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Feb 11, 2008 05:47 AM

Brains - i'm ready.

After recently trying lamb's heart and bone marrow for the first time I think I am officially ready to take it to an even deeper level and try brains.
Now, I know that they're sometimes referred to as sweetbreads, but i also know that sweetbreads in the U.S. can sometimes mean kidneys (or something) whereas in Europe they're usually brains.

Anyone have suggestions on where i can go for a quality brains tasting experience, or - should i make them on my own?

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  1. Actually, I believe brains are brains. Sweetbreads are either thymus or pancreas. As far as where to have, I'm not certain where they might be regular menu items. I'd guess ethnic places catering to their particular clientèle would be one likely place to look. In the realm of non-ethnic places, Spotted Pig or Babbo are two of the better know Manhattan restos who often feature "the nasty bits", as Bourdain often refers to them...

    1. Devi-but it seems to only be on tasting menu. They may serve it to you outside the menu if you call ahead and ask, though.

      1. Chez Napoleon. Read the following inquiry and my response.

        And as noted in the first post above, sweetbreads are NOT brains, here or in any other country. They are the pancreas and thymus (when you see sweetbreads on a menu it is normally thymus).

        3 Replies
        1. re: rrems

          Echoing rrems, I have never heard of calling brains or kidneys as sweetbreads in any countries. I think the distinction is very clear no matter where you go.

          I have tried the lamb's brain francobolli at Babbo but it was very mild which might be good for your first attempt of brain. Devi used to have a lamb's brain (or calf's brain) salad but I believe they took it off the menu.

          Of course, if you order fried squab or quail in Chinatown, often time they will serve the whole bird with head, and what you do is to pop the whole thing in your mouth, brain and all.

          1. re: kobetobiko

            I've had that dish at Babbo and it was so subtle you would not have any clue that there were brains in the pasta. Brains have a very mild flavor so I don't think OP will find anything offensive about them. Chez Napoleon's version is the classic French way, calf's brain with brown butter and capers.

            1. re: rrems

              I've also had brains in black butter at La Lunchonette in Chelsea. Brains form a small component of the pork plate currently offered at Bar Blanc - but only a small component.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. The only time I've had brains in NYC was at Per Se, and they were *beyond* stellar. I don't think they're normally on the menu, but I'm sure that if you requested them in advance, they'd prepare them. It is Per Se, so if you have a special occasion AND want some brains, it's a good place to have them....