Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare – strong skills but no 3 stars in my book

Posted: August 25, 2013 in 3 star michelin, best restaurants in new york, brooklyn, Michelin star, michelin star restaurant, new york
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Restaurant: Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11217,
Phone:+1 718-243-0050
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Cosmopolitan (mostly seafood,  a bit like a ‘kaiseki’ meal, but eclectic)
Michelin stars: 3
Date and time:  Saturday August 24th, 2013  19:00

NO PHOTO RESTRICTIONNo picture and note taking, as/per the restaurant’s policies, —which are, to me, reasonable requests  — , do  indeed allow for a more enjoyable meal free of distractions. I was not there to review my meal neither. So I’ll go with my  general impression of my dinner, essentially focusing on the perceived subjective strengths and weaknesses of my meal..

The beauty with living in Montreal is that it is just a few hours drive away from New York, so  a short weekend there was the perfect excuse to re-try the stronghold of a Chef that I have admired since a long time (though, as you’ll see in my conclusion, I still do not agree with his current  3 star Michelin assignment) , Chef Ramirez (I am a big fan of Chef Ramirez since I first tried his cooking in his days at restaurant Tru in Chicago). This was only my second visit there in 3 years.

Overall food rating 8/10 as an overall rating There were numerous  bite sized  courses. Sam Sifton’s following summary is the best way to describe what was on offer: ‘’’’ a luxe sushi bar, a meal at Momofuku Ko, and a course taken in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, without being anything at all like any of those. The food is French and Japanese and Italian, combined’’.  The only thing he missed is that, with an eye for details, you will notice couple of strong touches of Nuevo latino cooking too.  In a nutshell, we  had plenty of seafood served at times in   sashimi style (nothing special, a 6/10 in view of what I’d expect from sashimis at a 3 star Michelin, though the quality of ingredient was high, as expected), sometimes paired along eclectically crafted mousses/ jellies (his play on textures is fun, a clin d’oeil at kaiseki style cuisine, but not exceptional, again…in view of what you’d expect from this level of dining),  Japanese rice mixed with sea-urchin to provide a risotto-like effect (creamy and delicious risotto that I liked a lot, comfortably an 8/10, an item that would have been a crowd pleaser at any level of dining, anyways), their now signature sea urchin/truffle combo atop a brioche (I doubt someone familiar with Japanese cuisine would be floored, but a western eye and palate will find it fun to look at, flavorful, nicely thought 9/10) , we also enjoyed a really well thought vegetable-flavored sorbet elevated by a pleasant citrusy tone(Spot on depth of flavor. On each of my two visits, I realized that Chef Ramirez work really well his vegetable-based  sorbet. Not only are they daring (audacious ingredient combinations), but they taste great as well as having fabulous texture. It’s a sorbet I know,  but he does them better than many. There’s something deeply ‘nuevo latino’ in this sorbet’s flavor profile a 8/10 at a 3 star Michelin table (the quality of sorbet / ice cream, etc is  obviously high at this level, enoughly high for this sorbet, as fabulous as it was, to be a very good sorbet, but no more), way more if we were trading  on 1 star Michelin grounds.). But he also incorporates, rethinks some American dishes too.  Quality of ingredient here is even superior to what most high end tables of this rank do mostly offer in North America. And for the amount of luxurious ingredients you are getting, you’ll pay more at other restaurants.  . Stunning ingredients, as he even reach out to Japan for some of his ingredients . Virtually no one is re-inventing the wheel when it comes to cooking, even at the highest levels of dining,   and with that in mind, I  find Chef Ramirez to express a beautiful inspired creativity. His combo of sea urchin and black truffle is not novel, but in his hands it continues to be  an appealing offering for this genre of dining style. That said, although fun and consistently well executed, this is certainly  no benchmark cooking performance  for  this style of contemporary cosmop craftsmanship, neither.

Décor/Ambience/welcoming: the stainless counter seating experience makes this place somehow ‘special’ among its 3 star Michelin peers. It’s  refreshing to have such intimacy between the diners, the Chef presence, the casual yet refined setting. On my two visits  here, Chef Ramirez was mostly quiet, a shy person and it is pleasant to see a Chef not yelling at his sous chefs. A proof that you do not need to act stupid in order to be inspired. Perhaps  some find the  no photo taking, no note taking policies a bit brutal, but it does, at least, allow for  a very serene ambience. I had no problem at all with those rules. It certainly does not make fun blog reports, but I rather enjoy my meal this way –whenever I get the opportunity — rather than stopping at each course to either take a pic or write about the course. Not too sure how he’d react if I’d break the rules, lol, but I am an easy customer so I abide by the rules and just enjoy my food. In that regard, I’ve always enjoyed my meals here. The reservation process is the only aspect  I found a bit tough.

PROS: Find me one single restaurant, anywhere around the globe, at any echelon of the dining spectrum, that offers that many luxurious food items on such a long tasting menu at less than $300! Caviar, Sea urchin, truffles, top quality foie gras, and all I can tell you is that such meal, anywhere else, would easily cost three time what was paid. At some point, they will have no other choice but to charge more or offer less luxurious items. For now, as a customer, guess what ………………..I CAN’T COMPLAIN, LOL!
CONS: I go to  3 star Michelin restaurants  with the sole intent to experience  two very precise elements (of course, subjective as always), or one of them (1) a benchmark work of  the flavors and/or (2)a benchmark work of the textures. To achieve that, you oftenty need to spend years and years to perfect  that singled-out  food item.  Or you need an incredible culinary ‘genius’ with  amazing instinct (for eg, Chef Jacques Maximin in his heydays). None of that came out of my two dinners here, which is why, for me, it’s a place that I like, but not a place where I’d go for what I am looking for at a 3 Michelin standard of dining.

Chef Ramirez, a culinary genius? That seems to be an  opinion shared by many food journalists and food bloggers in New York, an opinion that I unfortunately do not share.  To be precise, Chef Ramirez has the sort of creativity that will surprise some diners, though not as many diners as what those food journalists/food bloggers would like to believe. For eg, if you travel a lot, you’ll quickly realize that he is really good at observing what is done abroad, learning from that  and trying his best to make something fun/interesting with his own sense of creativity. Inevitably, his work will offer nice little surprising touches to some. Now, awarding 3 star Michelin for what he is doing, I believe that’s a bit too much.  I can see how a Japanese itamae who has spent decades perfecting his craft in Tokyo, to take an example, would deserve a 3 star Michelin. I can see, how a young Chef like Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance), covering contemporary international cooking too, does, to some extent, fully deserve his 3 stars. There are extremely talented Chefs who are indeed crafting  Nuevo latino food  that is so remarkable that I would understand their eventual/potential 3 star assignment.  A Chef like Christian Bau is a a peerless icon  of  contemporary cosmopolitan haute dining, creating dishes of extreme and deep beautiful complexity and his 3 stars are a good example of what I can understand.  But Chef Ramirez –with all due respect — is not at  those levels, as far as I am concerned.

That said, there was undoubtly some strong skills and pretty presentations in each of the numerous small dishes that were served. At least, here, there’s a personal authoritative/personal imprint with a Chef who’s there,  hard at work and who has the courage to cover various cooking styles (a courageous risk, since everyone who has been in a kitchen knows that the only way to be the / or one of the / standard-bearer (s) in cooking is to stick to one style and perfect it forever).

Conclusion: As a 3 star Michelin destination, by now, you know what I think. As a Chef’s table, as a refreshingly different concept from what most of its peers are offering, this is indeed nice.

I can’t manage — because of a lack of time —  the ‘comments’ section in timely manner. So, I’ll publish questions received by emails and that I found interesting to share with you.  Off topic comments will be discarded.

Q&A –Matt B asks if there’s any 3 star I find deserving of its rank on NYC? Answer:  Matt,  I think Per Se is the restaurant that gets closer to what most do expect from a 3 star Michelin destination. I personally do not understand the other 3 star Michelin NYC ratings, but again…that is just ME.

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