Our Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare experience
We dined here last Saturday night, July 27th, and wanted to share our thoughts on the evening.
This was far and away the most expensive meal we've ever had and one we justified saving for after seeing The Layover episode in which Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert partook in their tasting menu and were very obviously blown away. What struck us from that episode was the quality and rarity of the ingredients Chef Ramirez used, to the point where Ripert noted that he didn't feel they could be turning a profit. They also alluded to the ridiculously long hours the staff works and we felt this may be a place that won't be around forever so we decided to splurge on dinner here and were lucky enough to have gotten a reservation on our first crack.
We were very intimidated heading into our tasting menu because there really isn't a ton of information on this restaurant. The website doesn't have a sample menu or a few paragraphs touting Chef Ramirez - they more or less have rules. And these same rules (about the price, dress code, being on time, no picture or note taking throughout dinner service) were repeated to me on the phone after securing the reservation, again in two confirmation e-mails and once more during a follow-up confirmation via the phone. Overall, I felt the service was very professional and very fine tuned. The woman who served and described our dishes was certainly pleasant but a little boring and robotic with a timid way about her and while I didn't get to test her knowledge first hand, I didn't get the impression she was a food authority and I'm not sure how she would handle any specific questions on our dishes. There was one gentleman who cleared our plates as well as a woman who I presumed runs the wine program and both were personable yet professional.
Chef Ramirez welcomed us when we sat down and walked by at least twice during service to ask how everything was. As we stood up to leave after our meal was over I gestured a thank you to the kitchen staff and Chef Ramirez beelined it to the exit and held the door for my girlfriend and shook my hand to thank us for coming. He made small talk throughout the night to the two women who sat closest to where he was stationed but I think it was obvious he is a bit of an introvert and really not much of a talker. Out of the group of 18 who ate here, it was apparent that my girlfriend and I, as well as the two women who sat near the Chef, were the only ones who probably broke the bank to be here as the rest of the group consisted of lawyers and venture capitalists (overheard in conversations) and wooped it up all night while the four of us watched intently as our dishes were being prepared and while I have no way to prove this I felt like the Chef probably recognized this and went out of his way a little bit to make us feel special because I didn't necessarily see him interact with the others like he did with us and the two women.
From a food standpoint, there wasn't a course that we disliked (except for me and the cheese course - my girlfriend said they were some of the best cheeses she's ever had - but I am not a cheese person at all and I couldn't even choke them down!) but there wasn't a single course that flat out blew our hair back either and that was surprising and disappointing. I was struck by how the flavors stayed on our palates until the next course was served. The cooked fish courses (there were around 7 or 8 raw preparations, maybe more) were so perfectly prepared on the flat top - great crunch on the skin with an impossible silky, juicy center that can only come from a high quality product and a capable chef - in many of the dishes.
One aspect of the dinner that I didn't foresee myself not enjoying was the amount of courses. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining about getting too much! But we've done a 7 course dinner before and really enjoyed the progression of the meal, from a few small amuse's, to lighter and progressively heavier dishes and a nice dessert so that you feel perfectly full at the end of it. You can't achieve something like this in 20-25 courses and we actually went back to our hotel to change and walked to a ramen noodle joint afterwards. The 3 hours it took for dinner service was expected and in some ways our most memorable takeaways of the evening were just watching Chef Ramirez, his chefs, and his service staff work and be so in sync. They almost never spoke to each other at all either - everyone knew their role and they didn't miss a beat when 8 people showed up 45 minutes late for their reservation and they had to backtrack 8 or 9 courses. It was really fun to watch.
It would be hard to use a 'star' rating in our experience here. Was it worth the money? Hard to say. It'll be a long, long time, if ever, before we ever have a dinner with truffles in multiple courses, Osetra caviar, and rare fish brought in fresh from Japan. It's safe to say we'll probably never be back but if we ever struck major wealth it's not a place we'd run back to. We enjoyed the flavors just enough to not feel jipped but we definitely didn't have the same reactions as Bourdain and Ripert did and I didn't necessarily observe anyone else around us having any 'holy shit that was good' moments either. Watching the service procession by a 3-star rated Michelin kitchen was something I think I'll value more then the meal itself.
My girlfriend did the 4 glass tasting which came in at $100 (I passed). She really enjoyed what they had poured and she got a new wine every five courses or so. Worth noting that she had finished her last wine before all of our dessert courses were finished and the woman came back and refilled her glass and when she finished that glass (the time beween dessert courses were longer than at any other point in our dinner) it was topped off once again. Not sure if that's a way to game the system but maybe it's worth trying if you go!
Snob appeal, eh Sluggo? I won't take offense because you don't know us personally. Just passionate 'foodies' who love at-home cooking and trying out new restaurants. Like I mentioned, this was far and away the most expensive we have ever (and very likely) will ever have and one we justified saving for because of the reasons mentioned above. We don't have a ton of opportunities to take a vacation together so since we are really into the food thing we try to drive down to NYC once a year for a day or two and splurge a little bit since it's something we enjoy so much.
Certainly had no way of knowing we would still leave with space left in our bellies, especially since the menu changes frequently.
I can understand how someone who isn't into the cooking and dining like we are can look at a meal as expensive as the one we just had and not understand how someone could pay so much, but all in all, I don't think we necessarily regret our night out but we certainly didn't think it was as great as some others (The Michelin ratings system, overwhelmingly positive Yelp reviews, an enthusiastic endorsement from Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain) have made it out to be.
We heard a lot of great feedback about Ganso and that probably would have been our choice but it was closed by the time we were heading out. The only ramen place that was open was Dassara, which seems to be a hit or miss place based on a lot of reviews. I'm not a ramen expert but I thoroughly enjoyed my classic ramen. My girlfriend went with the White Clam Mazemen and although it sounded interesting in theory we both weren't feeling it.
I am glad to read an honest review about Bklyn Fare that is not filled with "amazing" "unbelievable" etc. I think your review in many ways is spot on. I have been to BF about 5 times. The menu style and # of dishes has changed somewhat , and I hear it is going to change again toward more cooked dishes and more meat.
In any case, Chef Ramirez is quite " amazing" in his ability to get all the dishes to all the customers with remarkable timing and perfect measuring to make sure everyone gets the same amount of food. It's almost a science. I Have never found any dish to be so good that it blew me away. I have found dishes good and well prepared as far as flavor goes. Although, sometimes there is too much repetition in flavors or ingredients,
Initially when they first opened they gave too much food, then a few months later too little food, then back up to 20 or so courses and it was enough food. Twenty courses sounds like a lot but the courses are more like a series of amuses bouches.
The chef is quite knowledgable on preparation and handling of fish. He has a passion for Japanese style dishes, ingredients and flavors. His prices have gone up dramatically, I think they more than tripled since they first opened.
The staff is always friendly and the sommelier is quite knowledgeable.
I don't get the 3 Michelin star thing, as they do not even have tables , table clothes, atmosphere, 3 star service, etc
This food in a Per Se setting with Per Se service might then warrant the stars, but not in the present format.
The chef is a nice guy and I love watching him work, but as I agree with you there is no Wows.
I dont understand your comment on going for ramen afterwards,,,it seemed like there was too much food, but yet you were hungry . That part confused me. I find the amount of food adequate, but so many course is tough to have a good progression with.
Thanks for your response and for adding some of your own feedback based on your past experiences at BF.
I should have been clearer regarding my comments about the amount of courses and I see where some confusion can come in.
We both didn't necessarily leave hungry but we weren't really full either (and we pigged out at Smorgasburg earlier in the day and were fearful that we overdid it and were going to ruin dinner).
In terms of the amount of courses, I just really liked and prefer the progression of a 7-course tasting menu over the 20+ courses we had and I do agree with you when you say each course is really an amuse bouche in terms of portion size. I also agree with you when you say a lot of ingredients were repeated - he used the same 'herb oil' in at least 4 or 5 courses and while it did add a freshness to the dish, it was still a little surprising to see it repeated so often.