Sunday, February 22, 2009

Birthday scallops at Braeburn

On Friday evening, AV and I made our way to the West Village for a belated celebration of AV's birthday. For the occasion, since AV is a big fan of scallops, I had selected Braeburn, the home of a heavenly scallop dish described by Frank Bruni. The restaurant is on a quiet, tucked-away corner in the far west village. We found it with only a bit of difficulty and stepped gratefully out of the cold into the warm, rustic dining room.

We were led to our table-- a small two-top in the center of a narrow dining room. The table was part of a small group of tables set in in between the rows of tables up against either wall. As a result, I felt exposed on both sides, especially when waiters struggled to squeeze past us on their way to tables beyond. Not ideal, but it gave us a nice view of the action around us.

We got our menus, debated some decisions, and turned our focus to the Bread Wizard brandishing a tray of enticing biscuits. We were HUNGRY. We must have looked a little too longingly, because the very same Bread Wizard eventually sidled up to our table and offered us each a biscuit, explaining that he usually is supposed to wait until our orders are placed before offering us bread. We were grateful for the warm, flaky, slightly sweet biscuits, which sported an intriguing flavor (lemon?). The Bread Wizard returned shortly after to offer us another round, which we both accepted (in addition to more butter). Only when he returned for a third round did we reluctantly turn him away.

Lots of unidentified intriguing flavors. Needs more butter.

It's a good thing the biscuits were hearty, because it was a noticeably long wait before our appetizer course emerged. Without too much difficulty, I had convinced AV to order the scallops, which came seared with braised endive and walnut puree. The scallops were plump and beautiful, and AV raved over their flavor and texture. Well done.

Seared crosshatch

The entree course came more promptly than the apps had, which was appreciated. My choice had been the roasted beet salad, technically an appetizer, which came with braeburn apples, spicy walnuts, and goat cheese fondue. At least in theory. What actually arrived seemed to be a salad of roasted beets and frisee on top of a dollop of really goat-y whipped goat cheese. Only at the very end did I find one small piece of apple; I don't recall any walnuts at all. But nonetheless, the salad was tasty, if a bit small.

Ruby beats with a crown of frisee

Upon our waiter's recommendation, AV had chosen the corned beef of short rib, which came with celery root, grain mustard, cornichons, and rye croutons. AV panned this; he wasn't a huge fan of the corned beef texture. It was also quite small (despite the photo below), dwarfed by the enormous white dish. (Note: these dishes seemed to be very similar to the ones at Eleven Madison Park... I wonder if they use the same tableware purveyor?)

Beautiful corned beef

In addition to our entrees, we had chosen to share a side of brussels sprouts with shallots and fresh herbs. This, I think, was the best dish of the night for me-- it was a bit unconventional, because the chef had separated and sauteed all the brussels sprout leaves rather than leaving the little cabbage heads intact. There were little crunchy grains (wheatberries?) and shallot strands sprinkled throughout the flavorful, tender sprout leaves. It was tasty and delicious.

Mmmmmm sprouts!

We skipped dessert, as there was a Billy's Bakery banana cake waiting for AV at home (obvi), paid the bill, and headed out. Before we reached the door, a hostess handed us tiny mini-scones, each with the Braeburn brunch menu attached, for the road. A nice touch, although I'm not a huge scone fan so didn't try mine. I think Braeburn could be a four-Offset Spatula restaurant on a really great day: the food is definitely high quality and is sometimes quite creative and well executed. But the dining experience isn't quite up to the four-OS level, not only because of the awkward seating situation I mentioned before, but also because it's really, really loud in there-- the rustic wood floors and wood tables require a bit more acoustical padding to make conversation easy (or even possible, really). While our particular experience registers as three-OS, nonetheless a nice birthday dinner was had, scallops were delivered, and we were full and happy when we left.

117 Perry Street, at Greenwich

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