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Feb 21, 2008 05:00 AM

another closing? Sorrel?

i never went but according to, sorrel is closing too.

i miss me some 360.

it was just a matter of time before business reality sets in to park slope and prospect heights but wow...the speed of these closures is surprising to me.

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  1. Its been closed for a couple months now. Im really, really sorry to lose this nearby, reliable spot but it suffered from the lack of foot traffic past its quiet corner and never got the patronage it deserved. With the loss of Bistro St. Marks and now Sorrel, Prospect Heights is now short of civilized casual fine-dining alternatives.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      In response to Prospect Heights dining options I have to disagree, with all of these: Garden Cafe, NooNa, Beast, Aliseo, Amorina, Le Gamin, The Usual, The Indian restaurant (name escapes me) all on Vanderbilt, plus a slew of options on Flatbush (Mitchells, Geido, Flatbush Farm), it's easy to find something.

      And if it's so short on "civilized casual fine dining" then just step two blocks across Flatbush and you're all set.

      1. re: ginsbera

        of the above, I think only Garden Cafe and Aliseo offered a dining experience and cuisine of the quality and style of Sorrel. A place where I can sit and talk with my dining companions over several courses and be stimulated by fine food and wine. The rest are all over the map in quality type and dining experience.

        1. re: jen kalb

          I agree with the sitting down to multiple courses in a relaxed environment, only a few places offer that and it depends when you go. In terms of food quality I believe Amorina and Beast to be quite good, same with Franny's and Geido, but again maybe a little more rushed feeling. I do enjoy Flatbush Farm and think it's one of the more contemporary restaurants in the area, and like Sorrel focusing on local ingredients and purveyors.

          1. re: jen kalb

            I was excited when Sorrel opened and really wanted to like it. I went to Sorrell once and was pretty underwhelmed by the food which was very mediocore. The food at Beast, while somewhat wacky and inconsistent overall is more interesting then Sorrel.

          2. re: ginsbera

            We do not like Aliseo and especially do not care for Le Gamin (horrible service and the food is not good either) or Beast.

            The Indian restaurant on Vanderbilt is pathetic. We tried it maybe 3 or 4 times. They use frozen veggies in their dishes!

        2. To me, the speed of the closures is commersurate to the speed of the openings. Remember when it seemed like 5-10 restaurants a week were opening in Brooklyn?

          Well, now they're closing.

          No offense to Sorrel but the restaurant business is a hugely risky financial endeavor. I'm not speaking for Sorrel but 9 times out of 10 when restaurants claim various reasons for closing, it almost always Times are tough and thy are going to get much tougher.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Larry Brooks

            I have no idea what the owner's stated reason was. The above was just my observation and reaction as a neighbor. the place was never full despite its quality and good prixe fixe and I am sure the rent was not moderate, so how could it have been doing well financially?.

            1. re: jen kalb

              I probably passed by Sorrel on three different occasions, and every time I was amazed that there was a restaurant in this location. It was a very out of the way block and you either had to know it was there or stumble upon it while exploring Prospect Heights. That sort of location spells doom for any business that cannot make itself a "destination."

              As for Bistro St. Marks -- I do miss that place. I was quite a fan and loved the backyard garden. I gave Flatbush Farm a try and the food was way oversalted. Never again.

              I've seen Mitchell's on Flatbush, but could never quite figure out what it is. Anyone care to elaborate?

              1. re: elecsheep9

                I've actually had good food at Flatbush Farm. I think it gets a bad rap. When people have bad experiences there they lash out and write long elaborate reviews and those seem to take center stage. I had a wonderful french dip there and some of the best artichoke dip I've ever had.

                As for Mitchell's it is a confusing place. The front is a deli/bakery counter. They dish up some huge sandwiches and the prices are between $7-10 usually, but they'll last you two meals. Some of the best hero sandwiches in the are in my opinion. Interestingly though, they have a sit down restaurant and bar in the back followed by an enormous garden. It's all kind of odd, and I can't imagine many people are aware of this as you only see the deli from the street.

                1. re: ginsbera

                  Exactly -- all I see is the deli counter up front, so I have never bothered to venture in.

                  1. re: elecsheep9

                    MIchells is run by the people who owned "Charcuterie" across the street for many years and seemingly were mainly supported by selling sandwiches to cops. They have always had ambitions but never delivered quality, and I stopped patronizing years ago. Good luck to them, but Im not going to be checking this out.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Interesting you point out they serve cops because I've seen cops in Mitchell's all the time. I guess they kept the connections.

                      Has anyone eaten in the back? It looks dark, and all I remember about the menu is they offer a Kobe burger for $17, though I don't trust it's true Kobe of course.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I always thought the same thing about Charcuterie -- that is was mainly a hangout for cops (and thus it makes sense that it was replaced by Dunkin Donuts). I went into Charcuterie once and it looked like they were trying to do a European gourmet market type place, but it felt unfinished.

            2. Yeah I live across the street from Sorrel and they've been shuttered for months. The place was always empty and the menu always looked pretty flat in my opinion. Originally I had a desire to go there, but that faded quickly after walking by an empty restaurant all the time.

              I hope something else goes into that spot, but reevaluates the foot traffic over there. It's not very heavy so the business needs to offer something customers cant get on Vanderbilt or Flatbush.

              10 Replies
              1. re: ginsbera

                sadly they did offer something that wasnt offered on Vanderbilt or Flatbush - a sharp, chef-driven cuisine with interesting wines. I didnt think the menus they posted in their last 6 months did justice to how good their food was. Its sad that people will crowd into mediocre places and not even try places that as you note are in obscure locations, if they aren't patronized. Wasnt it worth $25, neighbor? I guess not. Even we didnt go that frequently.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  They did offer something, but it wasn't something the neighborhood couldn't get. Stroll down to 5th Ave. or 7th Ave to places like Melt, Rose Water, Alchemy and more and you'd get the same food if not better. The pricing is what Sorrel had that others didn't and it may have been one more thing that did them in. Even if some of the places I listed are mediocre (the usual, le gamin, etc.) at least they pull in customers. I just don't think a restaurant can thrive in that spot unless it's coming from the same owners of another popular place. Maybe One of the thriving Vanderbilt spots will open another spot, but I doubt it.

                  1. re: ginsbera

                    The food at Sorrel trounced Melt and Alchemy handily. Rose Water maybe not, but at S. you were sure of a table any time !

                    The menu didn't look exciting but both times I went it was superbly prepared and had some surprises in terms of flavoring. I will miss the place.

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    I'm sad too, Jen, and agree with you. Sorrel was a good place, with great food. This was a huge loss for the neighborbood.

                    I actually think that one of the problems with Sorrel's lacking popularity was that the owner, who we liked, was a bit quirky -and stubbornly thought that he should not have to try to actively market the place. We did try to tell him, and even tried to raise the idea of a web site, because we wanted Sorrel to succeed. But he did not seem interested at all. Too bad.

                    Now the only restaurant in Prospect Heights that we like, is Garden Cafe, which is just wonderful. We just dined there again this weekend, and decided that this is our favorite food in the area (including Park Slope) right now, and has been for a while, actually.

                    1. re: FoodWine

                      well, he did seem to be moody - as somebody notes above, running a restaurant is a business proposition and marketing, not just putting out good food at a good price is part. Some chefs just may not be cut out to be owners, who knows maybe he will wind up back at 360????

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        yeah, once 360 comes back from their year long hiatus :(

                      2. re: FoodWine

                        A couple of things... first, as we went to 360 often enough to know his quirks but like him anyway, we really wanted to like Sorrel but, every time we went, some service problem got in the way of the food. Sorry it's gone but it doesnt surprise me.

                        Secondly, FoodWine, since when is Garden Cafe rated over Tempo by you?? As you probably realize by my posts, we love both as well, but your rating did surprise me. I gotta go back to GC soon if it's that good... the wine list is up there as well?

                        Lastly, if I may ask... why dont you like Aliseo? I would have guessed that, the owner's own eccentricities aside, it would have been a place you appreciate. He carefully selects indigenous wines and seems to source his ingredients well, coming up with solid fare. I'd love to hear your criticisms, as you seem to zero in on things very well. Thanks.

                        1. re: Steve R

                          Hi Steve,

                          About Garden Cafe. It happened pretty recently. We have liked it for years (and years), but lately we have felt that the food has been consistently delicious. The cooking has also been a bit lighter, which is a good thing for us, since my husband really dislikes butter (when he can taste and feel it in a dish). For example, I used to like their risotto, but he did not, and was dissatisfied with the mouthfeel and the super heavy feeling after dinner. But lately, when risotto has accompanied a fish, it has been much lighter, and the Hubby has happily eaten it.

                          The past 3 times we have dined there, the food has been very, very good. The past 2 times the dinners have been "perfect". Splendid appetizers, splendid main courses and a delightful little cheese plate for dessert.

                          Some food examples, appetizers:
                          -Kona Kampachi tartar. So fresh and so delicious, silky. (Gosh, I am getting hungry here!). We both just gobbled it up.
                          -Last time the appetizer was a yellowtail tartare (I forget what they called it). Also just wonderful and very fresh. I have to tell you, I have not had fish this fresh, especially raw fish, in Brooklyn, in a loong time. (Yes, you can read between the lines, but I am not going to write the words...)

                          -For dinner we have had wild striped bass and lamb tenderloin, both with very nice sides. Actually, a little miracle happened here: My husband hates polenta. I cannot tell you how many times I have made him taste different kinds of polenta preparations, and he just dislikes them all. But his last bass dish at Garden Cafe came with a polenta cake, crispy on the outside - and not only did he taste it, he ate all of it.

                          The wine list is still very short. To be honest, in the past, when we have felt like going to Garden Cafe, a couple of times we have chosen to go to Tempo anyway - because of Tempo's wine list. But right now Garden Cafe has a few pretty delicious wines on the list, and we have really enjoyed the Chateauneuf du Pape. Goes so well with the lamb tenderloin.

                          We still love Tempo, and we still feel that as a "whole package" (food, wine list, service, room) it is the best in this area, but right now, we actually like the food at Garden Cafe better. I really hope that if you do go there again, the food will be as good as it has been recently. I'm sure you will let me know ;-)

                          About Aliseo:
                          I first have to confess that it has been a while, maybe too long for me to even comment about it. The few times we tried it, first in a group of 4, then the two of us (once or twice), we did not like it, so we never went back. After what you wrote, I realize that we should try it again -maybe something has changed.

                          Since it has been a while, I do not remember the details...
                          First of all (at least back then), the selections were pretty heavy on the meat side. My husband did have a fish dish, I am sorry, I do not remember what it was, and he thought it was just so-so. I chose a meat dish that I had just had at another restaurant in the area - and was sorely disappointed with Aliseo's version. Instead of a juicy piece of meat, the consistency of the meat was almost like thick slices of roast beef... the pretty dry and dull kind.
                          I remember having a salad. I do not remember what they called it, but it looked like a classic tricolore salad. No dressing. What we got instead was a tray with bottles of vinegar and oil ... I could expect that at Sotto Voce -or even Prospect Cafe, but did not expect it here. I cook a lot, and whip up salads and dressings all the time, so I know it is really fast to make a dressing, and it is fun. I think that even if a restaurant likes offering the vinegar and oil bottle choice, they should have a dressing of their own.... And I remember that those appetizers, including the salad, were not really cheap.

                          I cannot remember what our dinner companions ate, but I do remember they were underwhelmed and never wanted to go back there, either.

                          Maybe 8 months later, my husband and I decided to give it a try, and again the fish choices were scarce, so he chose some sort of a shrimp pasta. Again, he was not crazy about his. I had a pasta, too. It was actually good, but soooooooo heavy, with cream, etc, that it is not a dish I would run back for.

                          The service was odd. Not quite rude, but odd. This is a silly thing to say, but so far the "vibe" in the room has not been the best... a bit strange.

                          I do not think that we ordered any special wines (our choice), but I remember the owner making disapproving faces when we mentioned Barolo. I understand that he wants to choose less well known and marketed wines and therefore cringed at the mention about Barolo, but still: do not make the customer feel they commit a crime when they mention a perfectly great wine. We did not mind, but it was a bit silly.

                          Anyway, we will try the place again, and I will write a more up-to-date "review".

                          1. re: FoodWine

                            Thanks. As always, thorough and insightful. Looking forward to trying Garden Cafe again and to hear if you like Aliseo any more than before if you return. By the way, your feel of the place is pretty accurate. I dont dislike heavy food and they do better with butter and cream than most. Some others might eat more sensibly there and have more to say about their choices for you to get a better feel for the offerings.

                            Your memory of there being an odd vibe to the place is accurate. I like the owner's eccentricities and clearly it's encouraged with his family & employees as well. They all give opinion easily & straightforwardly. An example: I noted that they had Planetta wines on the list and, when the owner was saying hello, mentioned that I like their Chardonnay & was impressed that he had it. He brought a chair over (without asking), sat down and proceeded to give us a 5-10 minute uninterrupted seminar on how the chardonnay grape is not indigenous to Sicily, having only been there for a couple of hundred years. And he concluded by saying that he was taking it off the menu for that reason, as he has stopped rationalizing his use of non-indigenous wine. I think he noticed my jaw dropping open and turned the conversation to a lighter topic. All in all though, I enjoy people like him. Have fun. Make sure you're in the mood though.

                            1. re: Steve R

                              Thanks Steve. That is a funny story! It actually made me even more intrigued to re-visit. OK, we will go there prepared and in the mood. :-D

                  3. So twice in the past week I've seen the old Sorrel space with the metal gate pulled up. Most recently last night where all of the windows were covered in paper and the lighting was all on. It looks like the restaurant is being redone, but no idea what the plans for it are. The light fixtures seemed new so it's possible someone is taking a chance at this corner again. Stay tuned.