Excellent brunch in Park Slope
- Jeremy Osner
Cafe Fuerte is no more; long live Cafe Fuerte!
For those of you who did not know of it, Cafe Fuerte was until recently a nice, friendly place to get a cup of coffee and listen to poetry readings, on the corner of 5th Ave. and President Street in Park Slope.
It closed and a Peruvian restaurant called Beso has now opened in that space. I had brunch there this morning and was thoroughly impressed with what I ate. Unfortunately I didn't save a menu so I can't really give the name or ingredients of the dish; basically it was a Peruvian version of Eggs Benedict. Instead of toast, the eggs were served on these wonderfully tasty cakes that might have been made of potato, I'm not sure, but they had some shrimp in them. The Hollandaise sauce was flavored with hot peppers. A fried starch of some kind (could not identify it) was served on the side, and boy was it good! And best of all, the eggs were cooked just right, not too runny or too dry.
A couple non-food things were off; like when we came in, the music was much too loud. They turned it down after a little while thought, before it got annoying enough for one of use to ask them to. And the coffee, while I wouldn't say it was *bad*, was nothing special. Oh, and the room was a bit on the cold side. Still and all, I'd go back there in a second. They get big bonus points for having kept on most of the extremely friendly wait staff from Cafe Fuerte.
I thoroughly second that vote of confidence to Beso. To me, Fuerte really was no great loss. Aside from the fact that it was right across the street from my apartment, it really had little to offer other than extremely sloppy service, runny eggs and cold coffee.
Beso (I've only had brunch there, but I've been 4-5 times), on the other hand, is an utter delight. As said in the earlier post, the Latin Eggs Benedict on cheese areipas (sp?) are simply inspired, as is the hanger steak with chimichurra (sp?) sauce and the mangu con huevos (only successfully ordered once---they're nearly always out of it by the time I roll out of bed). Most dishes (those not served with ariepas) come with an absolutely delectable side of yuca hash browns---out of this world! Greatest treat so far, though has been the chili-marinated salmon and heaps of crema agria on a cheese ariepa. Although it was indeed that dish that inspired me to go and get a membership in the gym across the street directly after the meal, it was worth every extra second on the stationary bike.
One caveat---on the first visit, the service was so incredibly clumsy and slow (5 minutes awkwardly standing before we were told we could just sit anywhere, at least 15 minutes sitting without menus) that my boyfriend and I nearly left to go to out next-door standby Donuts Coffee Shop. Improved dramatically on subsequent visits, though, and always incredibly friendly.
Maybe I'll try dinner soon.
re: Kat Kinsman
It's good to hear these positive reviews about Beso. My favorite Cafe Fuerte memory is passing by on my way home and seeing Ed Charles, the thirdbaseman for the '69 Mets, doing some sort of reading. It was very obscure and brought back good childhood memories. I'll have to try Beso one of these days.
re: Kat Kinsman
Glad to hear the Beso-brunch reports, though dinner there a few weeks ago was not overwhelmingly great. As an aside, I didn't think they were trying to be a strictly Peruvian restaurant, but were aiming more for the whole of the Pan-American highway--those who want a specific Peruvian dish may be disappointed, but the menu was interesting and varied. Other pluses were friendly and sincere, if somewhat errant, service, a nice enough space, and reasonable prices (I think mains were around $10-$13ish?). But while the food had some good flavors (nice salads, nice roast chicken, good yucca fries, interesting corn and potato cakes--sorry I can't be more specific on the dishes, I was exhausted and overworked at the time), few things were perfect. A lot of the dishes seemed to have one ingredient too many or too few. I don't want to caution people away from a first visit--there is plenty of potential there--I just don't think it is fully realized yet. Maybe brunch is a better match between their skills and ambitions, at least until they fine-tune the recipes more. Beso is at 5th Ave nr. Union St.
I am happy to say that Beso has gotten better the longer they are open. The waitstaff, albeit a little slow, is very attentive & friendly. The menu is spectacular. I have not had anything there that I did not like. I've been several times for both brunch & dinner. The yuca hash browns, eggs & hangar steak w/ chimichurri sauce is out of this world. Come to think of it, the hangar steak is good at dinner too. The yuca bread french toast is phenomenal. The dulce de leche dipping sauce, fresh fruit, and powdered sugar top off a wonderful dish. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about this pan-american heaven. The music is always great, they carry Hatuey Beer, and have incredible cafe con leche and desserts. If you haven't been there, GO, NOW, QUICKLY. I'll prolly see you there, my partner & I eat there at least once every week or so.