We spent a too-short weekend in New York recently, visiting Dan’s brother Sean, his lovely wife and their adorable baby boy. We love their neighborhood in Brooklyn, partly because of the Breuckelen Restaurant, where we had an early dinner on Saturday. When you dine at Breuckelen, you can tell how much the Chef really loves food and appreciates combining quality ingredients into mini masterpieces on every plate. All of us enjoyed our meal immensely.
The decor at Breuckelen is as wonderful as the food. The bar area has exposed brick and a cool painting showing the intersection where the restaurant is located (I think.) Similar to most restaurants in New York, the interior is rather small and the tables are close together — especially from the perspective of this Texas girl. But the closeness helps rather than hinders the ambiance — almost like you are at a dinner party at your cool neighbor’s fabulous apartment.
We got to the restaurant early that night — about 15 minutes before the kitchen even opened — and they graciously accommodated us at the perfect table in one of the front windows, complete with fresh spring flowers blooming in the late afternoon sun. While we settled in, the friendly and extremely knowledgeable bartender chatted with us about cocktail or wine options. He talked us into starting with a Gewurztraminer that was amazing. We probably wouldn’t have ordered it on our own, thinking it would likely be too sweet. But our bartender clearly knew his wines, and we knew we were in good hands. He even gave us a little history or the origin of the grape.
Our darling nephew — the star attraction of the dinner and weekend (and reason we went out early.) He was an angel and slept in his carrier the entire time.
The menu at Breuckelen changes with the seasons and available ingredients. This was our second time dining there and my brother-and-sister-in-law have been there several times. We agreed that in our collective opinion, there isn’t a bad dish on the menu, no matter when you go or what the Chef is cooking. The dining is flexible at the Breuckelen — you could start with an appetizer, then order a pasta as an entree, or go with a traditional entree. Or you can order a pasta as your first course, then something else as an entree. Or skip the first course (we do not recommend doing this — as many dishes as you can sample, the better) and just order an entree.
Oops, forgot to take a picture of the “amuse bouche” featuring sea urchin. Clearly, all four of us enjoyed it very much. It was not fishy at all (always my fear with a new kind of seafood that I’ve never tasted.)
I ordered the Oysters Rockefeller as my first course. I was initially a little nervous, since my oyster preference is usually tiny raw ones on a saltine cracker with horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce. But I need not have worried — these had the salty/ocean oyster taste (but not fishy), complemented with smoked bacon and creamed spinach (which I don’t usually prefer, but it was perfect in this dish.) Well done.
Our sister-in-law started with the Roasted Beet Salad. I’m not a fan of beets (somehow this review is turning into an anthonology of foods I dislike), but how beautiful is this presentation? Gorgeous (and just as delicious, I’m told.)
Dan had the Braised Lamb Ravioli as his appetizer. I had a bite and was very impressed. The lamb was seasoned perfectly and the ravioli was as light and delicate as the bechamel sauce.
Sean ordered the Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi as his first course. It was garnished with tomatoes, pancetta, a poached egg and crisped sage. Sean enjoyed it, as did his lovely wife, who ordered it as her entree.
In addition to celebrating their first night out with the baby, we were celebrating Sean’s birthday. Dan and Sean had a favorite (cheap) wine when they lived together many years ago while Dan was a new lawyer and Sean was a grad student. It just so happened that the Breuckelen had a high-end version of this Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine on their menu, so Dan ordered it for our main courses. (Awww. And Happy Birthday Sean!)
For my entree, I ordered the Spicy Sausage Rigatoni. Wow. Again – gorgeous presentation, with beautiful color and layered textures. The sausage had the perfect amount of spice and the just-right-al-dente rigatoni was tossed with just-rich-enough tomato sauce.
Dan had the Hazlenut Dusted Skate for his second course. He says the consistency was unlike any other fish he has tasted, with the flesh in ridges or strips instead of flaking chunks like other fish. He also said it was slightly sweet, flavorful and succulent. As I typed this and asked him to tell me about the dish (I didn’t taste it — too busy with and enamored of my rigatoni), he made the mistake of looking up skate, which is a relative of the stingray. His meal likely came from the wing area. Doesn’t matter what the original fish looks like, he loved it.
Sean ordered the Herb Crusted Chatham Cod as his entree. There is a lot going on with this dish — including clam chowder and house-made oyster crackers. Sean loved it (which says a lot because he typically doesn’t prefer soup and is a bit of a clam snob, having been a municipal clam biologist on Cape Cod for several summers.) Overall, the Breuckelen Restaurant knocked it out of the park — 8 for 8 spectacular dishes.
We decided to skip dessert at Brueckelen that night (but we will surely be back!) and spent the rest of the weekend enjoying getting to know the newest and already cherished member of our extended family. Many thanks to S, I and Baby T for a great weekend!