Monday, March 21, 2011

Astor Room Strikes Out During Brunch

It's not often that I have a completely, utterly unfortunate dining experience in Astoria or Long Island City, but when I do, I think it's only fair that I shine a light on it too.  The experience I'm referring to happened at the new Astor Room, which I was excited to check out last weekend for brunch. 

Having already been there for drinks on the first weekend it opened, Astor Room seemed like a promising option for brunch, as the quality standard seemed to be high and we really enjoyed our sophisticated cocktails last time around.  However, I'm sorry to report that brunch was a most unsuccessful happenstance and one I'd like to not repeat again.  I will absolutely give this place another try when they iron out their kinks, but for the time being, I'm going to lay low.  Here's what happened:


For those of you who read by blog on a regular basis, you know that this section typically comes at the end of my reviews.  However, I thought it important to start with it here, as this is where the real problem lied. 

From the very beginning, we felt that something was off, sitting down with no menus and no waitstaff in sight.  After about 15 minutes of chatting, we still had no menus (but we did have water), so we flagged down a waitress and finally got a peek at the food offering.  It sounded lovely and it was fairly priced too.  We each chose our dishes (which came with a mimosa or a bloody mary) and couldn't wait to receive them.  But there was a problem - no one was there to take our order.  After waiting another 15 minutes to capture someone's attention, we managed to order.  Phewww.  Coffee came in the meantime, which was lovely and strong but our food came about an hour after.  Yes, an hour.  Before I turn this into a complete b*tch session, I will say that in the end, our full meal was comped (see picture of the check above).  We appreciated the gesture and the responsibility that the restaurant took, but it was still a bad experience.  I'd advise you to wait a few weeks before taking the plunge and trying brunch.  But when you do try it, here's what you can expect.

I liked seeing a nice variety of comfort foods such as fried chicken and waffles, bourbon brioche French toast, chicken-fried steak and eggs and these wonderful little donut holes that seemed to be selling like hot cakes.  We each ordered a different dish in hopes of trying each other's food and also split a house-made pastries platter, while we waited for our entrees.

House-made Pastries - The manager offered us a house-made pastries plate while we painfully waited for our food to come out.  Good thing too because we were starving and lunged at the pastries like vultures as soon as they came out.  Consisting of a variety of little goodies such as scones, muffins, danishes and banana bread, each one was as delicious as the next and slightly warm too, which was a plus.  I loved spreading the slightly melty honey butter on each pastry, which made it a touch more sweeter and luxurious. 

Bourbon Brioche French Toast - Sounding absolutely delightful, I ordered the French toast, as after all, it's one of my brunch favorites. I was sad to see that it came out about 10 minutes after everyone else's, which made everyone (including me) feel awkward.  After I received it, I was deflated to see how burnt it was (see above picture), but I didn't have the heart or the patience to send it back so I just dug in.  It wasn't great or horrible, just sort of mediocre and a pure necessity at that point since I was so hungry.  I did enjoy the fresh cream on top but I think they overdid it a bit with that.

Other Entrees - I had a bite of Peter and Sonya's dish, which were pretty good but nothing spectacular.  Peter ordered the spinach and goat cheese omelette, which came with hash browns and a mixed salad.  It was pleasant and the eggs were cooked well. 

Sonya went with the chocolate chip pancakes, which were slathered in a rich peanut sauce and had a large piece of peanut brittle on the side.  I tasted the latter component and really liked it, on top of the fact that I'm not crazy about peanuts.  Sonya agreed but said that in terms of the pancake, there were hardly any chocolate chips inside, and she felt she missed out.

Moses got his usual, "Eggs Beni" as he calls it, or Eggs Benedict, how the rest of us call it :) He said it was a good, classic dish, and the stuffed tomato on the side was a nice bonus, but that overall it didn't make him swoon. *shrug*

Drinks - We all ordered mimosas, which came with the brunch dishes.  They were strong and delicious and made with pulpy OJ--we received a complimentary round to compensate for our long wait.  While the gesture was much appreciated, on an empty stomach, you can imagine how we reacted.

The coffee was really good too, and I think they use Lavazza, which is a high quality Italian coffee.  It was strong and delicious, and I was happy to see that free refills were offered.

As you already know, our meal was comped, which we were thankful for but we also felt it was justified.

If you are paying (and getting satisfactory service) you can expect the following:

Entrees - $8 - $15
Desserts - $5 - $7
Sides - $6

1 Mmmm

The Astor Room - 34-12 36th Street, Astoria NY 11106


N/Q Train to Broadway or M/F Train to Steinway Street


  1. We had the same experience, but didn't get comped. After I complained (via Open Table -- we had a reservation but still got crappy service), the manager did call me a few days later to offer free cocktails.

  2. Oh sweetie... that stinks. Sunday brunch is such a fun, special meal with friends before the week commences, I can only imagine your frustration. I'm surprised you even had the chance to snap some images. After a wait like that, my friends would have been swatting away my camera like ravenous beasts denied a meal. LOL. I haven't been yet, but I've seen a few similar experiences posted. Guess I'll wait awhile longer to try my luck there. Brunch is a meal you can't mess around with. ;o)

  3. I think we were there on the same day and this review is spot on. What makes this so weird is that we had gone for dinner there on a Saturday night and our experience was a polar opposite. It made me excited to try the brunch because the menu is so grand and reasonably priced and on top of the magnificent service - hot damn. But yeah, not so much. I'm not sure what went wrong but I could tell that the kitchen was backed up and understaffed, first and foremost. We, too, waited over an hour for our food and when we got it, it was cold. Cold eggs Benedict. Blech. Nothing worse than cold eggs. Either our server was asleep at the wheel OR they have a very crappy expediter on the line.

    Our meals were not comped which I wasn't expecting anyway but something else stuck in my craw. We witnessed a table next to us be presented with a pastry tray and 4 free mimosas and we were not given the same respect. There were five of us seated at a table smack dab in the middle of the restaurant and the flow of the hosts, servers and bussers simply skimmed over us the whole time. It was like we weren't even there. We were never given a total of 5 menus and 20 minutes must've passed before there was a drink in my hand.

    I am planning on giving them some time to get it together before trying again, as well. My dinner experience there shows that on some level they do know what they are doing, despite the brunch bust.

  4. Thanks for your comments guys. Even though I'm sad to hear that some of you had a similar experience, I'm glad I wasn't alone. They definitely need to learn a thing or two about brunch. I think their ideas and the menu items are good, but working on service, hospitality and expediting orders should absolutely be paid attention to. We'll see what happens (crossing fingers).

    1. Did you ever go back to try their brunch again?



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