Monday, October 11, 2010
Braeburn - Understated, Elegant and Wonderfully Delicious
Braeburn - 117 Perry Street, New York NY 10014
C/E/L Train to 14th Street
I love having the chance to connect with fellow food bloggers, and last week's dinner tasting at Braeburn restaurant gave me that opportunity. In addition to meeting some new people, I also reconnected with old friends and caught up with them on various sorts of food geekery, including our personal thoughts and ruminations about NY restaurants, food photography (galore!) and of course food itself.
Braeburn hosted a very lovely private dinner for us, which I can't even begin to praise. I'll start momentarily but before I do that, let me mention the wonderful company I was in the presence of that night:
Esther from Ambitious Deliciousness
Grace from Grace Notes NYC
Amie from The Healthy Apple
Josh from the NYC Foodie (AKA the talented foodie magician - see videos of his magic tricks from dinner. Video 1, Video 2)
Michael from Socialites Anonymous
Amy from Amy's Blog Chow
But now...about dinner:
A quiet, residential West Village street is the setting for Braeburn restaurant. It's somewhat easy to miss unless you're really looking for it, but once you find it, you're in for a real treat.
Upon walking in, you're greeted by a gorgeous array of fresh apples, paying homage to Braeburn's namesake. The overall decor is very simple and elegant, embellished by earthy tones and beautifully crafted wooden furniture. Everything seems natural and organic, giving the diner a preview of the seasonal delicacies on the menu.
We had the pleasure of eating downstairs in a private wine cellar room, which had an elegantly set table with soft tealights. In front and back of us were walls lined with Braeburn's special wine selections. It was all very lovely and because it was private, the experience was that much more special.
The dinner menu that night was especially crafted for us in preparation of Braeburn's Big Apple Harvest Week. Seasonal ingredients such as apples, pumpkins, various root veggies as well as fish and duck made an appearance on our 4-course tasting menu. Here are the highlights.
Course 1 (Warm Smoked Trout) - The first plate of the night was small but packed a lot of flavor with a smoked, flaky trout with delicate sides of roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and an apple celery salad. Although the portion was small, it was just enough to bring the senses to attention. My only criticism was the large plate they served it on - I thought the food would've stood out better on something smaller.
Course 2 (Long Island Fluke) - My favorite dish of the night consisted of a crispy piece of fish that was very tender and fresh. Offset by a creamy (yet technically creamless) celery root clam chowder, dressed with bacon and some baby squash, it proved to be a perfect pairing with the light fish. I liked that the chowder added some indulgence and a touch of smokiness from the bacon.
Course 3 (Creamless Trumpet Royale Soup) - Another chowder course came expertly presented with an exposed poached wellfleet oyster and crispy potatoes only to be drowned by the silky chowder liquid right in front of our eyes. I enjoyed the drama of the presentation, and the soup's luxurious texture, but in all honesty the oyster was a tad fishy for me and I would've preferred something more subdued.
Course 4 (Breast of Long Island Duck) - Another highlight of the meal, the duck was tender and oh so juicy - dressed with earthy ingredients such as kohlrabi, wheat berries and duck confit. I'm very picky about my duck and I often find this bird to be overcooked in restaurants. But this wasn't the case here at all. What the duck showed besides impressive mastery of preparation was the deep respect that Chef Bistrong has for food and the inclusive way he bestows it upon others. For this reason mainly, eating this dish was an honor.
Dessert - We marveled at the impressive spread of desserts that showed up at the end of this already extravagant meal. There must've been about half a dozen items including chocolate beignets, Southern banana pudding, a coconut roulade, yogurt souffle with berry sauce and an apple cobbler. Everything was unbelievably tasty and for the most part light.
Two items stood out to me the most including the cobbler and the banana pudding. The former had the most intense apple flavor, made with apples picked from Chef Bistrong's property in Connecticut, and served with a side of clean, crisp buttermilk ice-cream. The pudding was also a stand-out, however a polar opposite of the former dish, as you can imagine. Its texture was extra smooth and silky, with a muted banana flavor that intensified as you reached deeper into your cup and pulled out chunky pieces of bananas and caramel. What more can a girl with a sweet tooth ask for?
Wine - Each course was thoughtfully paired with a glass of specially selected wine from Braeburn's cellar. We started with a sweet, French Riesling and worked our way to a full bodied Oregonian Pinot Noir. My dining companions and I couldnt've been more impressed.
Service and Cost:
There's no doubt about it, Braeburn's staff is top notch. From the friendly and cordial waitstaff to the warm, welcoming owners, we felt comfortable and truly as special guests. I personally enjoyed listening to all the interesting food and wine commentary prior to each course. The highlight for me however, was when Chef Bistrong came out after service and chatted with us about what we thought of the meal as well as just shooting the sh*t about his favorite restaurants around town (many of which were Asian eateries in Chinatown and beyond).
Braeburn's costs are moderate to expensive, but in my opinion fairly reflect the top notch quality food and atmosphere found here:
Appetizers - $9 - $15
Entrees - $24 -$33
Desserts - $5
Brunch - $8 - $15