Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brooklyn's Own Colonie

 

View in from the bar
Colonie can colonize all it would like, and I'm fortunate enough that it has built its pillars in my backyard - just about. Wedged in a cozy rustic storefront on Atlantic Avenue, I am a stone's throw from this endearing new spot in my restaurant-expanding 'hood of Brooklyn Heights. From the moment I stepped into this charming lofty space, escaping the outdoor downpour, I knew good things were in store. Candlelight illuminates the bar, bouncing off the antique mirror onto the character-rich exposed brick walls. 
Kom Collins & Don Julio's Orchard
With three guests in tow, a no-reservations 45-minute wait prediction from the genial hostess was no problem. The ambiance welcomed us to pass the time with refreshing cocktails, prepared by helpful Brooklyn hipster bartenders clad  in their speakeasy attire - understated just enough to emanate a genuine spirit, versus tragically teetering on obnoxious effort. Sipping on my creative but simple Kom Collins of gin, lemon, kumquat, and soda hearkened of a light breeze, and was favorable to Don Julio's Orchard. This blend of reposado tequila, ginger cognac liqueur, apple juice, bitters, and mint needed to be dialed down a few notches in sweetness, but was still enjoyable enough to finish.

The pleasure-to-please front of the house staff only foreshadowed the meticulously attentive wait service. From the moment our four-top sat to the time we left, our water glasses never made it past the half empty mark and our champagne glasses were always brim-full with our sparkling Lambrusco. Throughout the extensive meal our place settings were reset at least three times, which was whole-heartedly appreciated - the simple pleasure of eating off of a clean plate! It's these little nuances, the attention to detail that already set Colonie apart from the numerous establishments that tout good food, but rest all too comfortably on their laurels of hype and swank, dismissing the service aspect of the dining experience all together. Colonie tallied big brownie points to this end - and we haven't even gotten to the food yet! 

Oysters
If you can have your cake and eat it too, then you have it all figured out. And Colonie was able to do that. The plates were on point. Most of what we ordered was per the recommendation of our knowledgeable server (paralelling what we were tending towards already), and those were the dishes that won us over for the most part. The oysters were a fail-safe start to the feast, fresh and made interesting with a vinegar-based cucumber mignonette sauce, beautifully balancing their essence of the sea. Keeping it light, we opted for fluffy ricotta crostini, their pillowy dunes drizzled with sweet honey and aromatic tears of fresh mint leaves. Downright decadence with every chewy morsel.
Ricotta Crostini
















Octopus
Kale
Floating back to the ocean, the dainty octopus left much to be desired. One of the few missteps in our spread, the image shows a 'before' picture, though it scarily resembles an 'after.' A thin meager tentacle cut into three short pieces were thoughtlessly laid upon an uninteresting bed of mizuna greens, fennel and apple. Perhaps pulpo at its worst. If this is the intended execution, I recommend not recommending it. Similarly underwhleming, but relievingly the only other unremarkable dish, was the kale salad. Now I know kale is tough - literally, and as a consequence often figuratively. But sometimes a chef can master this harsh leaf and massage it into a delicate green. Such was not the case here, unfortunately. Tossed in an anchovy dressing with carrots and cherries, the flavors were unpronounced and the rough texture was hard to overlook, try as I might.

Beet Salad
Black Risotto
But after surpassing these humps it was smooth sailing from there. A lifeboat came in the form of a flavor-forward heirloom beet salad. This rugged root provided a welcoming firm texture against the soft ricotta salata, and supple oranges, with a round finishing crunch from the crystalized hazelnuts. Staying the course of understated robust flavors, the black risotto topped with a web of crispy enoki mushrooms was delightfully smooth on the tongue but maintained a rich depth without the heavy weight risotto often brings.

Artichoke
As if our palates could not be tickeled any further, more favorites were ushered out. A perfectly seared  meaty artichoke, laying in tender husky chunks atop a wonderfully acidic blood orange hollandaise sauce. Talk about the bold and the beautiful. And the layers of flavor persisted in a layered lasagna of rabbit, sundried tomatoes, and swiss chard. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. An ultimate comfort food revamped rabbit-style. What's not to love? 

Rabbit Lasagna
Brussels Sprouts
Many would say Brussels sprouts. But love them or hate them, they are the new "it" vegetable, making fashionable appearances on every seasonal menu. And Colonie certainly delivers with theirs, satisfyingly crispy with savory bacon and sweet cranberries. A melt in your mouth experience that will certainly erase their fabled bad rap. Some of the best Brussels I've had - and I've been to Brussels.

Scallops
So exit the small plates, which carried a fine presence in our meal.  But we couldn't "Colonize" without testing the larger dishes as well. Enter the most substantial and succulent grilled scallops that have ever graced my palate. Then plop them on a  sweet kabocha squash puree dressed with pickled red cabbage and it's heaven on a plate. I wanted to bathe in these flavors and textures for eternity (but knew there would be some sort of sin involved if that were possible). Unyielding and bold, much like its large-plate companion, the roast pork was charred to a perfect crisp, the moist meat oozing supple juices. Served with grainy yet silky grits and heaping glazed root vegetables, it was a hearty dish all too appropriate for a medieval king's dinner.

Roast Pork
And royal we felt, as the dining experience could only be extended by nothing other than dessert - three of the four offered to be exact. A feast is a feast after all.  We made out with foie gras doughnuts (which didn't taste like foie gras, but how can you hate a doughnut?), a rich spiced chocolate torte accompanied but some unidentified orange candied sugar, and the favorite by a landslide: a sticky spongey date cake countered by perfectly salty creme fraiche ice cream. Too bad it doesn't travel well, or I would have ordered another one to go. Add to these indulgences two large French coffees for the pressin' and the  plentiful meal can (finally) be deemed complete (though I was firmly resistant to the idea).

Foie Gras Doughnuts






Spiced Chocolate Torte
Sticky Date Cake
























Colonie has all their ducks in a row and I am hopeful they will keep it this way in spite of their growing popularity - to which I realize I am contributing. But I give credit where credit is due.  And perhaps the credit can be reciprocated, as I have no doubt I will become a regular. So let's just say, put it on my tab.
Press d'Cafe