Tag Archives: The Breslin

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I’ve now been to The Breslin three times. That might be a record for me. When April Bloomfield of Spotted Pig fame opened up the meat-centric gastropub in the hipster-centric Ace Hotel, I was intrigued and wanted to give it a try. We had a few really delicious dishes at the dark, busy bar. Both the lamb burger and the chocolate syllabub (which is sadly no longer on the menu) made my own Top 100 Dishes last year.

Then, we returned for a second time a few months ago to try one of Time Out’s other list items this year: the grilled cheese sandwich, which is a brunch only item. I was less impressed the second time around, especially with the overpriced and absurdly decadent sandwich. Service was strange and we left practically broke.

I had no reason to really return to the Breslin (unless I was craving that spectacular lamb burger), except there was one more list item that we couldn’t get last time because they don’t offer it at brunch. Sneaky, sneaky. They knew we had to come twice. Originally, I wanted to save some money by sitting at the bar and getting the Scrumpets (Time Out’s Number four dish) as a snack and then having dinner elsewhere. But we were hungry and we were here and so we found ourselves sitting at a table.

I was surprised that the crowd wasn’t as overbearing as my previous visits. I wonder if the hype has died down here. Or maybe their well hidden Grade Pending sign from the Department of Health has deterred people. Or maybe people are tired of spending this much money to leave hungry.

Because that’s what happened on our third (and most likely final) visit to The Breslin. We started with the Scrumpets, which are listed as a Snack and ironically ended up being the most food for our money. These are basically Britain’s answer to mozzarella sticks. Except there’s no cheese. Instead the three logs of brown fried breading were stuffed with a lump of fatty and flavorful braised lamb breast meat. Certain bites were a little too fatty for my liking, but the gaminess came through and a dip in the tangy and spectacular mint vinegar left my lips puckering for more.

The rest of the dishes were full-on jokes. We ordered a $16 salad that was comprised of some peas, radishes, shredded Romaine lettuce, and a green bean here or there despite the server’s promise of a bounty of ingredients (he must have been counting salt and pepper). It had a nice citrusy lemon oil dressing, but the portion size was teeny tiny and at $16, it was an unsettling experience. Next came the seafood sausage, which was a little bland and needed more of the beurre blanc to reveal any flavor.

But the crowning achievement (I say that ironically, of course) was the Whole Brook Trout entree priced at $29. We were warned that it was on the smaller side, but nothing could have compared us for what was placed in front of us. It was the thinnest fish imaginable. I understand that trout is a small fish, but add some vegetables or accoutrements to the plate. At least to make it look bigger than it was. There were a few drops of olives and watercress pesto here and there. This was a $30 dish and there was absolutely nothing to it! And to top it off, I found the taste rather off putting. The fish’s pink flesh had a very strong mineral flavor that didn’t allow me more than a few bites.

Some of the food at The Breslin is very tasty, but the pricing for these tiny portions truly pisses me off. I understand this is a hot NY restaurant and that it’s inside a trendy, expensive hotel. But, regardless, I expect to leave a restaurant not looking for the closest pizza place. The only way I would return to The Breslin is for some snacks at the bar. This is not a place I want to dine at because I constantly leave feeling as if I have been taken advantage of and the food is generally not worth it.

Would The Breslin’s Scrumpets with Mint Viengar make my Top 100 of the year? While the rest of the dishes here make me angry, I have to admit that these fatty snacks were the highlight of the meal, especially the amazing mint sauce. 7 out of 10.

THE BRESLIN BAR AND DINING ROOM
20 West 29th Street (between Broadway and 5th Avenue)
Inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I’ve surrendered to the idea of spending lots of money on food. Especially living in New York and eating at as many places as possible, the tabs are going to add up. And because most of my pay checks go to food and drink, I haven’t been able to buy new clothes in the last several years. But that’s a different story.

And while $18 isn’t that expensive to spend on an entree in this city, it all depends on what you get. And a grilled cheese sandwich is not one of the things I’m willing to spend that much money on. I don’t care what types of cheese you use or how organic your ham is, I think it’s outrageous to pay close to $20 for perhaps the easiest thing in the world to cook. I’ve been making grilled cheese sandwiches long before I figured out how to boil pasta.

But I did spend $18 on a grilled cheese sandwich at the uber-hip gastropub The Breslin inside the Ace Hotel. I’ve been here before for dinner and really love some of their meat-centric dishes, although this cheese sandwich is only available at brunch and lunch. It was on Time Out’s list and many other publications have raved about it as one of the best sandwiches in the city. It had better be for that steep price tag.

And while it was big and gooey and full of rich decadence, I didn’t think it was quite worth all that money. It was a good sized sandwich and if the mass doesn’t fill you up, the first few bites of the cheese overload will.  And that was my big problem with the sandwich. It was so rich and greasy that it made it difficult to really taste the ingredients. I tasted buttery crunch, funky cheese, and rich egg. There was really no complexity here, which is something I expect in every dish from acclaimed chefs like April Bloomfield.

The ham was house-smoked although I didn’t get much flavor aside from saltiness (and it didn’t add much crisp texture), the cheese was tangy and buttery, and the egg was a wonder – it was barely cooked in the middle of the entire sandwich. It was sort of like a hybrid between an egg in the hole and a grilled cheese sandwich. The bread was buttery and crispy and the first bite opened up that yolk and spilled the fat all over the rest of the sandwich.

I had read on other blogs that this used to be served with mustard and onion marmalade. That might have put this mediocre and over-indulgent sandwich over the top. But as it stands it was just a lonely heart attack on a plate that ended up making a mess and not too many “Oohs” and “Aahs”. Regardless, it still cost me a whopping $18. Next time, I’ll stay at home and make some grilled cheese for free.

Would The Breslin’s Grilled Three Cheese Sandwich make my Top 100 of the Year? It was not the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve had, but it was filling and heavy. For the price tag, I can only give it a 6 out of 10 but would try it again if I could get a little less heart attack for half the price.

THE BRESLIN BAR AND DINING ROOM
20 West 29th Street (between Broadway and 5th Avenue)
Inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

15. AMBROSIA COOKIE at RUBYZAAR

I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of savory cookies. Aren’t cookies by definition supposed to be sweet? Well, what if I could told you that you could have all the usual vanilla, buttery sweetness with hints of savory fruits and spices? All for the price of one cookie?

Rubyzaar is a pop-up stand at the Union Square Holiday Market that specializes in fair-trade clothing and crafts from around the world. Strangely enough they also sell their own cookies (baked in Brooklyn) that were inspired by the flavors of the regions that their goods come from. They have a wide range of interesting flavors from Kashmir (earl grey tea, smoked almonds, chocolate) to Hoi An (Vietnamese coffee, cream, dark chocolate) to Savannah (sun-dried peach, pecans, chocolate).

The first one I tried was the one that made me fall in love with this concept. It’s called the Ambrosia and it features fig, dried pear, sage, roasted walnut, and creamed honey. It was an unusual mix of sweet and savory with an herbal note, lots of creamy and crunchy textures, and a delicious surprise.

The cookies are only available until Christmas Eve, so I would hurry up and get as many as you can. Otherwise, you may have to wait until next year. Price: $2

RUBYZAAR
Union Square Holiday Market, Booth #33
Union Square East (across from 15th Street)
rubyzaar.com

14. WARM CHOCOLATE TART WITH PINK PEPPERCORN ICE CREAM at CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR

My first encounter with pink peppercorns was at a restaurant I used to work at called Cafe Joul. The chef would often make a citrusy butter sauce containing the little pink guys. I recognized all the other flavors in the sauce, but the crunchy floral berries (not actual peppers) were a taste I had never experienced before. And I loved it.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my favorite spot in all the city, Chikalicious Dessert Bar, makes pink peppercorn ice cream. I learned about it years ago, but I’m constantly coming back to discover pastry chef Chika’s inventive three-course desserts. Fortunately for me, one of her two never changing menu items is the chocolate tart with the pink peppercorn ice cream

And the tart itself, like everything else here, is delectable. It’s refined and full of balanced flavors and textures. The pastry containing the chocolate is crisp, light and buttery. The chocolate inside is decadent but not too rich. The red wine sauce adds some nice complex acidity and the pink peppercorn ice cream puts the whole thing over the edge.

I’d come in just for a cone of the ice cream (they don’t offer cones). And I love it so much I even tried to re-create it at home. Which worked, but not nearly as well as when Chika creates it. Price: Part of the $14 Prix-Fixe

CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR
203 East 10th Street (between First and Second Avenue)
East Village
(212) 995-9511
chikalicious.com

Photo Courtesy of: commons.wikimedia.org

13. CHOCOLATE STOUT SYLLABUB at THE BRESLIN

“What the hell is a syllabub?” we asked our bartender. Strangely enough, he didn’t know and had to ask the other bartender. Either this guy was new or The Breslin has created a dessert so unique that it baffles even the staff.

Upon looking it up on my trust Iphone, I learned that a syllabub is an old traditional English dessert (The Breslin focuses on British pub food) that is made up of whipped milk or cream, sugar, and a touch of wine to curdle the liquid. I was still confused so I took the second bartender’s word when he said it was like a mousse.

I’m so glad we took the leap of faith because this was an amazing dessert. It was sort of reminiscent of a chocolate mousse and had a sweet, bitter flavor (probably from the beer) which worked perfectly together. The best part was the garnish on top. They looked like chocolate caviar but the menu called them bubbled caramel. They were these crunchy beads of sweetness. There was also a layer of white foam on top (creme fraiche?) that was caramelized or curdled or something. But it was also crunchy, reminiscent of creme brulee, and tasting vaguely of marshamallows.

Now I have an answer to my initial question. I’ll tell you what a syllabub is (besides an awkward thing to say): it’s pure deliciousness. Price: $9

THE BRESLIN
16 West 29th Street (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

12. COOKIES from DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY

Downtown Cookie Company is an internet based company that makes cookies to order via their website or over the phone. They’ll ship anywhere in the U.S., but it’s also possible to pick up the cookies outside their commercial kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen.

I called the day before and the cookies were ready in less than 24 hours. You can order a dozen of any of their cookies or a variety box of three different types. It was a no-brainer for me, the guy who wants to try as much as possible.

It was incredibly exciting when the girl came down with my box of cookies. I handed her the $24 (I chose to go the exact cash route rather than give my credit card number over the phone) and she handed me box of cookies.

I literally couldn’t wait until I got home to try the cookies, so we cut open the box and undid the neatly presented bags that held the three different cookie varieties. The chocolate chip with walnuts was the first I tried. They were soft and chewy with the right amount of both chocolate chips and walnuts. Amazingly fresh. I’m not a big fan of raspberry jam cookies (they make me think of those lackluster butter cookie tins), but these were the real deal. The jam was clearly made from real preserved fruit and the almond cookie was buttery and had crispy pieces of almonds crushed around the edge. And the peanut butter cookie continued the deliciousness. They were rich and chewy, but not too much peanut butter (which tends to dry the cookies out for me). These were anything but dry.

The cookies all tasted homemade (I guess that’s obvious) and they were all so soft and fresh that I felt like they were made just for me. Wait a minute…

But the other amazing thing is that these cookies retained that fresh delicious sweet taste and softness when I continued eating them for days afterwards. They have four more cookie varieties (Ginger, Oatmeal Raisin, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip) and I’m afraid I’m going to have to find some special occasion to order another round. Price: $24 for a dozen

DOWNTOWN COOKIE COMPANY
(646) 486-3585
downtowncookieco.com

11. HAZELNUT DACQUOISE at THE MODERN

When I worked at The Modern, I would sometimes have to close the restaurant, which meant I’d be the last waiter there. And often, as any restaurant worker knows, there’s leftover food. So it would get thrown away or some lucky employee would get to it.

The hazelnut dacquoise was one that would be offered up for charity (meaning to me) and I would eventually have to resist because these little desserts were so darn addicting.

I would describe it as a little sandwich. It was a hazelnut wafer topped with milk chocolate chantilly (mousse) and layered between two chocolate slivers. It tasted like the most decadent, refined, delicious Kit Kat Bar you’d ever taste. I’m sure Pastry Chef Marc Aumont would love that I described it that way. But I mean it as the most sincerest compliment possible. Price: $11

THE MODERN
9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220
themodernnyc.com
Photo Courtesy of: thewanderingeater.com

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

65. THE COMPLETO at SAN ANTONIO BAKERY #2

A Chilean hot dog is not something you come across every day. Unless of course you live in Chile.

But here in New York, I believe there are only a handful of places that have a Completo on the menu (probably because there are only a handful of Chilean restaurants in the entire city).

I’m lucky enough to live close to a really good one: San Antonio Bakery #2 in Astoria is an unassuming little restaurant that serves great sandwiches, pastries, and Completos. And they don’t have a menu so you have to pretty much know what you want.

The Completo (which translates to “complete”) is a grilled hot dog topped with the Chilean works: fresh tomatoes, onions, guacamole, and mayonnaise. It’s all balanced on top of a fresh toasted bun. The rich creamy textures play really well off the smoky snap of the wiener.

It’s a hot dog like you’ve never had and one you won’t taste too often in this country. Unless, like me, you know where to find them. Price: $2.50

SAN ANTONIO BAKERY #2
3620 Astoria Boulevard (between 37th and 36th Street)
Astoria, Queens
(718) 777-8733
panaderiachilena.com

64. GREEK FRIES at SOUVLAKI GR

I don’t think I have to convince anybody about the joys of french fries. Even vegetarians are on board.

But besides some fancy sauces or frying the things in duck fat (I just lost the vegetarians, I know), I didn’t think there was a whole lot of room for improvement. That was until I tasted the Greek Fries from the Vendy Award winning (for Rookie of the Year) Souvlaki GR Truck.

They’re usually parked in the Chelsea area and besides really succulent and tender pork and chicken pitas, they make these unbelievable and surprising french fries. The fries are warm and crispy and then loaded with oregano, salt, pepper, and crumbled feta cheese. I’ve seen Belgian frites, British chips, and of course, the French Fries we’ve made our own. But this new Greek version is a welcome addition to the fried potato world. Price: $4.

SOUVLAKI GR
In the Vicinity of: 21st Street and 6th Avenue
Chelsea
Follow on twitter: @souvlakitruck
souvlakigr.com

63. BACON DOUGHNUTS at TRAIF

Free food is hard to resist for me. But the one thing I will consistently turn down are doughnuts. I’ve been (heart)burned one too many times with the fried fritters. So I avoid them unless they’re made fresh on a farm or featured prominently on a fancy restaurant’s dessert menu. Or if they have some unusual flavor.

And that’s why I just had to try the Bacon Doughnuts at Traif, the proudly non-kosher gastropub in Williamsburg. Lots of people are still squeamish over the idea of bacon in dessert. In my mind, it works the same way as it does at breakfast. Bacon, pancakes, maple syrup, whipped cream. These are perfect flavor combinations.

Traif takes it one flavor further by topping it with coffee ice cream. The doughnuts are light and fluffy, dusted with fresh bacon bits, and drizzled with ducle de leche. The sweet, salty, and greasy flavors are so perfect, I’d be happy having them at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

And so they make my Top 100 for not only being seriously delicious, but also because they were so fresh and light that I felt no pain while digesting them. Why are these never the free doughnuts on offer at morning meetings? Price: $6

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

62. TARTE FLAMBEE at AUGUST

Having worked at The Modern for many years, I feel like I’ve had the ultimate tarte flambee. Chef Gabriel Kreuther is from Alsace (where the pizza-like dish originated) and it’s so light, crispy, and full of deep comforting flavors.

I’ve had a few others and none come close to what I consider to be the ultimate version. So I was hesitant when I saw one on the menu at likable neighborhood spot August. How could it possibly compete with the one that’s near and dear to my heart?

Immediately I felt it was too thick with big chunks of bacon (as opposed to the thin smoked slices) and globs of onions. This was all wrong!

But as I took a few bites, I discovered it was totally different than The Modern’s and in its own way, just as successful.

The crust was actually quite light and crispy with a strong smoky flavor coming from the bacon, a bit of sweetness from the caramelized onions, and a nice bite from the creme fraiche. It’s exactly how I’d describe the one at The Modern (although I’d say that one is more refined) without being the exact same dish. It’s an example of how different chefs can interpret one dish and they end up completely different yet both turn out right. Price: $14

AUGUST
359 Bleecker Street (between 10th Street and Charles Street)
West Village
(212) 929-8727
augustny.com

61. LAMB BURGER at THE BRESLIN

The search for the best burger in New York will happen for me one of these days. This is a city that takes its burgers very seriously. But truth be told, I’m sort of tired of the same old beef burger. Sure, you can put interesting toppings on it and use different cuts of meat. And that’s all well and good, but I’m always searching for surprising flavors and for the most part, a burger’s a burger.

Then I tasted the lamb burger at The Breslin, inside the Ace Hotel. It exploded with flavor. April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig fame – which also has a killer burger) uses lamb meat, which is not the newest of flavors for me. But I’ve never had a lamb burger that has retained that salty, gamey flavor while bursting with the meat juices accustomed to a juicy beef burger. This was a revelation.

It was served on a firm, yet soft bun, cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice smoky char on the outside. Even though the price tag is more than I like to spend on a burger ($17) at a bar (even a glorified bar like this one), it was well worth it. Price: $17

THE BRESLIN
20 West 29th Street (between 5th Avenue and Broadway)
inside the Ace Hotel
Flatiron District
(212) 679-1939
thebreslin.com

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