Without too much fanfare, the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, the only three Michelin star restaurant in Brooklyn, moved to Manhattan earlier this year. Along with the move, the dining room has been upgraded and there are now several tables (2-tops and 4-tops) in addition to the main chef's table. This was the perfect opportunity for my friend and mentor, who's eaten at more 3 Michelin star restaurants than I can name, to finish his list of 3 Michelin star restaurants in NYC now that he doesn't have to endure sitting on barstools for the duration of the meal.
The Chef's Table does not have it's own private entrance. You have to walk through the Brooklyn Fare market to get to the restaurant. But when you do get there, the elegant wood-accented dining room is lovely and inviting. The chef's table is no longer a semicircular metal counter, but a large rectangular bar. However, you can still get the feel of the old Brooklyn Fare as chef Cesar Ramirez brought over his row of copper pots and pans hanging over his kitchen. I highly recommend sitting at a table. Chef Ramirez goes to each of the tables throughout the night to shake hands and introduce himself, and the room is cozy enough that you don't feel like you're missing out on any of the action in the open kitchen.
Comfort and Service
One of the most important things to know is that there are no substitutions. If there are any dietary restrictions such as allergies, they will remove the offending item from the dish, but they will not make a different dish to replace it. The bathroom is also in the Brooklyn Fare market, and going there involves having one of the employees accompany you with the bathroom key. I did not experience this myself, but one of my dining companions said that it felt awkward and uncomfortable. On the bright side, the banquettes at the table were pretty comfortable and service was good. The sommeliers did a good job, and the wine list (I'd been told) had enough reasonable selections to not feel like you were getting gouged (ahem::Per Se::ahem).
A wonderful start to the meal, with a smokiness and saltiness that whets the appetite while the fish itself comes through in the creamy finish.
Just as good as when I had it three years ago. A wonderful combination of earth and sea without any component overpowering the others.
This was cooked so perfectly I dare say it was cooked better than any langoustine I've had at Le Bernardin (and I've had quite a few). This was also the first of a few dishes where the plates were very warm to the touch, which probably helped the dish to maintain at the chef's desired temperature.
I don't quite know what fish this was, but it was extremely meaty and satisfying and not what I would typically associate as fluke. What I really appreciated about this dish was that the fish was cooked through to take advantage of that meatiness. The crispy kelp strands added a nice texture component, and is a technique that I remember was on quite a few dishes during that meal 3 years ago.
Buri is essentially a large yellowtail. In contrast to the previous dish, this was much less cooked, almost as if done in a shabu shabu manner. This preparation suited the fish well, although the ginger and sansho pepper felt a bit more muted than I would have expected.
I've read a few different translations for akamutsu, although the most consistent seems to be black throat sea perch. The sauce underneath was probably an emulsion of some sort, and the creaminess was nice with the fish. However, this was probably the least remarkable of the dishes that night.
KALUGA CAVIAR WITH CRUSHED POTATOES AND SOUR CREAM
For this dish, chef Cesar himself came to the table to finish the plating by scooping out large amounts of caviar.
I thought this was the best and most interesting dish of the night in terms of a composed dish of balanced flavor combinations. The crab was sweet, but not overpoweringly so where other items were just accents to the crab. There was nice contrast with the apple which provided a slight tartness and crisp texture. Rounding it all out was a wonderfully subdued shiso emulsion that gave it an earthy tone and lingering taste on the tongue, matching well with the warm temperature at which the dish was served. The emulsion reminded me of the chive oil in Eleven Madison Park's sturgeon sabayon.
This was actually pretty good, except that it didn't really work for me on a personal (completely subjective) level. As someone who grew up eating a good amount of abalone in Chinese cooking, I prefer abalone that is tender but still with bite. Al dente, if you will. This abalone was too tender, and had almost no give. The abalone liver flavor was very strong, which while I can appreciate, is also not the flavor from the abalone that the Chinese prefer to highlight. The foie gras rice with dashi froth was magnificent though.
While I love Kinmedai, also known as alfonsino golden eye snapper, my favorite preparation will always be seared as sushi at 15 East before the chef left. I think that kind of semi-raw preparation is best for this fish, and I'm still not quite sure why this dish was served after the strongly flavored abalone foie gras rice.
Simple and delicious, truly highlighting the fine quality of the ingredients. What I appreciated most was that this was beautifully cooked to start bringing out the flavor of the melting fat, whereas I've had Miyazaki wagyu at other places where they just did a mindless sear and left the rest practically raw.
At first I found it interesting that the duck came after the beef, but it all made sense as the sauce was much richer here. Despite just a tiny sliver of skin on the slice of duck, it managed to still be crispy which was quite a feat.
Nice simple palate cleanser.
This was quite good, with the buckwheat flavor coming through nicely. However, in comparison to other similar Japanese fusion desserts I've had, this didn't stand out.
The highest praise I can give is that this really, really worked. It's not even about the flavor, which was great as I love almonds and the puffed almonds were delicious. It was that the flash frozen souffle worked beautifully in both temperature and texture to close the meal. After a long meal such as this, a frozen dessert that was denser that this light souffle would have been too much, while a more traditional souffle served warm would have dulled the senses at the very end. Ingenious conclusion to a wonderful meal.
A couple petit fours, nothing crazy fancy.
I expected no less than phenomenal food given my last visit over three years ago. The overall experience was significantly better, and my main takeaway from this meal is "refinement". The dishes have been refined over the years and form a purposeful menu from start to finish. The dining room, the tables, and other FOH additions also solidify it as a grand restaurant experience, not just a chef's counter where you are at the whim of the chef's experiments. There are still some kinks to be worked out, but I have no doubt that with this move and the overall growth that this restaurant has experienced and will continue to go through, it will not only maintain its 3 Michelin Stars easily, but will also start climbing the World's 50 Best list where it was ranked 81st in 2016.
While Brooklyn Fare does not have or give out menus at the end of the meal, the fact that photos and notes are now allowed means that I can make and print my own menu cards for myself. The full sized version of this is here at https://www.collage.com/v/32713704