Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Danny Brown - European Food with Flair

Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen - 104-02 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills NY 11375

E/F/G/R/V Trains to Forest Hills - 71st Avenue

Our friends, Crystal and Dan W. (not to be confused with my hubby, Dan R.) told us about a unique European fusion restaurant in Forest Hills called Danny Brown. I've heard of it before from a fellow blogger from eateryROW and have been eager to try it. It not only surpassed my expectations, it made me hungry to go back for more. I'm sad that they don't serve brunch yet, and hope that becomes an option at some point.

The vibe at Danny Brown is warm (literally and figuratively), cozy and very social. Almost every seat was filled on a Saturday night and the whole place was buzzing with excitement and good energy. The overall feel resembled a modern bistro, with simple wood furnishings, funky wall art and an open kitchen in the back. Unlike small, hidden restaurant kitchens, this one looked bright, cheery and state-of-the-art. It was fun looking back there and spying cutting-edge cooking techniques and other kitchen happenings.

Because of the social atmosphere, I'd recommend dining here with a group of friends or another couple, as we did. It's not a romantic restaurant and it seems that people come here to converse loudly and to celebrate special occasions.

I've heard wonderful things about the food and was pumped to try Danny Brown's signature offering, the cured meats and cheeses. We not only shared that but passed all the dishes around the table and sampled everything. It was all very tasty and I had entree envy, as Crystal ordered the most phenomenal dish, the risotto. The recap of our dinner starts here:

Cured Meats and Cheeses - Our small board of Danny Brown's famous cured meats and cheeses included three of each and a couple of interesting embellishments such as balsamic vinaigrette, fig compote, cornichons and whole grain mustard. For our meats, we chose the serrano ham, bresaola and the rosette de Lyon, and for the cheeses we got parmigiano reggiano, manchego and the bucheron. Everything was lovely but a couple of things stood out. The serrano ham was phenomenal--slightly sweet and buttery, it paired so well with the balsamic vinaigrette. I also enjoyed the bucheron, a goat's milk soft cheese, which was nice and spreadable on the walnut, cranberry-raisin bread. The mustard was a great accompaniment and I found myself dipping my spoon into it and eating it out the ramekin--it was that good.

Sauteed Skate with Cauliflower Puree - Yum! This was my entree and I devoured it quickly. Although there wasn't that much on my plate, it was just enough and I felt pleasant after finishing it--not overstuffed. The fish was delicate and looked like a beautiful sea shell. Its taste was fresh and slightly sweet, flavored by an earthy bed of spinach, golden raisins, brown butter and of course the cauliflower. The entire dish was luxurious yet it didn't leave you feeling overindulged. I'd strongly recommend it.

Ham Croquettes - Dan R. ordered two small plates for his meal and this was one of them. I thoroughly enjoyed a croquette that he graciously gave me and I especially liked the saffron aioli on the bottom--it gave the dish an original spin. The outside of the croquette was crispy as can be and that the inside was creamy and rich. Although it didn't compare to the croquettes we had in Spain, they were still very good.

Risotto Pancake - Dan R's second small plate was equally yummy and looked impressive. Stuffed with taleggio cheese, the risotto pancake was once again a creamy dish, flavored interestingly with sage and a tomato vinaigrette. While the other plates thus far had a Spanish influence, this one was more Italian. The portion was generous for an appetizer and Dan was satisfied.

Wild Mushroom Risotto - While I only had a small taste of Crystal's risotto, it really wowed me. The mushroom flavor was mild and infused beautifully with aged parmigiano cheese. A subtle inclusion of truffle essence was the best part of the risotto--what a gorgeous treat for the senses! The portion was more than generous and it looked like Crystal was struggling to finish it--I thought that it'd make great leftovers.

Spaghetti Carbonara - Dan W's entree reminded me of the risotto sans the mushrooms--it fell into the same family of creamy, starchy foods. Sampling a small spoonful, I thought it was decadent and slightly smoky from the bacon. While I loved it, I thought that it was a little too heavy--definitely a guy dish.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta - I can't believe that we had room for this but sure enough, we finished it to the last bite. The panna cotta or the cooked cream was vanilla flavored and rested in a sauce of blackberry compote. I love the combination of something rich paired with berries so I naturally devoured this. My dining companions agreed that it was a nice way to finish our meal--the cool, clean taste of the panna cotta cleansed our palates.

Service and Cost:
The service was very good. I liked how everything was explained to us--especially the cured meats and cheeses--and we weren't left wondering what was on our plates. The sommelier was an older woman, which I'm not used to seeing but she was pleasant and nice, kind of like a grandma figure. The check came in good time and everyone was accommodating.

Costs are moderate to inexpensive for good quality food. The entire dinner with a nice bottle of wine cost us about $44 per person with tax and tip. Small plates range between $7-$12, entrees cost between $13-$23 and desserts run between $7-$9.

3 Mmmms

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