably just...less. Last year began with two tartlets overflowing with seafood and caviar. Tonight was a single tartlet of peas. Delicious, delicious peas! But...peas. Last year, there were three substantive fish courses before the lamb. This year...only one. Even the lamb from last year (which is burned into my memory) made this year's effort seem meager and wanting. Last year's strawberry gelatin dessert was a one of the best desserts I have ever had. This year's replacement (rhubarb and vanilla) was...fine.

I'm sure COVID and skyrocketing food costs play into all of this, as the Chef at Koya shared with me a few weeks back. But for the uber-premium price to eat here, these retreats stand out and are felt. As with Koya, the meal seemed just over the edge of sufficient (for the price), rather than generous.

Service was excellent, but with similar minor-but-noticeable missteps. I had to jump in to remind our waiter which glass was sparkling and which had still water (as he was about to fill the glasses incorrectly). The sommelier was informative, but only just so. When expressing that one wine was truly incredible, an additional pour was not provided. That said, they did provide a tasting pour of wine to Donna - at our request - happily and with no additional charge. Even after expressing a desire for the full ingredient list of the first few dishes, we continued to receive only the dish name. I gave up asking as the wait staff seemed...busy.

For most restaurants, these missteps are easily overlooked. For a 3-Michelin-star experience, they are substantive, even if not existential. A toe dipped lightly into the murky waters fully embraced by Alinea. I am very interested to see if these issues have similarly affected The French Laundry, Atelier Crenn and Quince when I go later this month. An industry-wide phenomena, perhaps?

But this food is special! I must mention the ramps custard. What a dish!! The layering of flavors and textures centered around a single ingredient...it was a truly special dish of food. The mackerel was spectacular as well, and the medai was like a terrific ceviche with Japanese flavors. Gorgeous and brilliant. Donna's 2nd fish course (red mullet - a replacement for lamb, which she doesn't eat) was one of the better dishes of the night.

CTBF will continue to be a regular visit for me. The food is truly at the highest level, and the experience from start to finish is outstanding. I am hopeful that as we move beyond the pandemic and inflation levels out, restaurants push back to the far side of generosity and provision. 

I will without question return to Chef Ramirez' incredible experience to find out.

 

Sugar Snap peas, herb tartlet, mustard blooms
Aji - Japanese mackerel from Osaka?, kuchi akari rice (highest grade in Japan), crispy nori. See the next video for how they quick-seared the mackerel.
Keluga caviar, beef tartare, oyster gel, cream, basil(?) oil
Hokkaido uni, black truffle, toasted brioche
Madai, modai bone jus, Japanese ginger
Ramps custard...
Somehow the best dish of the evening. With burgundy snails throughout to add texture. Impossibly imaginative and delicious.
Washington state black cod, thyme sauce, gooseberry, caviar (add-on)
Lamb, eggplant mushroom, jus
Donna doesn't eat lamb, so she received: Mediterranean red mullet, eggplant mushroom. This was one of the better dishes of the evening (based on my small bite of it).
A4 wagyu, asparagus
Rhubarb and vanilla. Fine - nothing special.
Frozen strawberry souffle
Sunchoke cake (to share)
Banana dark chocolate tart Soy caramel cream puff Passionfruit tart
April 25, 2021

Every cliche comes to mind after eating at Brooklyn Fare. There are not enough superlatives. Both the service and food was as good as it gets. As of this visit, it is my 2nd favorite restaurant ever (after Disfrutar). But there truly are not words to describe this food.

Be sure you sit at the bar so you can see them put together every dish. They make it look intense and yet easy. The anticipation waiting for the next glorious bite adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience. Endorphines, anyone?

Even as I write this, I am looking through the photos trying to remember if there was a single dish or bite that wasn't extraordinary and mystifying. There was not.

This is the best restaurant in NYC. Probably in the US. And is right at the top world-wide. It's expensive and worth even more than that. I can't recommend this restaurant more highly.

 

Opening bite. Bluefin tuna, beluga caviar (look at all that caviar!!), mustard blooms on a crisp. Mind blowing and an incredible statement to come out of the gate with. Clearly sets your expectation that this will be no ordinary meal.
Teresa loved this one even more. House smoked salmon, trout roe, cilantro blooms
Mackerel, crispy seaweed cracker, wasabi. The mackerel (from Okinawa) is seared by touching it with smoldering piece of wood (which itself is also imported from Japan).
His signature. Uni (imported from Japan), warm brioche, black truffle, spritzed with soy. They offered a 2nd and we definitely got it. This is the definition of unctuous. The warm brioche is incredibly buttery, the uni is sublime and it had a dab of black truffle mousse under the black truffle slice on top. Easily takes 4 bites to get through. A superlatively generous dish. Service note: you eat this with your fingers, so there is no silverware. One piece of uni dropped off onto Teresa's plate. In seconds, a waiter silently slid a spoon in front of her
Dashi custard, consume, fois gras, black truffle
This photo does not capture the incredible flavor of this dish. To this point, it was my favorite dish of the meal. The broth was just insanely delicious.
Red sea perch, white asparagus, sauce was strong citrus acid (lemon), great compliment
Langostine (from Norway), morels, iberico ham, oyster, spinach, butter sauce. Discovered that morels soaked in the most buttery butter sauce that has ever been buttered with butter...well, they're quite fantastic!!
Red mullet, octopus, rice (highest grade in japan), dashi foam. My favorite dish of the night. Aside from the plating (how gorgeous is that?!), the small pieces of octopus mixed in with the rice gave a broad and strong textural base to a beautiful, silky piece of fish and perfectly complemented sauce and foam.
Chef Cesar preparing our next dish.
Lamb, artichoke puree, spring vegetables, lamb jus. That lamb jus tho...
A4 Miyazaki Wagyu, maitake, mustard, greens. They select A4 (which is more expensive and harder to source than A5) because A5 is too marbled. Having now had both, they are 100% correct. This (quite generously sized) piece of beef was indescribably tender and delicious.
Wild strawberries, sorbet, champagne jelly. Strawberries were insane. Each component was too much individually, but taken together were just perfectly brilliant. (And look at that kennel! It is perfectly smooth and without a seam! How do they do that??)
Frozen coffee souffle (served with a frozen spoon). 8 inches high, I think? Light as a feather. Frozen airiness disolved in your mouth like cotton candy.
Coconut and passion fruit cake. Surprisingly not too sweet.
The passion fruit was on the inside.
Dolce e leches puff, raspberry covered in white chocolate, caramel tart.
Brooklyn Fare is a typical grocery store. See the maitre d over there? That's the entrance. The restaurant is through the door behind her.

Comments

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.

Add A Comment

Replying to Steven Smith