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Feb 5, 2014 01:26 PM

Recommendations for 'impressive' dining/drinking in Williamsburgh/Dumbo

2 London friends are visiting and want to check out the Bklyn restaurant scene. Sadly, I only know a few places, and none of the higher end places that their expense account will allow. They've had recommendations for Roman's, Maison Premier, or Reynard's. I've not been to either. Any opinions on either these three, or some other swank joint that will have great food and ambience? And if you can also recommend a good cocktail bar we can stroll from to whatever restaurant, well, that'd be awesome, too. thanks!

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  1. If you're willing to head down to Cobble Hill, I'd recommend either (1) Battersby or The Grocery followed up by Clover Club or (2) Colonie followed up by Long Island Bar (which is new and was recently written up in the New Yorker) or Henry Public.

    1. I wouldnt not call Roman's either high end or great. Dont know the others.

      The River Cafe has recently reopened if they are serious about the high end part

      1. As an 'out of towner' I can report a visit to Maison Premiere back in January 2013. It was a pretty buzzy space, quirky and filled with people having a very good time. It was quite loud. The food was good but not memorable. I recall the portions (even for me, a relatively small person) were on the small-ish side. I wouldn't call it an 'impressive' or fine dining restaurant but it was a good 'scene' place.

        I have booked River Cafe for an upcoming April visit and wedding anniversary. Not sure how the good the food will be but I am VERY excited about the space/view!

        8 Replies
        1. re: PixieM

          PixieM - you do get around. Aquacotta in Florence, France board and now here on my home turf. If you need any recommendations when in NYC, let me know. My e-mail address is on my CH "home page".

          As for The River Cafe (which is about 5 minutes from where we live in Bklyn Heights and a place I've been going to for 30 years or so), the view is unbelievable (& worth going for hands down) but the food is no longer top 10 (or top 50 for that matter) in NYC. The food is more than fine but the general bar has been raised for restaurants everywhere and I don't think they've tried to keep up a ranking. They've just re-opened and we're trying to go with some friends soon to see. Hurricane Sandy really did them in and I wonder if their wine list will be as good as it once was (great half bottles were perfect for us).

          1. re: Steve R

            Four of us will be going tomorrow night for dinner. Will report back.

            1. re: Steve R

              Yes, I do like leaving the Antipodes Steve!! Thanks for the heads up on River Cafe - you have described exactly what I was thinking it would be. It would be good to hear what you think now that it's reopened. In a similar vein, we were in Bali for our first anniversary and went to a resort restaurant on the beach at Seminyak. I can't remember the food apart from the fact that it was 'nice' but oh, the setting! I am prepared to forgive a lot (occasionally) if the location and the service and the general ambience is something else.

              1. re: PixieM

                Well, the good news is that The River Cafe has been restored to pretty much exactly what it was before the storm and that it is just as magical as ever. Our friends were celebrating their 35th anniversary and the 4 of us went to dinner there last night. The better news is that the food has improved to the point where I'd recommend going even if the place was without windows and located elsewhere. Our friends, who probably frequent higher end NYC places more than we do (and we get around), said that they'd list this as Top 20 or so which, in NYC these days, ain't bad. I certainly put last night's meal into the top ten of those I've had in NYC this past year & would think it would be a 3 star if the NY Times reviewed it.

                The 3 course fixed price meal is now $115 and the wine list is pretty much as always… comprehensive and with a nice range of styles & prices. The amuse of squash soup?/puree was okay, but the piece of venison jerky on the plate next to it was dynamite. For our 1st course, there was an off the menu special of ahi (tuna) "tartare" that my wife ordered & it was great. Fresh wasabi & an overall feel of Hawaiian preparation (which we love) that was a major hit. Our two friends ordered the "Tuna - Foie" ("big eye tuna, foie gras mousse, pancetta, Winter truffle vinaigrette") which they loved but I thought was not so great. Although each part of the dish was well prepared, in my opinion, as a whole, it did not really come together. They disagreed &, as I trust their tastebuds almost as much as mine, I'll leave it up in the air as a preference thing. I ordered the Rabbit Crepinette w/ricotta dumplings and we all agreed that it was really a tremendous plate. Three rolled pieces in a very nice jus.

                For entrees, my wife had the rack of Lamb w/merguez sausage. It was excellent and I'd recommend it even though I'm not a lamb person in general. One friend and I each ordered the Duck Breast w/lavender and spice crusted skin. Two very large sections of duck breast with minimal fat but tasting of being cooked with enough fat to keep it moist and fragrant, it came with braised red cabbage and sweet potato spaetzle. The duck was fantastic and should not be missed. Although our friends insisted that red cabbage is a traditional accompaniment for duck breast, I found it tasty but working against the duck (too sweet). The spaetzle was ehh. The dish needs re-working without making any change to the duck itself. Our other friend had the Branzino, described as "crusted with shrimp and chorizo…romesco sauce, Spanish olive oil, lemon" -- a description that made me skeptical of this dish being edible. However, it was the hit of the night. This was great.

                Desserts, as always, were plentiful and 2 of us got the "Bklyn Bridge", while the other 2 ordered a Madeira tasting ($20 supplement) and a cheese tasting ($15 supplement). I didn't really taste much of the Madeira, as I still had red wine left (better with my chocolate centric bridge). However, the cheese served was enough for 4 people and each of the 5 cheeses were excellent. Worth going for, especially since the other comp'ed dessert additions (including the ones brought due to the anniversary being celebrated) will supply more than enough sweets.

                The meal came to about $200pp, but that included 3 bottles of good wine (Freemont Abbey Cab. Sauv., approx $60/bottle? I didn't look) and the supplements. Not inexpensive but within the "norm" for this caliber restaurant. Every bit as good as my meal at Annisa earlier this year, and I'm a rabid Annisa (& Anita Lo) fan. Once again on my "highly recommended" list.

                1. re: Steve R

                  Oh you don't know how happy this makes me Steve! A world class view AND decent food :)) The prices you have quoted are actually less than I was expecting to pay so that is even better news.I will report back on my thoughts but I can tell you now, I can't see anything getting in the way of the romance of that view!

                  1. re: PixieM

                    Today's NY Times has a very good article/interview on The River Cafe's wine cellar. It makes me an even greater fan of the place.

                  2. re: Steve R

                    At River Cafe, do you need to take the $115 3-course prix fixe option or can we order a la carte? If a la carte, what were the ranges of prices? We have a $400 gift certificate, wondering how far that will go for 4 people?

                    1. re: decayny

                      I'm pretty sure that the prix fixe is the only option these days. With wine, etc., $400 will probably only cover half of the bill for 4 people.

            2. If it's expense account dining, The Elm if you want to impress your London friends. The other suggestions are fine places but not impressive. River cafe has an impressive setting but the food is pretty basic fare. It's good but nothing that will strike a London foodie. Paul Liebrandt is probably the biggest name chef to open a place in Williamsburg.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bkeats

                The Elm is a good suggestion. Also consider Luksus or Glasserie.

                Roman's is great but casual. I find Reynard's skippable. And I love Maison Premiere, but not for a full meal. The dollar oyster happy hour is fantastic.

                DUMBO is pretty lame for food, but Vinegar Hill House, just north, is terrific.

                Another "memorable" option in Williamsburg is Zenkichi.

              2. Okay, once you've ruled out Blanca and/or Brooklyn Fare (which is what I assumed you meant by too high priced for their expense acts.), the Brooklyn "scene" is scattered around some pretty far from each other areas. The most notable area, very lively and youngish, is Williamsburg and I'd agree that The Elm is a good idea, although Paul L. doesn't seem to be in the kitchen much at all any more (totally expected). The owners of Battersby just opened a new place and Cobble Hill/B. Hill is a smaller trendy area with Clover Hill cocktail bar right there. Of course, Park Slope has some very solid middle range good places like Al di La that might be of interest too. Colony, in my area (Bklyn Heights) has a very good rep. and there's a notable cocktail bar just across the street (Long Island Bar) that's getting good buzz (not my thing, so I can't say much).