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Mar 14, 2005 05:45 PM

Saul - Not all that impressed

  • b

Wife and I had dinner at Saul (Smith St.) on Saturday. Given the rave reviews on this board, this was an eagerly awaited event.

However, I am sad to day that I was somewhat disappointed. We ordered fish - I had the Cod and she had... maybe bass... I can't remember now. We found both dishes to be overly fussy and complicated - trying too hard. Not that the quality wasn't there - the fish was fresh and such, just that the combo of tastes and ingredients seemed to smother, rather than enhance the flavor.

I had a fish chowder, which was excellent, and unlike any I have every had. It was very light and the shrimp and mussels were soft and chewy - I mean that in a good way. But, at $12 it was a small bowl indeed - really more like a cup. Ouch.

Service was decent if not friendly, wine selection was decent and pricey. Experience was not soothing - due to the high noise level - the space is one of those that amplifies everything.

Sorry to say, but at the prices they charge ($100 before tip, for two, with appetizers, entres, a glass of wine each, and no dessert is very high end for Bklyn), I won't be back. I can do Blue Ribbon or any number of restaurants I enjoy more for around $70.

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  1. If that $100 is with tax that really doesn't sound out of line for what's one of few 'high end' (for brooklyn) restaurants in the area -- grocery, chestnut, saul basically. I mean that's $50 pp for apptizer, entree, a glass of wine, and tax. Which could look like $12 app, $23ish entree, $10ish glass of wine, tax. Now I haven't been yet, never seem to get around to it, but I live around the corner and hoping to finally get there this weekend.

    But it sounds like you just weren't looking for that sort of meal. A little 'fussy' is typically what you'll find at any higher end restaurant. For a soup 'unlike any I ever had' I don't think I'd begrudge the price.

    Anyway, doesn't sound like enough to put me off getting around to dining there..we were pondering this weekend.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Nehna

      On certain weeknights, perhaps Tuesday-Thursday, they also have a three-course fixed price menu that offers three choices per course - it costs $30.

      1. re: Lambretta76

        Just wanted to add that we've been to Saul maybe 7 or 8 times over the past few years and every time we go, we talk about how much we love the place.

        To my mind, the fixed price menu is really a good deal, especially for such quality food and preparation. The duck confit is always really good and well sized portion.

        While not overly friendly, the staff seems well trained and personable. I'd rather pay 5-10 extra dollars and get a really solid meal than take my chances at many other Smith street restaurants.

        1. re: LS

          Just wanted to jump in to say that I agree with Big Bubba's opinion. We went to Saul when it opened, then several more times over the next year. My wife liked the food much more than I did & BB's postings seem to capture my issue, something I was not able to put my finger on at the time. I just didnt come out remembering anything as a "stand out" flavor/taste wise, and I do remembering thinking that I paid too much for it. That's different than my memories of other top places in the area ie; Henry's End for the elk chops, turtle soup, soft shell crabs... And I can similarly name great dishes at Queen, Chestnut, Al di la, and Convivium in that price range (but cant at Grocery either).

          Actually, I find myself in agreement about one other thing BB stated as well. I dont mean to recommend that others stay away from Saul (or Grocery). It's certainly not one of the places that c'hounds should warn each other about. Go. No consensus is needed and, in general, the more the food scene is improved around here, the more that consensus will be unobtainable. I know we all want the 'hounds to appreciate everything we love, but it's great that we now have the above 7 plus Blue Ribbon/BR Sushi all in the area to argue about, not to mention the "one notch lower" 20 or so places. Besides, all you Saul lovers will have an easier time with reservations now that Big Bubba & I wont be competing with you for a table.

          1. re: Steve R.

            i also agree. overpriced!!! and not that amazing although i know people who really like it. you should consider that restaurants that serve "fussy" food in manhattan have invested a lot more into their decor than saul has and have much higher rents. their pricing is just not justified.

            1. re: Steve R.

              Amen to that post martinowitz - I am glad we have enough "high end" Bklyn restaurants to argue about!!! And I'm glad there are people who enjoy Saul.

              Now, about Al di La... I don't see what all the fuss is about...

              ;) ...ahhh... maybe I better quit while I'm ahead.

              1. re: Steve R.

                I'd also add, that maybe the Saul style is just not to my liking - which isn't to say that others might not find it pleasing. I'm not exactly a "foodie", and I stick more to pasta and fish, than beef (unless w're talkin steak for 2, steak for 3...). I happen to prefer distilled rather than complex tastes. Some restaurants simply do better with different kinds of dishes. I figured with the Le Bernardin connection, that the seafood would be sublime (at least the chowder was excellent). But, I would have been happier with a good solid, super-fresh, grilled filet, with a minimum of fuss.

          2. re: Nehna

            I don't mean to put anyone off from going - Just reporting my experience, which was disappointing relative to past reviews on this board. And, no $100 (incl. tax) is not what I've come to expect in Bklyn. Maybe I don't get over to Smith St often enough. But, on 5th Ave. in the Park Slope, I usually do not hit the $100 mark unless I go full course meal, including dessert - or if I have a bit more to drink. My average tab is around $80 in Bklyn.

            BTW, I am quite used to "fussy" food, I've enjoyed meals at most of NYC's finest establishments, and I have a very broad base of experience to draw comparisons from. I was drawn to Saul because I had heard one of the principals was formerly at Le Bernardin, one of my fav spots.

            Fussy is okay - overly pretentious complicated blending of incompatible ingredients is not. That's the point I was making.

          3. Different strokes for different folks. If you're a big Blue Ribbon fan - Saul is certainly a different kind of cuisine.

            However, how can you tout Blue Ribbon's prices (unless you order sandwiches at BR, you're not getting out of there with 2 apps, 2 entrees, 2 glasses of wine for less than 100 bones)? I find BR to be quite overpriced in terms of what they offer . . . I can get 3 better courses at 360 than I can for the price of one entree at BR.

            2 Replies
            1. re: DC

              I do Blue Ribbon for $70-$80 bucks 2-glasses wine, 2-app's, 2-entrees. ALL THE TIME.

              I don't know 360, don't get over the Red Hook that often, but I hear its good - I'll have to try it.

              So are you a Saul's fan or not? Hard to tell. The subject is Saul, not BR or 360.

              1. re: BigBubba

                I always thought the subject was food.

                I'm a half-hearted fan of Saul well, but I'm even less a fan of BR (just looked again at BR's web-site, and entrees average mid 20s, apps average 10, wines by the glass average 10 - so, are you one of those anti-government types who just refuse to pay taxes - if so, I respect that), and just don't really understand why people would spend 25 bucks to eat a hangar steak there when there are so many better options (Bacchus, 360, Ici, etc.) in Brooklyn - just trying to give chowhoundy advice on (IMO) better (and cheaper) options in the borough.

            2. j
              Joyce Goldstein

              I was at Saul's recently for a birthday dinner with my husband and 3 friends. The restaurant was my choice. I felt comfortable in the space and our waiter was really quite nice with us aside from giving us professional service.

              I was of mixed minds about the experience. I thought the quality of the food and the presentations were quite good but I was struck by the smallish size of the portions. A duck confit appetizer I had came in a tiny Le Creuset pot. Very pretty (I wanted to take that pot home! The waiter told me I could get it at Broadway Panhandler so I guess some have disappeared.) but very precious and verrrrrrrry small. My husband had the chowder also and was wowed by it. The salad a friend had was humongous and beautiful looking. The foie gras special came in a Le Creuset pot also. I had a steak entre which was delicious and perfectly cooked but again the sides were more like garnish than a side. My husband and one of our friends had the diver scallop entree. I think it was a special. It was exceedingly well prepared with a great sauce but there were three scallops on the plate. HUH? The desserts were delicious. We had a bottle of wine with the meal and some glasses of champagne to start as well as coffee with dessert. The tab with tip and all was about $140 per couple. YOW OW Really high. Especially when you consider that in the past I used to order two appetizers and a glass of wine and be really happy. I would have been starving that Saturday.

              Now the confusing part. Truth be told, ordering a meal of that richness and diversity, I couldn't have eaten a bigger portion. But seeing the size of it on the plate sort of bother me especially at the high price per couple.

              I think I'll try it again on a prix fixe night and see how I feel about Saul. It really used to be a favorite but now I think it's gone a bit over the edge.

              13 Replies
              1. re: Joyce Goldstein

                have dinner res's at saul for this evening and looking for a place close by to grab a drink beforehand. can anyone recommend? tia.

                1. re: TBird

                  Coco Roco is across the street on the same block (392 5th.) The restaurant gets mixed reviews but there's a substantial full service bar. The atmosphere is fine and it's very convenient to Saul.

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      You do realize that Coco Roco at 392 Fifth is probably a good mile and then some away from Saul on Smith Street. I assume you meant the Coco Roco that opened on Smith Street a while back.

                      1. re: mtr

                        Yeah, I'm sure he does & was referring to th CRoco on Smith across the street from Saul. Bob just tends to get a little Park Slope-centric now and again :-) ... hopefully by now (2 months later) TBird has found it.

                        1. re: Steve R

                          I don't know where I pulled that address from. I was using a handy scrollable map to refresh my memory of the neighborhood and the correct address was listed. Lets hope that TBird paid attention to the "across the street" part of my post.

                          Here's the map -

                    2. re: TBird

                      Sample is absolutely the best place to go for a drink prior to Saul. It's one block away, near Bergen St. It's a wine bar but they also have a well stocked bar and beers on tap.

                      1. re: Nehna

                        I'll have to give Sample a try before my next Saul dinner.

                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          You've never been to Sample, Bob? You definitely have to go. Maio, the owner, is a lovely person. The cheese and meat dishes are well chosen, as is the ever changing wine selection. It's been our regular haunt since we moved to the area 3 yrs ago.

                          1. re: Nehna

                            It's on my list now. Thanks for the tip.

                            1. re: Nehna

                              solid rec, with Sample. by the glass selections like justin "the orphan" & chateau pichon made the stop more than worthy. 5 year gouda too? we skipped our cheese course at saul so we could go back to sample! btw, saul was really good. great service(of course, the place was practically vacant), decent food. tiny portions for the price, but that didn't bother me too much. thanks again!

                              1. re: TBird

                                You're lucky it wasn't crowded. Since their renovation a year or so ago, its usually packed most nights, esp weekends. Love that Orphan wine. Le Schmitou is very good too. It reminds me of bacon ;)

                          2. re: Nehna

                            bingo, thanks nehna. wine is my middle name! :-)