Friday, June 3, 2011

Choose Booze for Brunch at Char No.4


Bloody Bourbon
On my never-ending list of restaurants I must visit, Char No.4 on Smith Street was at the top. Touting a barbecue-centric menu,  I was holding out for brunch, which seemed like a more interesting variety than a typical meat-heavy dinner. Apparently the pedestal I placed it upon, married with the anticipation of which weekend would finally be the one, was the wrong recipe. Allow me to set the tone by saying that I'm glad I did not have to wait for a table on this Saturday afternoon, or that would have been the stinging salt in the wound.
Back Sun-Room

My selective memory led me astray, apparently morphing the remembered menu into an idea it was not, like a wicked game of Telephone. As soon as it was placed in front of me, the interest meter plummeted. Suddenly nothing appeared as creative or tantalizing as I had recalled; the script did not speak to me, which is never a good sign.
Low-light Interior

When the difficulty in deciding what to order stems from a lack of interest, as opposed to too many eye-catching options, the fun is drained and you have good reason to fear the looming bad omen. Such was my case, as the uninteresting and the bland permeated my plates. The chili-marinated shrimp atop sweet corn-hominy grits, assured to be a staple by our server, lacked any flavor one might have expected from the sound of it. It even visually deceived me: pretty on the plate, but not in my mouth. If this is their staple, then there doesn't seem to be much hope for the other dish.
Shrimp 'n' Grits

Delivered verbally as a special, something must have gotten lost in translation: a lamb pastrami hash with two soft eggs, mounted with an arugula salad and goat cheese horseradish dressing. Sounded delicious. Tasted like nothing. How is that possible with lamb?! And the odd raw-meat consistency didn't help much. They also didn't score any points by serving an overcooked egg. Come on people, throw me a frickin' bone here. I resorted to slathering on as much dressing as possible with every bite to keep my taste buds awake. And the kicker: it didn't even have goat cheese! It was definitely a mustard-based sauce without a hint of that unmistakably discernible cheese, which I was looking forward to palate-pairing with the lamb.  A let down in every possible way.
Lamb Hash with Eggs

There is silver lining in this tale: their bourbon-based bloody mary was excellent. In my opinion, the only way a bloody mary should be made and the only reason for a return visit. Spiked with chipotle and garnished with a sour pickle, I would opt for this fulfilling refreshment as my meal. The liquid diet is the way to go in this joint. The other cocktail ordered, "Hound Dog," was also beautifully bourbon but on the lighter, sweeter side with ginger, grapefruit, mint, lime, and honey.
"Hound Dog"

Conclusion: Skip the bites and head straight for the bar. Make it a bourbon-only brunch at Char No.4.

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*THE FOLLOWING POSTS ARE EXCERPTS FROM Brunchaholics.com*

If you are a brunch-obsessed New Yorker as I am (the term is practically redundant), you may enjoy this blog I found as a resource for just that. (And they are just as critical as I am!) As they put it, the website contains reviews of NYC brunch restaurants, local news, and food deals.  

I have inserted below excerpts from four of their posts. You can visit their website for the full reviews and follow @brunchaholics on Twitter and facebook.com/brunchaholics.
              


BLEND-LIC
WARNING: the following contains a pretty harsh review… parental advisory is suggested…
Oh, Blend… we wanted to like you… we really did.
The brunchaholics ventured into Long Island City (LIC) for brunch, and arrived at Blend. At first glance, the place looked vibey and fun. It’s a small place, but with it’s high ceilings, cool lighting, and art, it feels spacious.
We were led to our table… and then, it was all downhill. Once we were seated our waiter was gone, rarely to come again. We waited almost 20 minutes to order drinks… and then we waited again. We could SEE our pitchers of sangria sitting on the bar getting watered down, but none of the servers seemed to notice. We were tempted to get up and bring them to our table ourselves, but we try not to seem impatient or rude. Twenty minutes after our drinks were ordered, they arrived and we ordered our food (this was only the second time we saw our waiter).
Conversation was flowing, but we were hungry. Our food took nearly 45 minutes to arrive. We quickly snapped pictures before we dug into our food. The food was okay, but did not make up for the wait. We ordered…

MOJAVE-Astoria, Queens
It was bad weather out so @Astoria_bandito @Knickofsanity @Mieko831 Catt and Lindsey kept it local and went to Mojave.
The decor and atmosphere was very cool.  Lots of interesting things to look at like this:
@Astoria_bandito, Catt, and @Knickofsanity got the unlimited drinks for 1 1/2 hours option which I believe was $12.  The drinks were good and strong.  They also have a drink called The Punisher which is Tequila mixed with habanero peppers.  A lot of them.  We were tempted to take the challenge; if you take it and sit for 5 minutes without eating or drinking anything (or barfing) you go up on the wall of fame and the drink is free.  If you don’t make it you go on the wall of shame.  We asked the waiter about it and he said no one has done it yet and that it would ruin our day.  We’re thinking of going back on a Friday night and trying it.
My issue with the drink special was that our cups were empty a lot.  Not that we were drinking a lot, it’s just it took a while for the waiter to check on our drinks (and the place wasn’t that busy).  Every time he asked if we wanted another one instead of just refilling it.  This included after my first drink.  Like, I want to pay $12 for one sangria.  Of course I want another drink!

OK on to the food.  The menu online is slightly different from the menu at the restaurant.  We got two starters.  The guacamole:
Yup, there's some guac behind those tomoatos





LASAGNA-Midtown Manhattan    
This week we went to Lasagna on 50th and 2nd Ave.  You can find their menu at http://www.lasagnarestaurant.com .  Word of warning, brunch if $5 more than what it says on the website.
Some shots of Lasagna
That being said everyone seemed very happy with their food.  While we were waiting for our food (and it was a fairly long wait but the drinks were flowing so it was OK, more on that later) we were treated with some pesto garlic bread which was pretty tasty.
With Bellini's and Pesto Garlic Bread
As for the main course, the Vermont Scramble was very tasty.  We recommend getting the fresh ground pepper on top, it really added to the flavor.  It was more like a frittata than an omlette, so if you are looking for a standard omlette you might be disappointed...
Lauren and Leon had the vermont scramble. Eggs with bacon, tomato and cheese. Also great with the fresh ground pepper.


BROOKLYN LABEL-Greenpoint, BK 
The crew headed out to Greenpoint and had a nice (ahem, ahem) boozy-less brunch at Brooklyn Label, 180 Franklin Street. Find them at www.brooklynlabel.com
Overall, the space is great, the food was fresh and innovative, the hipsters tending table were attentive, and.... well, they sold whoopie pies to go. What? 'Nuff said.
Drink menu
What the joint lacked in libations, it made up for with its wide array of gourmet cocoas, coffees, and Italian sodas. Maybe you can sneak in some Kahlua and go to town.

Mayan Cocoa
The Mexican hot cocoa spiced with cinnamon.
Fried chicken and waffle!
Chicken and waffles. Nothing wrong with that. Ain't that right Luda?