- Address: 200 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
- Telephone: (718) 243-0050
- Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $329
- Courses: (16 main/17 total): 12 savory, 1 cheese, 3 dessert, 1 mignardise (20 courses advertised includes 1 bread [not counted here], and for the 3 mignardise items to be counted as 3 courses)
- Price/Main Course: $20.50
- Rating: 19/20
- Value: 2.5/5
- Dining Time: 150 minutes
- Time/Course (total): 9.5 minutes
- Chef: César Ramirez
- Style: sui generis
- Michelin Stars: 3
The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is definitely the single-hardest reservation to make in NYC. It is possibly the hardest reservation to make in the United States. 6 weeks out at 1030am on a Monday, the phones are off the hook, and by the time you get through, the seats are all gone. But we were lucky enough to score a 4-top on a Friday night at the ungodly hour of 955pm, the latest I have ever started a tasting dinner, which required me to imbibe caffeine at 8pm (I’m a morning person).
The food at BKFARE is the highest standard I have encountered in New York. Per Se has dishes which are adequate but not many truly memorable ones, a 1 or 2-star Michelin elsewhere. Eleven Madison Park’s food is also of the 1-star Michelin standard, though the theatrics and entire experience perhaps push it to a high 2-star Michelin. Le Bernardin is solidly 1-star Michelin. Jean-Georges is also of 1-star Michelin standard. I have not tried Daniel, or Masa, so I cannot comment on their food. The New York Michelin guide is known to be lax in standards. But in awarding BKFARE the highest rating, they have not erred. I consider BKFARE to be the only true 3-star Michelin restaurant in NYC I have tried so far. (the only other plausible contender for true 3-star status is Masa).
Why does BKFARE have 3 Michelin stars, and why does Momofuku Ko have 2? The two restaurants share key similarities. Both are chef’s counters, seating a limited number of diners. Both, to forestall the possibility of slow-poke photographers tripping up the rhythm of the meal, have banned photography altogether (a policy I strongly disagree with). BKFARE goes further to outlaw note-taking at all. Both are also seafood-focused restaurants.
My friend Y and I speculated on a few reasons: (A) the leather chairs at BKFARE were definitely more comfortable than the stools at Ko, (B) BKFARE had some nice silverware and they displayed a dizzying array of custom flatware (though I suspect they have the same flatware supplier as Grace in Chicago), but really the crucial bit is (C) while Ko sources very good ingredients in the relatively-inexpensive category (bronzino, mackerel, scallop, black trumpets), BKFARE sources very good ingredients in the top-end category of traditional luxury ingredients (quality black truffle in April, morels, osetra caviar, koshihikari rice, Miyazaki beef). (D) The technique at BKFARE may also be a tad more precise: I was wowed by the last dessert, a sugar globe that was fragile and thin, yet completely clear – a hallmark of technical excellence; as well as the minimalism of many of the best BKFARE courses. (at its best, such as Ko’s mushroom consomme, Ko can create such minimalist compositions. But quite a few of their main dishes can be overdetermined, and an ingredient or two can be safely omitted.)
I believe the Michelin guide rewards use of traditional luxury ingredients. But it is hard to see right now where those ingredients would fit into Ko’s bold flavors and Asian-influenced cooking (and price point).
Originality. What is the level of Chef Ramirez’s originality? It is hard for me to tell. The best dishes I enjoyed were simply the finest ingredient exemplars of their type (a Koshihikari rice risotto with truffle; Miyazaki Wagyu presented simply with grated daikon). To compare with a meal I had last month, Chef Curtis Duffy of Grace paired Miyazaki Wagyu with a Vietnamese rice cracker and tom yum broth. Chef Duffy’s Southeast Asian vision came through, but here at BKFARE luxury ingredients were just worked perfectly. But I believe the Akamutsu with puffed rice and black vinegar sauce gave me an glimpse into a chef with Japanese elegance and refinement, a strong believer of minimalism and absolutely fanatical about ingredients. I reserve judgements on the uniqueness of Chef Ramirez’s style, and I will have to return to Brooklyn Fare to make a more final judgement.
Flow. The flow of the meal was: [light fish 1-4] + [luxury blockbusters 5-7] + [heavier seafood + risotto 8-10] + [game + meat 11-12] + [cheese 13] + [sorbets 14-15] + [showcase dessert 16]. I thought it was a well thought-out meal-plan, though variation of courses 11+12 might have improved the meal (both were red meat, squab and beef), and there was a bit of a flag in quality from courses 7-9.
Slight Gripes. One slight gripe I had is that service was perfunctory. Questions were answered curtly, but this is probably due to the logistical strain of keeping all courses (the left side of 9 diners ahead by 30 minutes, so the two sets of diners staggered into two batches) going like clockwork. Another slight gripe is that I counted only 16 main courses, 4 short of the advertised 20. The only way BKFARE hit 20 courses is if I count the solitary bread (no butter) as a course, and the three mignardises served together at the end as 3 separate courses instead of just 1. My friend also remarked that there were quite a few repeated ingredients: yuzu was used at least 3 times, citrus more generally at least 5 times, black truffle (I personally have no complaints) was used 3 times. For me though, the repeated use of yuzu and truffle was not a complaint, since I appreciated the chef’s attempt to follow seasonality, though the citrus got a bit repetitive towards the end.
Overall, a very fine restaurant indeed. To my mind, BKFARE and atera are the two most exciting restaurants in the city at the moment.
Memory: Akamutsu, Hokkaido Uni with Truffle, Koshihikari Risotto with Truffle, Miyazaki Wagyu, the clarity and thinness of the Sugar Globe
Thoughts on dishes:
- Ishidai (Striped Beakfish): one bite, clean flavor, muscular but not chewy, not fat despite being winter. Yuzu, small whiffs of orange crispy ginger on top. (4.25/5)
- A clean palate opener. No big taste.
- Akamutsu (Red Bluefish): black vinegar savory sauce, crusted with puffed rice (5/5)
- Perfect and sublime. I liked this because of the perfect cooking of the fatty bluefish with affixed puffed rice to its skin (It did not drop off when I lifted it).
- The Asian influenced black vinegary savory sauce complemented the fish superbly well. Perfectly calibrated tastes, from which no ingredient could be subtracted. Highest praise.
- Oyster: Island Creek oyster with celeriac (4/5)
- Kinmedai (Splendid Alfonsino): Overcooked, flaky (3/5) (yuzu?)
- Hokkaido Uni with Black Truffle on English muffin style flatbread (5/5):
- Decadent and rich. The sweetness of Hokkaido uni was complemented by potent smell of truffles. Both were covered in a dark glaze, similar to anago(salt-eel) glaze. On top of an English flatbread muffin. I enjoyed it because it combines these two very assertive and rare “luxury” ingredients, and the whole effect was more than the sum of its parts. Highest praise.
- Early April is right at the very end of the black truffle season, and the powerful smell of Chef Ramirez’s truffles surprised me in their potency, a testament to his sourcing abilities. Truffles were used in 3 dishes, and all had exceptional potent aromas
- Osetra Caviar with cauliflower cream, yuzu: (4.25/5)
- A generous helping of osetra caviar set in cauliflower cream, with a circular biscuit.
- The marriage of tastes was pleasant, though I did not feel a true synergy between them.
- Snow crab, chawanmushi, foie gras (3.75/5)
- Chives and onion green chawanmushi paste at the bottom of a deep bowl, snow crab broken down to bits, A seared piece of foie gras (about 1.25x the size of the first phalange of an adult thumb) floated in a dashi. Black truffle made a welcome reappearance as black bits, adding its scent to the dashi.
- Lobster, celery root, blood orange: (4.75/5)
- Perfectly cooked lobster, with only mild “graining” of very sweet lobster flesh. A piece of celery root, a white radish, and a piece of blood orange by the side (which could have been subtracted) Navel oranges were used for a yellow sauce covering about 90% of the plate, with vanilla seeds visible in a second clear sauce, and fennel foam.
- The radish and blood orange could have been subtracted: the radish added nothing to the dish, the blood orange added too much one-dimensional citrus notes. The lobster paired well with the orange sauce, and the fennel probably served as the aromatic (I could not ID the scent by myself, thinking it was lavender at first, and had to ask my server). This reminded me of the lobster dish at Schwa, where “lavender+earl grey” was the aromatic on top of the lobster+orange base.
- Turbot with Peas (3.5/5)
- Turbot from Holland.
- Koshihikari Rice with black truffle (5/5)
- A risotto, in the shade of beige/pink with truffled bits around. Topped with a slice of black truffle.
- At this point, this was the third truffle dish.
- The rice was top class, having a firm texture and slightly sweet taste. Risotto was prepared perfectly, with the strong smell of black truffles coming through again. Top marks.
- Squab (roasted) with Stuffed Morel (4.5/5)
- Squab was served rare, with varying degrees of doneness. The very middle of the squab had no graining, while the outside was a very-reddish-slightly-pink shade with graining. I enjoyed the squab, it was well roasted with no chewiness and the stuffed morel was pungent.
- Morels are the first sign of spring. It was truly a privilege to have eaten a meal in the short window between winter and spring when both morels and truffles were available.
- Miyazaki Wagyu with Grated Daikon (5/5)
- Miyazaki wagyu is considered the best wagyu of Japan, over the Kobe region.
- I did not ascertain the grading, but the seared beef just oozed fat like a sponge over the tongue, reminding me of otoro).
- It was simply salted and served with vinegar-ed grated daikon. Simplicity itself, but a tremendous ingredients driven dish. Top marks.
- Buffalo cheese (partita) from Petaluma CA with hot tangerine jam (3.25/5)
- Shiso sorbet [functional dish, 3.75-4/5]
- A green, strong herbaceous palate-cleansing scoop of shiso sorbet, about the size of a melonball scoop. Served in a plate with lots of holes at the outer 2/3 edge.
- Soba-tea (roasted buckwheat tea) ice cream, Caramel, Seaweed (3.5/5)
- Not bad. Crispy seaweed and caramel on top, plated to look abit like the end of a honey-dipper.
- Spiced Chocolate Foam, Yuzu Marmalade, Sugar Globe (5/5)
- A dark chocolate/yuzu cake base; a yuzu(?) sorbet in the center, with spiced chocolate foam around, and covered with a sugar globe.
- The tastes were harmonious, creating a pleasantly spiced dessert on its own
- However, what makes it truly spectacular is the sugar globe. Never have I seen such a perfectly clear (usually sugar glass is frosted and unclear) sugar glass with such thin-ness. It yielded easily to my spoon. (even the one made by an ex-Roca patissier at Restaurant Andre in Singapore was hard, and had the danger of cutting one’s lip). The technique required to make such a perfect sugar globe made for an amazing visual effect. Clearness and thin-ness, top class.
- The globe was actually made of isomalt.
- Mignardises: Miso Cookie, Chocolate with Pistachio filling, Mango Tartlet