Excellent meal at Sweetwater (Williamsburg)
I know that i haven't been getting out to eat so much in the last year, but i have to say that i've eaten out enough that the following is a pretty strong statement:
Last night i had the best meal that i've had in a restaurant in a long, long time. I can hardly remember when i've been so pleased.
i haven't been to many of the places i've been reading about (applewood, chestnut, etc.), but i've been out some. i loved al di la the first time i went (last fall), but was totally unimpressed, as was my whole party of 5, the last time i ate there last month. my last meal at Sapori d'Ischa was so-so as well. and even thought it's hard for me to compare recollections of Asian flavors vs European flavors vs Latin flavors, i would say that it was better than anything i've had in those realms recently, incl. Momofuku. in fact, the last meal (in NYC) that i think could compare in quality, execution, vision, creativity, and presentation would be my anniversary dinner at Aquagrill, which is always excellent.
so, onto dinner...
i had the arugula/camembert/spiced pecan salad, which was artfully presented. young, tender arugula, lightly tossed with a vineagrette with distinctive truffle flavor, with granny-smith apple slices and slightly-candied/spiced toasted pecans, on one side of a shallow-bowl, with a small wedge of camembert poised upright in a small pool of honey on the other side.
my friend had a deconstructed beat/greens/cheese salad, which was about 4-5 thick slices of roasted beets, that were then topped with a good amount of goat cheese, which was then broiled until soft, bubbly, and browned on top ... served with a swath of pureed, liquified spinach on one side, and an accent of a reduced balsamic on the other. the only thing that would have made it more balanced and might be some toasted walnuts, or candied walnuts.
i had the duck breast special, which was fairly lean (a nice bit of fatty skin, but not too much, done nicely crisped) with the meat tender and medium-rare, served with figs and carmelized onions in a port-blood orange reduction. my only complaint is that it wasn't balanced with a vegetable or grain, which would have been nice.
my friend had the menu-item stuffed organic chicken, which was stuffed with chopped spinach and bacon and was really appealing and not as predictable as it sounds. it was served on a bed of goat-cheese mashed potatoes, which were tasty in the goat-cheese bits, but a bit bland in the more potato-ey parts. but i'm not such a big potato eater anyway. i would have served it with polenta or something.
so many items sounded tasty -- i hope they keep up with this standard and that i can enjoy some more meals in the future.
Had one of the best burgers of my life there for lunch one chilly fall day two years ago. I loved the vibe of the place and liked the look of the dinner menu but never got back there because it's such a pain in the ass to get from Park Slope to Williamsburg. Why go through the trouble when there is so much to be said for 5th Ave and Smith St. Your post might be a good motivation to get over there though.
i also love the burger there - i think it comes on an english muffin? i love that, despite what true hamburger aficinados say.
Sweetwater has a long and proud history... which you, as a longtime resident, might know. Friends of mine from the nabe used to pass by it fifty years ago on their way to a deserted lot where they hid from their parents and smoked cigarettes. It was then a bar owned by an old Irish lady who married a guy 20 years her junior ... and outlived him. Then it became a punk bar. The owner was so generous with free drinks that he had to hire bartenders before he went broke. Then they put food in, but it wasnt that great. I'm glad to learn it's improved, I'll have to check it out. What are the prices like??
re: Brian S
I actually don't live in Williamsburg, but I have musician friends who moved out there in 1994 and I used to go out there to visit them a lot...and we'd always end up drinking at Sweetwater, mainly because it was the best of very few options in the area (and yes, we used to get a lot of free drinks as I recall!). We'd go to eat at PlanEat Thai when it was still on Bedford, and if we wanted burgers we'd have to go to Teddy's. The last time I was in the neighborhood, the place was unrecognizable as the neighborhood of back then. Incidentally, I asked a friend to meet me at Sweetwater before we headed off to Pies n Thighs one afternoon, and I almost couldn't find the place, it's so different now. My friend practically spit on the ground when he found out that they were serving food there.
re: Brian S
even in it's current incarnation as a new american restaurant, it has gotten a lot of mixed reviews on this board. when it first opened in this guise, i believe they had a chef from New Orleans that made a splash and got some press, and then he left. the food has gone up and down some for years (however, i think always being solid in the burger on english muffin dept.). i ate there twice a couple of years ago and really enjoyed my meals, but could see that the kitchen was uneven.
went on a lark the other night, and the menu is more creative than it had been before ... and seemed to be hitting it's marks.
it's not cheap, but seemed to be a fair value. apps and salads about 7-10. burger $10. mussells about $10. sides around $5. most entrees around $20, varying from about $16-25. lots of delicious sounding fish specials.
we didn't have drinks, but they have what appears to be a decent wine list, some nice classic cocktails, and a good selection at the bar.
the meal i described above in the first post was $61 before tip.
I agree that Sweetwater has been stepping it up foodwise lately (the hangar steak is great!). Now if only they'd fix the horribly uncomfortable chair situation.