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uhockey reviews Chef Carlo Mirarchi's Tasting Menu at Roberta's

Full review below, pictures in blog:

http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/03/r...

I generally prefer to write my thoughts on restaurants in the order in which I experience them – it is a stylistic choice mostly, but I also think it also helps to put my trips into context for the people who take their time to read. With that said, sometimes there is an experience that I need to write about immediately in order to capture the feeling of the moment – these occurrences are rare and in the past couple of years there’ve only been a few – my first visit to Alinea, an extended tasting at The French Laundry, and RJ Cooper’s mind-blowing 24-course tasting at Vidalia to be precise. On March 30th I was lucky enough to have another of these experiences, and this time in the least likely of places – a gritty pizza parlor in Brooklyn.

Starting with a bit of back story, I’ll admit I would be lying if I claimed to have discovered Roberta’s on my own – the blog whispers had become a hum even prior to my February visit to the Big Apple and the moment I heard I would be returning to New York in March I made contact about the restaurant-within-a-restaurant experience from Chef Carlo Mirarchi. Pleasant and prompt my first e-mail was handled by Cherie Burnett and the “rules” were explained – 3-4 people, arrive by 5:30, and $140-$160 per person – simple enough, I’d say. With a date agreed upon I’d never hear from Cherie again – from this point forth it would instead be a back and forth string of e-mails between myself, my co-diners, and Chef Mirarchi himself discussing likes, dislikes, and so forth – an impressive display of customer service on par with past experiences with restaurants garnering three stars from Michelin.

With my conference finished at noon and lunch with an old friend at Peter Luger’s in the rearview I will note that for the unfamiliar Roberta’s is not easy to find - all the more testament to the praise it has been getting since it is not exactly the sort of place one stumbles upon. Thankfully with the use of my phone’s GPS and making my way via Subway from the Brooklyn bridge to Bushwick I entered the small restaurant only a minute late for the reservation and thankfully found that my companions had already arrived (though they would later admit they had originally walked right past the small and unassuming space.) Greeted promptly by our server and led to our table, a small four top with benches being replaced by chairs at our request, it would be a matter of moments before we were seated and greeted by Carlo – perhaps the most humble, pleasant, and conversant chef I’ve met to this day.

With Carlo returning to the kitchen (at least for the time being as he would act as his own server for the majority of our 16 courses while also answering myriad questions about his training, sourcing, inspiration, and upcoming changes throughout the evening) the three of us were left to chat and browse the scene – hipster to be sure, but not overly so – and kitschy décor. With a collection of music ranging from Led Zeppelin to The White Stripes coming from the back and the sounds of the growing crowd and pizza makers from the front I’d say the best way to describe Roberta’s was “energetic” and while my co-diners were certainly the oldest in the room (much as I was the youngest the night before at Café Boulud) it was the sort of place where everyone was treated well – a friendly vibe, excellent service, and a conversational tone that was both casual and professional in equal balance.

With wine poured for one and water remaining full for all throughout the nearly 270 minute tasting would begin with “a snack” delivered by Carlo – House Cured Red Wattle Prosciutto with Roberta’s signature crusty house bread. Supple and fatty with a musty and nutty essence the charcuterie itself was a fine example and although good on its own, it was even more impressive as a counterpoint to the crusty and smoky bread – the first bowl served as a sliced bread stick and the second a larger loaf that allowed the delicate crumb more surface area to shine.

Making quick work of the pork our second course would arrive quite quickly and although the least successful of the night, it was still an intriguing exploration of unexpected flavors. Described as Sea Urchin with Bloomsday and Pea Shoots the bite size uni tongue was appropriately briny but unfortunately a bit soft for my tastes. Paired with an aromatic and fruity puddle of melted cheese and a single pea shoot for texture it wasn’t so much that the flavors didn’t work but rather that the ingredients seemed largely independent – none really adding anything to the others…then again, when a dish featuring good quality urchin is the “worst” of the night it speaks volumes of the other 15 courses.

With dish three our table would be treated to the first of many breathtaking courses of the evening – on the surface somewhat surf n’ turf, but far more subtle and complex. Centered by a perfectly seared (IE caramelized outside, raw within) Diver Scallop caught and shucked that very day, the sweet bivalve was balanced with a shaving of headcheese – gamey, unctuous, and fatty. With the duo tasty on its own, the true beauty of the dish was in the details – specifically a slice of red onion and fresh squeezed tangerine juice that lent an acidic and sweet levity to the whole plate and acted to meld the two proteins into a stellar bite.

Course four would be presented by Carlo as his favorite of the night – he even took time to show us a picture of the fish pre-filet on his Iphone. Presented as Sea Perch with Ramps, Yuzu, and Firefly Squid the fish itself was mild and buttery with intensely crispy scales that particularly thrilled my co-diner who’d noted just the night before that he loved crispy skin on his fishes. Paired with beautiful early season ramps, tiny squid with plenty of bounce, and sweet lemon tones the dish was fish done right – the sort of thing you’d expect to emerge from the kitchen of Le Bernardin, or given the crisp skin perhaps Guy Savoy.

After reading my friend’s palate regarding scales with course four, course five was Carlo’s chance to wow mine. Still wobbly and extremely creamy, Poached Duck Egg with Morels, Dill, and Bread Crumbs was all one could desire from an egg dish and given the accoutrements a perfect entry to spring. Served with the whites barely set and creamy yolk pouring forth with minimal pressure from the fork I loved earthy fiber of the morels, the crunch of the bread crumbs, and the faint accent of the dill – again, no special tricks, just an exemplary preparation of quality ingredients.

Taking a quick step back to winter after teasing us with a handful of spring flavors, Oxtail with Lovage and Miner’s Lettuce was a luxurious stew with ample notes of carrot, celery, and parsley not unlike the sort one would expect from the crock pot of their grandmother. Ample and hearty but small in portion the beauty of this dish and its successor were their placing – a reminder that although spring was in the air, we’d still worn our winter coats from Manhattan to Brooklyn that day.

For course seven, another bucolic preparation – this time Trofie pasta with a ragout of Squab Heart and Liver. A sizable portion with thick spindles of flour and water as its base, this was potentially the most “gamey” dish I’ve ever tasted with only a bit of tomato tossed with the pasta to mellow out the offal. Indulging in the toothsome dumplings bite after bite the only way I can think to describe this dish is intense – not in a bad way, but in a way that says you’re not eating some gussied up Michael White dish from a $20,000 pasta machine, you’re eating heart and liver over pasta rolled by hand.

Likely aware of the heft of the previous two dishes, Carlo’s “intermezzo” as he described it was another pasta, this time hand torn Maltagliate graced with citrus and dusting of pecorino – simple, sweet, and an excellent segue to the courses that would follow.

Arriving next to the delight of the lady of the table would be an unmistakable personal favorite of mine as well – Foie Gras. Nicely cleaned and seared just long enough to char the surface, the liver itself was a top quality specimen, but it was the simple accompaniments of cracked black pepper and coarse black garlic that truly allowed it to shine. Generally fancying cold preparations over warm I have to admit that this was perhaps the best Foie Gras I experienced on this trip to New York.

Our tenth course of the evening was an encore to the seventh – the rest of the Squab, feet and all – served with Mascarpone, Gooseberry and Sorrel. Crispy skin, rosy flesh, a thin ribbon of fat – the squab breast was perfect and the legs surprisingly meaty. To be fair I honestly don’t remember the rest of the dish all that well – probably because I was too busy eating the leg by hand, something I’m rather certain I’ve never done during a “tasting menu” before but felt entirely justified (and comfortable) doing at Roberta’s.

Onward to course eleven, none of us showing signs of reaching capacity or palate fatigue, our next plate would feature whole roasted Normandy Duck paired with Kumquat, Turnip, and Swiss Chard. Unfortunately served plated and without legs due to “an issue in the kitchen,” this substantial portion of fowl was quite tasty, though much more mild than I’d have expected – the flavor almost chicken more so than duck. With crackling skin aplenty and well prepared vegetables I cannot say it was on par with some of the better preparations I’ve experienced in Manhattan, but those are some pretty high standards and I’d certainly not hesitate to try Chef Mirarchi’s duck again on future visits.

For the twelfth and thirteenth courses I have to admit I was hesitant – in general I simply do not order beef – it is both a texture thing and a taste thing since it always seems to taste “beefy.” Having mentioned this to Carlo when discussing preferences via E-mail he assured me that this would be different – that this cow (which he knew the arrival date of nearly a month in advance) was worth it. He was right.

Presented first in its raw state at the beginning of the meal, then whole-cooked, and finally plated, the 80-Day Dry Aged Wagyu with Fingerling Potatoes, Sweetbreads, and Ramps was nothing short of a revelation. Ignoring the potatoes, sweetbreads, and ramps – all things I love and all prepared exquisitely – the Wagyu itself was hardly “beefy,” the flavor instead somewhere between butter, mushrooms, and nuts while the texture was literally melt-in-the-mouth – the sort of meat that could be cut as easily with the edge of a fork as with a knife, and a portion so generous that my dining partners took a good 6 ounces home. In a word, it was perfect – the sort of dish I will remember for a long time to come not only because it was delicious, but because it challenged and changed a long held belief.

Accompanying with the steak and not to be forgotten we were additionally served a large plate of fat brushed bone marrow, parmesan, and toasted country bread – another item I’d have not ordered for myself yet another sensational preparation of which I ate the nearly the entire plate.

With my friends now getting full perhaps it was foolhardy to opt for a pizza in place of the cheese course, but I guess I never claimed to be rational when it comes to great food. Served hot, charred and bubbly from the pizza oven up front our Neapolitan style pie would be an off-menu compellation of Ramps, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Lemon, and Pine Nuts – a lovely amalgam of flavors with an elastic spring to the crust and excellent balance. Having taken a trek through what many consider to be Brooklyn’s best Pizza only three days prior I can say that Roberta’s isn’t quite Lucali or Paulie Gee good, but I preferred it to the slice at DiFara and Motorinio.

Finishing half the pie on my own it was at this point that I started to feel *gasp* full – but certainly not too stuffed for dessert. For course 15 our palate cleanser would arrive as Grapefruit Sorbetto with Olive Oil – a clean, bitter/sweet, and smooth scoop that tasted the very essence of the fruit – a significant accomplishment since I generally find most sorbet overly sweet.

With palates cleansed our final flavor of the evening would be a slightly deconstructed version of one of the house desserts - Kumquat Gelato with Cream Soda, Candied Olive, and Blood Orange Cream. Typically served as a parfait but sized down according to Carlo because he thought we were getting full the gelato was again a perfect representation of its namesake fruit while the thin crisp of cream soda candy, candied olives, and sour blood orange cream lent plenty of nuance and textural variation with the overall flavor something like a mature creamsicle.

With an epic meal behind us and a full service coffee bar up front our last taste of the night was coffee; a bold pour over cup of Finca Juanita for me and an Espresso for my friend. Sitting and sipping our coffee while chatting with our server and later with Carlo I was perhaps at my happiest – full of great food and drinking coffee with friends while listening to Led Zeppelin in the presence of a gracious host – a moment, much like the meal, that I won’t soon forget. With the bill settled – a veritable bargain at $160 per person – and Carlo walking us to the door it was a quick trip via Subway back to Manhattan with much chatter about the wonderful experience just passed – an experience I can’t wait to revisit on my next trip to New York and an experience I would suggest anyone who values great food and great people check out for themselves before the “secret” that is Carlo Mirarchi and Roberta’s is out and reservations become unattainable.

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Roberta's
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206

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  1. Another excellent report. I'm eager to read about your pizza comparison.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Nancy S.

      Lucali >>> Paulie Gee's > DiFara Square > Roberta's > Motorino > DiFara Slice >>>>>>> L&B

      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

      1. re: uhockey

        I'll have to trek to Brooklyn for Lucali, Paulie Gee's and Roberta's. Motorinio is my favorite in Manhattan. I know the ovens are different styles in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and I'm wondering if this makes a difference.

        -----
        Lucali
        575 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

        Paulie Gee's
        60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

        1. re: uhockey

          The 4 of us that went pizza crawling last Sunday all had different orders of preference. Mine was DiFara square >>> Lucali >>> DiFara round >>> Roberta's (we didnt hit it that day... this is based on my other experiences) >>> Motorino >>>> Paulie Gee's >>>> L&B square.

          I've been eating both DiFara's and L&B most of my life so I have some major bias due to familiarity, but I've only been to the others once. I think that uhockey really likes sweetness added to pizza (we had black cherries and honey on one pie at Paulie Gee's) and, although I like it well enough that way, it doesnt say "NY Pizza" to me. Although Dom had some char on the round slice, the crust just doesnt hold firm against the ingredients & I mind this less than most folks. His square, and the pie at Lucali's, were close to perfection... for me at least.

          In addition to not getting to Roberta's that day, there's more to be had in Bklyn. Besides the snub of Franny's (which I recognize as quality but just cant get into due to the context), we didnt go to S.Bklyn, Fornino's (Williamsburg... wood oven, not P.Slope's grilled pizza), Totonno's, Anthony's (P.Slope) and others written up on this board. Next time.

          -----
          Lucali
          575 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

          Di Fara Pizza
          1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

          L&B Spumoni Gardens
          2725 86th St, Brooklyn, NY 11223

          Motorino
          319 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

          Paulie Gee's
          60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

          Fornino
          256 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

          1. re: uhockey

            It's very difficult to compare such different styles of pizza, I think. Overall rankings like that are very tough.
            What about Paulie Gee's did you feel was superior to Roberta's, if I might ask?
            And have you been to Keste? Do you like it?

            -----
            Paulie Gee's
            60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

            1. re: tupac17616

              I've not been to Keste - it is next on the list (along with Co.) but I'm a man with only so much capacity.

              What I really liked at Paulie Gee's was the spring to the crust - it wasn't quite as Neapolitan "wet" at the center as Roberta's or Motorino and had a good "chew" to it without being "chewy." Tough to describe - plus I'm sure I was jaded by a pizza with cherries and honey. :-)

              Your review was one of the ones that inspired me to visit, so kudos - I've always enjoyed your writing.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              -----
              Motorino
              319 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

              Paulie Gee's
              60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

              1. re: uhockey

                Thanks a lot, Mike, I appreciate it! As you might recall from one of my old blog posts, Keste is my favorite. But I've tried basically every notable pizzeria in the five boroughs, and there's a whole lot of good pizza to be had here.

        2. I have to admit, upon looking at the sheer length of your review I thought reading the entire posting would prove too daunting a task..i'm very happy I gave it a whirl. It turned out to be beautifully written and a pleasure to 'digest.'
          The Mgmt at Roberta' s should feed you gratis: ....Forever.:-)

          Thank you.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Tay

            I write wordy - hence the reason I usually confine it to my blog, but I think cross posting it here helps more people see it (my blog garners me nothing - I simply enjoy writing it) and therefore helps the restaurant.

            Considering the attention it is getting I don't think Roberta's needs my help - I'm nearly positive they are about to become Brooklyn Fare-reservation difficult for the tasting,

            Thanks for reading - and do check them out.

            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              1. re: squid kun

                Thanks, as always squid kun for getting to the source!

                    1. re: tupac17616

                      Great review, tupac. We stand on the shoulders of those who go before us!

            1. uhockey - another great report.

              RGR - just curious how this meal stacked up in your opinion (as well as Mr R) in your "lifetime rankings". uhockey gave us his ranking (4th place, he wrote).

              I already booked this for May. Looking so forward to this.

              BTW, CHers, it's on available on Wed and Thurs now.

              8 Replies
              1. re: deepfry7

                I did not give it a ranking - I merely stated it was one of those meals that I felt the need to write about immediately.

                If I were to "rank" it, I'd say 8 or 9th - still quite the accomplishment all things considering and of the top 10 I say that Roberta's and RJ Cooper's new "Rogue 24" have the best chance of improving and evolving which is exciting to say the least.

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                1. re: uhockey

                  Ha - sorry for misquoting uhockey. I've done TFL extended menu as well and thought that was the best meal of my life (so far). Visiting Chicago and hitting up Alinea and Schwa in a couple of weeks. It's going to be an awesome next few weeks of dining finishing off at Roberta's.

                  1. re: deepfry7

                    NEXT opens on April 6th - you should probably try to get a seat when they go on sale. If you haven't already reserved Alinea and Schwa - good luck. I'd put both in my top 20 all time, and Alinea at #1.

                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                    1. re: uhockey

                      Yea, I've already booked Alinea and Schwa. I'm already on the mailing list for Next, but I doubt I'll get in with such a long list. Although Paris early 1900's doesn't really interest me.

                      CH - sorry for going off outer borough NYC.

                2. re: deepfry7

                  deepfry7,

                  Neither Mr. R. nor I ever do rankings. I really don't understand how others do it. We have been fortunate to have had so many incredible dining experiences that it would be impossible to even say which have been the best of the best.

                  One major reason our dinner at Roberta's will always be a standout -- a truly memorable experience -- is the fact of where it took place. We're still having difficulty wrapping our brains abound the idea that we had this extraordinary haute cuisine meal in a pizza joint!

                  I do plan to write about it. Meanwhile, my Roberta's photos are here:
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR

                    Once the new room opens I'm coming back to New York and if you and Mr R. are agreeable I definitely want to go back. :-)

                    I think Roberta's and an Extended Tasting at Per Se would be an astounding apples/oranges back-to-back.

                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                    1. re: uhockey

                      It's a date!! :)

                      Actually, I suggested to Mr. R. that he and I should go back to Roberta's to have some of the other pizzas + the haute dishes on the regular menu. I recall when you read them that they were similar to what we had. But so what? I could easily stand to have them again! I'm also thinking that as the seasons change, Carlo is bound to make changes to the menu.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      1. re: RGR

                        We had a big dinner at Roberta's recently and our order included almost every pie they had on the menu that night and i really don't think you can go wrong. One item we ordered that was new to me on that trip was the calzone which was phenomenal - pesto, roasted peppers and prosciutto inside perfectly crisp but still toothsome crust, really on another level from any other calzone (including Lucali's calzone which i think is the only thing i'd order there if someone forced me to go back, and whcih i had previously thought of as my favorite in brooklyn).

                        from the non-pizza menu we tried the sweetbreads w honey and herbs which i thought was a tad over-seasoned (the coating on the fried chunks of sweetbreads was a bit salty, but not beyond the range of acceptable) the pork chop which was just delicious although served on the side of medium some people might not appreciate (but just deliciously juicy and intensely porky) and a special for the nigh which was a lamb breast w fried artichokes - the lamb was extremely fatty and could have been mistaken for pork belly if it were not so thoroughly permeated with awesome lamb gaminess, with a crispy skin that reminded me of chinese duck preparations it was so crackly and good.

                        -----
                        Lucali
                        575 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

                3. Brilliant review for an amazing meal. Bravo!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ellenost

                    Knowing how you feel about Ko I think this should top your MUST visit New York list - the food and scene are better, the price on par, and Carlo is essentially the Anti-Chang.....a truly humble and giving sort who wants more than anything to make you enjoy your visit.

                    RGR asked for butter - she got butter. I wanted pizza in place of a cheese course - I got pizza in place of a cheese course. RGR asked to have the benches at our table replaced by chairs - THREE people dropped what they were doing to make it happen.

                    I wish the very best for them - but not TOO good, because I want to get back there some day and not fight for a reservation. :-)

                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                    1. re: uhockey

                      Indeed, the "Anti-Chang" is a perfect description of Carlo and the staff, uhockey! :)) That bench vs. chairs situation is an excellent example.

                      To clarify, iirc, Carlo overheard me saying something about the benches to Mr. R. and immediately suggested that we try switching to the table next to us, the only one that had chairs. At first, I thought the chairs seemed too low for the table, but I sat in one, and it would have been fine. However, I commented that I felt bad taking up a table that could seat six, at which point, one of the staff suggested that they replace the benches at our table with chairs. You said they should just do it for Mr. R. and me, and you would sit on the remaining bench. But I wanted you to be just as comfortable, especially since I remembered how you felt about Ko. So, three chairs it was.

                      It wasn't just the chairs and the butter. Carlo and everyone on the staff were extremely gracious and made it very obvious that they wanted us to be satisfied with everything about the experience.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  2. I strongly suspect Chef Carlo Mirarchi will be getting much more press attention by this time tomorrow.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: oysterspearls

                      The buzz has been growing - I think it was only a matter of time. I'm guessing you know something I don't with regard to a coming review vastly more important than mine, but whatever accolades he gets are deserved.

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                      1. re: uhockey

                        Dana Cowin has been tweeting hints today regarding Food and Wine's Best New Chefs. One of the hints leaves little doubt Carlo Mirarchi is one of the 10.

                        unhockey, Another captivating review! Thoroughly enjoy your blog and I'm really looking forward to trying Roberta's.

                        1. re: oysterspearls

                          Uhockey - no N. :-)

                          I thought he'd already been named to that list, though I guess I'm mistaken.

                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                          1. re: oysterspearls

                            It's offical: http://ny.eater.com/archives/2011/04/...

                            Booked a similar dinner for next month...seems like Roberta's is poised to become the next big thing. Congrats Chef Mirarchi, this is well deserved, just hope I'll be able to continue to eat without 2 hour waits!

                            1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                              Fantastic - having also experienced Izzard and Mendes this year I'd give Carlo's cooking the edge - even if his spot isn't quite as fancy. :-) Once the new tasting room opens up I imagine Roberta's should be quite the Brooklyn gem.

                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                I would say tasting menu or no tasting menu, Roberta's is already a Brooklyn gem. Having been multiple times for brunch/lunch and dinner I feel that Chef Mirarchi is finally getting the credit he deserves and am looking forward to experiencing a larger format meal similar to the one you enjoyed.

                                While it does not have a tasting format, given your love of foie gras, you may want to consider a meal at M.Wells Diner on one of your future visits...even Sifton gave it two stars!

                                1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                  Noted - and the list continues to grow.
                                  Here's hoping a solid job in Brooklyn/Manhattan opens up between now and June 2012. :-)

                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    In case you were curious, I just wrote about a dinner I ate last night at M.Wells. Pics and post will follow, but I wanted to get something down now in light of Sifton's review.

                              2. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                Wow! I'm absolutely thrilled for Carlo! A well-deserved accolade.

                                Same goes for George. When he left Tocqueville, a restaurant we've patronized with some regularity through the years, to open Aldea, the first time we went soon after, we told him we had no doubt it would be a success. Like Carlo, he's not only talented but a truly nice person.

                                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                1. re: RGR

                                  RGR agreed. While I never got to sample his food while he was at Tocqueville, I really like Aldea and just had a great lunch there last week.

                        2. Friend tried to reserve and now they're booked though the end of May.

                          26 Replies
                          1. re: kathryn

                            Good for them - seriously - I've only met one chef during a meal that I liked as much as Carlo, and it will be fun to watch them grow that place into something more (especially since what it is right now is already pretty special)

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            1. re: uhockey

                              Curious as to who was the other? From reading your blog I think I may know.

                              1. re: oysterspearls

                                RJ Cooper at Vidalia - soon to be opening Rogue24 in the DC area - and good enough that if I can get the time off I will fly to town just to experience it.

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                              2. re: uhockey

                                Not good for me! I was going to go with him to Roberta's, in mid-May!

                                Now we're trying to figure out if we should just show up, wait for a table, and order a la carte. Grrrr.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  kathryn, tasting menu or not, I'd highly recommend Roberta's. I was lucky enough to snag a mid-May tasting dinner reservation but have eaten dinner a la carte there before and have really enjoyed it.

                                  In fact, during our last visit, we were comped an additional four courses from Chef Mirarchi because he supposedly "liked our order." Now, I'm not going to be totally naive and think that my dslr had nothing to do with the comps, but everything was delicious and you can easily create your own mini-tasting menu.

                                  Pictures of that meal can be seen here:
                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

                                  An older set of brunch pictures can be seen here:
                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

                                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                    Next time I'm in New York I want to do the Brunch, assuming Roberta's hasn't gotten "too big" by then. :-)

                                    That looks lovely and I'm running low on new brunchy places to visit.

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      I have more pictures but have not gotten around to uploading them all on Flickr. I really enjoy the relative calm atmosphere during brunch service. You see lots of families and many people crowded around the bar (Frank Bruni during my last brunch).

                                      Can't go wrong with much from their menu, but whatever you do, make sure you order Bane's Fried Chicken. IIRC Bane refers to Chef Carolyn Bane who cooked her chicken at Roberta's until her newer Williamsburg Pies and Thighs outpost was completed.

                                      Having read your posts and knowing your preference for sweet items, the pancakes are always good and in keeping with the restaurant's theme, change seasonally.

                                      1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                        So I'll be ordering pancakes, breakfast pizza, chicken, and a buttermilk biscuit plus coffee. Will have to enlist others. :-)

                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits + pizza... Now, that's my idea of brunch! :)

                                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                      2. re: uhockey

                                        I know you've done Maialino, Locanda Verde, Breslin, and I think Clinton St Baking Company. But what about Prune, Blue Ribbon Bakery, Shopsin's, Egg, Minetta Tavern, Jane, City Bakery (French toast?), Peels, Five Points, Public, 'ino, Amy Ruth's, Pies and Thighs?

                                        There also Maharlika, a Filipino brunch pop up, that I've been hearing good things about.

                                        I also had a really nice brunch at Joseph Leonard the other day (still need to go back to Jeffrey's for brunch).

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          ....did Shopsins and loved it - more than Clinton Street even.
                                          Minetta, Prune, Jane, and The Stanton Social have been on the list for a while but you just more than doubled my list.

                                          I need to meet up with the brunch queen on a future trip.

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                          1. re: uhockey

                                            I assume those reviews are going up on your blog soon, or maybe I just missed them?

                                            1. re: kathryn

                                              Clinton St. is already up. Shopsin's will be a while - I fly out for France tomorrow.

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    2. re: kathryn

                                      kathryn,

                                      I think I know who the friend you are referring to is. ;) If so, he was totally bummed. But I told him just what TDA says here. Go and eat from Carlo's regular haute menu. Lots of the dishes we had on the tasting were also on that menu.

                                      If and when you do go, I'm guessing it will be mid-week. It's best to show up as early as possible because even on a Wednesday evening (when we were there) the place fills up.

                                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                      1. re: RGR

                                        Sounds like a good plan to me!

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          Our dinner tonight was...only OK.

                                          We waited 40 minutes for a table for 6, which wasn't bad since they quoted us an hour. We spent most of that time waiting in the outside bar area. Got there just past 7pm, was seated around 7:45pm.

                                          The testa was good but I couldn't really taste the fennel pollen in there (I daresay Babbo's is better). The dish was difficult to share amongst 6 people, though. I liked the red mustard leaf salad with bottarga (which tasted more like a cured ham) a lot, nice balance of meaty and leafy. The sugar snaps were fine but nothing to rave about (and I got a few that were pretty stringy). The smear of black garlic with the sugar snap peas didn't seem to do much, I thought maybe it stuck to the plate too much. I think the only thing I'd get again was the red mustard.

                                          Next: the braised tripe with tomato was nicely cooked and tender, but lacked any real flavor and was underseasoned. Odd. The duck egg with mushrooms was tasty but extremely rich and the egg seemed to be swimming in a sea of cheese. This dish sorely needed some balance. The breaded and fried sweetbread nuggets with honey and rosemary were excellent though. Well cooked, flavorful, nice balance of textures, and made up for the boring tripe and too-cheesy duck egg. This was followed by a dish of essentially snails and and a handful of pasta sheets. The snails were well cooked, but it was kind of a forgettable dish, and I honestly can't remember what it tasted of. It didn't help that we each got about 1 pasta square to eat. I'd definitely get the sweetbreads again. The pasta, duck egg, and the tripe, not so much.

                                          I did really like the pizzas. The Specken Wolf (mozzarella, speck, mushrooms, onions, oregano) was wonderful with the edges of the speck kissed by the fire, making a nice contrast with the creamy cheese and red onions. The Lupo (pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, cotto, spring garlic) was good, too, but I found the pesto a bit overwhelming after a bit. I'd eat any of these again. Beastmaster (tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, capers, onions, jalapeno) was the best of the three. Looked like a mess on paper, but tasted great. Sweet tomato, delicious porky sausage, the funk of the gorgonzola, spicy jalapenos, all in one pie!

                                          The pork chop was good but more pink than I would have liked, which made it hard to eat. I usually don't get squeamish about rare meat, and this was unnervingly pink. The texture would have benefitted from a bit more doneness as the pork was almost too soft/mushy in the center. Very difficult to cut. It was nice otherwise. Well seasoned and fatty and flavorful. Liked the gooseberry, farro, ramp, and leafy greens that it came with a lot, though. It was huge, too. But I'm not sure I'd get this again though.

                                          For dessert we finished with the mint chip and peanut butter and marshmallow sundae. The combo of the flavors wasn't bad per se, but it didn't move me. I did like the mint chip ice cream which tasted of real, fresh mint. The other dessert was 2 of the gelatos. Sweet tea was fine but awfully sweet, and I didn't get any hint of tea at all. The banana flavor was off. Tasted essentially of green banana. Intense but not ripe at all. Meh.

                                          Overall.... It was a lot of a variety and high quality ingredients for the price but I'm not sure I'd go again unless I happened to be in the neighborhood. And the wait was short. The best items were the pizzas, the sweetbreads, and the red mustard salad, which disappointed me after trying to many items.

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Sorry to hear you found most of the food disappointing. I wonder if any of the dishes you had are on the current tasting menu. When we did the tasting, several of our dishes were on the regular menu.

                                            http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                            1. re: kathryn

                                              Just a note to those reading, this is not the same as the tasting menu but rather a sampling of the a la carte options which Arlo may/may-not have been directly involved in the preparation of.

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                As far as I'm concerned, Kathryn has free reign to post whatever/wherever she wants on CH. Anyway, that sweetbreads dish is really good. I agree about the tripe, it needs a hit of their spicy oil to wake it up. Did they give you bread? That helps too. I got it without asking once, but had to request it the second time.

                                                Doing the tasting menu tonight. Will report back...

                                                1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                  They did give us bread with the tripe but even with the bread, it didn't seem to be doing much for me.

                                                2. re: uhockey

                                                  That''s an interesting comment. To me, if a diner can ever tell that the "main" chef isn't on the premises, then it's automatically loses points.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    In general, I agree with you but t's not such an easy issue at Roberta's. In this case, its a place where most everyone is not there for a chef's cooking (or even his/her existance), the way they would in a restaurant. It's a pizza place foremost, and he has nothing to do with the pizzas. Unlike Dom at DiFaras or even when Pulino opened with their star chef, Roberta's doesnt advertise the chef as having anything to do with the main item served to most patrons, making his presence, absence, training of the others or even his existance a moot point. Similarly with the general menu items, there's no real intent (that I can see anyway) to place him as even the reason you come to eat non pizza items there either. No real push to say "we have a chef in the kitchen doing these interesting things and/or training others to do them". An interesting approach, in my opinion, especially given that he does seem to have a role in the everyday (well, everyevening) fare, making it way better than it otherwise would be, Since they dont advertise him in this role, it's hard to fault the kitchen for not being consistant when he's not there cooking. And, now that he's used the place as a springboard for his "arrival" as a star chef by doing these elaborate tasting dinners & group dinners, its almost 2 separate places named Roberta (again, my opinion). I've not been there for the tasting (and probably wont be going), but I've liked "Roberta's... the pizza/calzone place" and I've had an enjoyable, uneven meal (like Kathryn's) there as well (which included pizza). But this separate tasting meal place called Roberta's, serving a chef focused, chef driven meal, is so different I can see why uhockey wouldnt want it to even share thread space with reviews of the overall Robertas & feels it should be separate on the boards as well. But, that's a problem that Roberta's has caused and will have to live with I guess. I certainly find myself reading reviews of Roberta's closer than most places to see if what's being enjoyed/not enjoyed is part of the place I frequent or some other private, small offering to one table/night, the food from which I will probably not experience until/unless the new place in the lot next door (not the tent room that's currently being worked on to increase existing restaurant size) ever gets built.

                                                    1. re: Steve R

                                                      Thanks for your comments. Sounds like the place is going to have to find their "voice." If one didn't know what you so well explained I can see their being a high degree of annoyance. Unless they only serve those non-pizza menus when he IS there an publicize the dickens out of that fact.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        "Unless they only serve those non-pizza menus when he IS there an publicize the dickens out of that fact"

                                                        I can attest to the fact that these items are served when he and others from the kitchen are all not on site. That'll teach me to show up on a Monday. The meal was fine, inspired in some cases, failure in others. I'm not sure if it would've been exactly the same if everyone was there and there was enough good to keep me as a customer so I guess we'll see what the future brings. My overall recommendation to friends is to go for the pizza and calzones and try some of the interesting sounding items but dont see them as the reason to go.

                                                      2. re: Steve R

                                                        I was under the impression that as a chef/partner he was responsible for managing all aspects of the kitchen. Winning one of Food and Wines 10 best new chefs based solely on a couple tasting menus a week? Sounds like a pretty good gig that any chef would be envious of.

                                                        1. re: oysterspearls

                                                          I'm replying to you simply cause I can't figure out where this should go. If one went to a Thomas Keller restaurant, I'm guessing the odds are against it that he's going to be on the premises much less cooking as he has multiple restaurants and other things going on. But I've never read a criticism of one his places having anything to do with the fact that he wasn't there. You hire really good people and train them very, very well. The meals should be completely reproducible. IMO.

                                        2. great, detailed review. i live in brooklyn and have been wanting to try the tasting menu at roberta's for some time now. after reading your review, it's now higher on my priority list. thanks.