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Dinner at The Breslin

  • Cuisine: gastropub/British
  • Atmosphere: rustic, apres-ski chic, dark, bi-level space
  • Attire: trendy, smart-casual
  • Ideal for: trendsters/scenesters, famous chef, foodies, heavy food, small groups/1x1, bar scene
  • Price: most entrees under $32 (with the exception of the large terrine boards, Smoked Belly for 2, and Stuffed Pig's Foot for 2)  
  • Reservations: not accepted 
  • Phone: (212) 679-1939
  • Website: www.thebreslin.com
  • Location: 20 West 29th Street (btwn 5th Avenue & Broadway), at the Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel, including the unaffiliated retail establishments that share its address (Stumptown Coffee Roasters, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room), is one of those venues with a visible aura that radiates hip, hype, and "I'm cooler than you will ever be."  This trendy playground beckons me to ask myself, "Am I fashionable/in-the-know/awesome enough to hang out here?"  Before you get the wrong idea, I'm not knocking the service I've received during each of my three visits; because everyone who I've come in to contact with (be it the hotel's employees, the baristas at Stumptown, or the staff at The Breslin) has been incredibly warm and welcoming.  However, gracious hospitality aside, I still find this cutting-edge cool, upscale hipster-haven to be quite intimidating; the same kind of "intimidating" that I felt on my first day of 6th grade - at a new school - looking around the lunch room wondering where or who the hell I would sit with.  Ya, that kind of sums it up. 

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room (we'll call it "TB" for short) is the newest gastropub love-child venture by co-owner, Ken Friedman, and chef/co-owner, April Bloomfield.  In other words, the hottest place to wine and dine at the moment.  Since reservations are not accepted and I'm no celebrity, Dana and I thought that it would be in our best interest to arrive when the restaurant began its dinner service...at 5:30pm.

On Tuesday evening, I hauled ass from work en route to the Ace Hotel/TB.  Panting and nearly out of breath, I arrived promptly at 5:20pm.  Although dinner service did not begin for another ten minutes, the restaurant's bar was open, allowing me to enter the space.  Having seen that the hostess stand was staffed, I meandered my way through the crowd of pretty-young-things and enthusiastically inquired about a table for two.  "The kitchen is still doing some prep work, so it will be a few more minutes.  We'll let you know when we're ready," I was told.  And shortly thereafter, Dana and I were led to our table pour deux.

TB's atmosphere and interior decor is reminiscent of an intimate "apres ski" lodge. 

Note the bright white space towards the lower right quadrant of this photo: this is the open-kitchen where diners can watch April Bloomfield prepare their mealI don't know if we chose to forego ordering alcohol in an effort to save calories (ha!) or money, or both.  But Dana was content with her glass of chilled tap water and I found tranquility and utter delight in my fizzy homemade lemonade.

Dana and I decided to kick off our overly-indulgent meal by splitting the Scotch Egg.  What resembled a golden, batter-fried baseball was actually a soft-cooked egg that had first been draped/wrapped with a layer of homemade pork sausage and rolled in breadcrumbs before being deep-fried.  Dana "did the honors" and cut the egg in half.  We both gazed in awe as the gently-cooked yolk slowly spilled over on to the small white plate.  

The Scotch Egg is basically a compact breakfast (incorporating bread, egg and sausage) on crack.Pig trotters, fried head cheese, pork scratchings; you name the offal and Dana will eagerly partake in eating it.  I, on the other hand, am not so quick to order a plate of organ meat, making dining at a restaurant like TB slightly difficult.  There are, however, a couple of less adventurous entrees listed on the menu.  Dana and I decided to split the Chargrilled Lamb Burger and the Braised Shin of Beef.  Both entrees arrived simultaneously.  Due to the minimal table space, the burger was placed in front of me, and the beef shin in front of Dana.

A wooden slab of butcher block was topped with the most decadently-constructed lamb burger: toasted sourdough bun, salty and pungent feta cheese, crunchy rings of red onion, and a 3/4"-thick patty of the juiciest (albeit gamey) ground lamb that had been cooked to a perfect "medium rare."  Thrice-cooked chips, a.k.a. homemade steak fries fried THREE times to achieve a thick and crunchy exterior giving way to a mashed-potato-like interior, were paired with a zesty cumin-mayonnaise.  Everything about this entree was well-conceived, rich, ridiculous, naughty and unique; all at once.  Never, in my 29 years of life, have I had a better side of chips/French fries (oh crap, I just drooled on my keyboard!).

Because the dining room was so dimly lit, I couldn't get an excellent photo of the burger, but these pictures should give you the basic idea.The Braised Beef Shin reminded me, in composition and texture, of a short rib; the cut was boneless, fork-tender, rich, and marbled but not gristly.  Served atop a shallow puddle of polenta and subtle-y crunchy black cabbage (this added texture), the tender chunks of beef were finished with fresh green parsley and a warm gravy bath (rendered from hours of braising).

While I'm still not sure how/why Dana and I justified ordering dessert, our waitress recommended TB's Sticky Toffee Pudding...and we surrendered.  The ingredients are somewhat difficult to picture together, but do your best to imagine: sponge cake made with finely chopped dates, rolled in Stumptown coffee grinds, soaked for hours in a sweet roux, then served alongside sliced, poached pears and a scoop of homemade ice cream (forgive me, I cannot recall the flavor).  Though I found the melange of flavors to be unique and delightful, I would have preferred that the cake itself be slightly more moist and "sauce-y."

In conclusion, I found my experience at TB to be the exact opposite of what I had originally expected.  The service was excellent, the meal was perfectly paced, the food was unique and delicious, and both the crowd/employee's were non-intimidating (even despite the fact that I looked like a hot mess toting a huge backpack, Ugg boots, and my long hair was pulled up in to a messy bun). 

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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for the suggestions Lunch Belle! The Scotch Egg was amazing, the Scrumpets were delicious and the Lamb Burger...phenomenal!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCeci

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