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The Breslin


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Thanks, Evelyn.

 

Looking at this thread again I think I need to qualify something--my friend who works at The Breslin and who tipped me off about opening night was not working that night. The bartenders we thought so pleasant, friendly and efficient were total strangers until we all introduced ourselves at the end of the evening and I mentioned that I knew one of their coworkers.

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I think I was slightly disappointed by The Breslin only because my hopes were so high. There is no question that this is a great place. It doesn't sweep you off your feet -- but that's a lot to ask. I'm sure I'll be back here a lot.

 

They were out of pork scratchings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

For my appetizer, like Daisy, I couldn't resist finding out what the skate/potato terrine would turn out to taste like. It's excellent: one of the best dishes of its kind (whatever its kind may be) that I've ever had. The interplay in texture between the skate and the potatoes was fascinating. The mustardy sauce they served it on was delicious (and the skate was pretty flavorful in itself). This kind of fish-as-meat cooking is why The John Dory was so great. I hope they reopen it.

 

My main dish was beef shin on polenta with black cabbage. Before they served it, I pondered whether it was pretentious not to call it osso bucco. But when it arrived, I saw that the meat was served off the bone (and seemed to be fully grown beef rather than veal), so it really was a different thing, despite the bed of polenta it sat on. (Also, this was a MUCH smaller portion than osso bucco would be -- and please note that's NOT a complaint.) It should not be taken as any kind of implicit criticism when I say that the outstanding component of this dish was the polenta. It's so easy for polenta to be characterless and rather unpleasant mush (or even worse, stiffened mush) that it comes as something as a shock when it's done well. I recently spent a week in Northern Italy, and didn't have any polenta that was better than this. Reminds you that April Bloomfield came out of the River Cafe (and that her gnudi are the star dish at the Spotted Pig).

 

The dessert menu was unusual in that there were several exceedingly compelling choices. I ended up with a Pimm's/raspberry float. I loved it. It had Pop Rocks -- the second dessert I've had in the space of a week that did (the other was at Bar Boulud). I guess I need to see one more for it to constitute a trend.

 

My only real complaint about The Breslin is that menu is too limited. There are only five or six main dishes. (And two of them -- pork belly and stuffed pig's foot -- are served only for two.) So, oddly in this meatcentric restaurant, meat main dish choices for one (not just solo diners, but diners whose companions don't want to split a big pork dish) are very limited.

 

IMPORTANT DATUM: When they say dinner hours last till midnight, they mean that's when the kitchen closes. You can order up till midnight. That's great.

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Thanks for the report. I do have the comment on the beef shin, though. No, it's not osso bucco, and as you observe it's not from a veal calf. It's what it says it is. I get it from my local supermarket, and it's something like a dollar a pound.

 

Scroll down here to find me cooking it.

 

I certainly love the fact that we can eat beef shin and chicken gizzards and lamb's neck and pig's feet and pork shoulder in restaurants now. But we mustn't be fooled into thinking that these are anything other than very, very cheap cuts of meat and that they're being served now not because they're intrinsically delicious but because... Well, tell me the price of the beef shin dish.

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I may well owe you a heartfelt apology, because having now eaten the dish, I agree that it probably is calf shin, i.e. osso bucco, after all. And if so, why is the menu misleading? The more substantive point is that it was dry as cardboard.

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I think the Breslin, while nowhere near as good as the original Allen & Delancey (nor does it try to be), is like that restaurant in that it's good enough that you wish it were better.

 

So last night, the pork scratchings, very good, great even -- but other than being fresher and better, how are they different from those bagged pork rinds you get in supermarkets? This isn't a slam: I'm all for better-made and sourced versions of vernacular treats. But they're not a Revolution In Bar Snacks.

 

Both times I ate here, the appetizer was the star dish. Last night it was the warmed-up smoked salmon with bacon and frissee. Some small problems here: heating the salmon makes it the slightest bit tough. But the taste was solidly delicious. This is what's (very) good about this place: there's a solid culinary intelligence at work here, lifting potentially ordinary dishes above the ordinary.

 

Then, the lamburger. First, this is a matter of personal taste, but I didn't like the fries. Unlike Daisy, I thought they were too meally. If you like steakhouse-style fries (I don't), that won't bother you. Second, I thought the roll the burger was on was too hard. No give. Forced the meat to fall out of the sides. Liked the garlic aoli spread. Finally, I think I just have a problem with lamburgers. They always see to me to be too fatty, I now realize. There may be a reason why beef is the classic meat for these.

 

The dessert menu had almost totally changed from last week. I had some sort of apple-elderberry crumble, which was nice.

 

The guys at the bar couldn't be nicer or more welcoming and personable.

 

I still didn't see the stag's head.

 

I like The Breslin. I wish I loved it.

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I was cajoled into ordering the lamb burger, I thought it might be too fatty. But it wasn't at all and that is something I am rather sensitive to. It sounds as if it may be inconsistent.

 

The stag's head, btw, is up and to your right if you are sitting at the portion of the bar perpendicular to the front window.

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For my appetizer, like Daisy, I couldn't resist finding out what the skate/potato terrine would turn out to taste like. It's excellent: one of the best dishes of its kind (whatever its kind may be) that I've ever had. The interplay in texture between the skate and the potatoes was fascinating. The mustardy sauce they served it on was delicious (and the skate was pretty flavorful in itself). This kind of fish-as-meat cooking is why The John Dory was so great. I hope they reopen it.

I know you might get violently ill at the thought, but this is one time when I wish you had snapped a photo of this dish. To know that it was delicious isn't just quite enough for me - I'm curious how skate and potatoes are physically formed into a terrine.

 

The dessert menu was unusual in that there were several exceedingly compelling choices. I ended up with a Pimm's/raspberry float. I loved it. It had Pop Rocks -- the second dessert I've had in the space of a week that did (the other was at Bar Boulud). I guess I need to see one more for it to constitute a trend.

For me, it's been a noticed reoccurrence since 2005ish.

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