Brunch at Minetta Tavern
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 2:06PM
The Lady Who Lunches in Restaurant reviews

*All photos from my meal can be found on Flickr

Before Minetta Tavern (we'll call it "MT" for short) even opened its doors in the spring of 2009, the public's anticipation and buzz surrounding the restaurant was already intense.  Having known this, plus all of the hype, crowds, and impossible-to-get-reservations that came along with it, I decided that I would keep MT in my peripheral radar, but not try to wiggle my way through its doors for at least 6-months.    

Set on the corner of Minetta Lane and Macdougal Street, in the picturesque West Village neighborhood, MT is housed in a building that dates back to the 1930's.  The interior space reads like a speakeasy cum Parisian brasserie cum supper club: framed caricatures, checkered black and white tiled floors, deep-red leather banquettes, glossy-painted cafe chairs, brass chandeliers; and a subtle dim lighting (note that the space is window-less) that makes you question what time of day it is outside (a-la-Vegas). 

Dara, my brunch date, was lucky enough to have scored reservations for two on a beautiful February weekend.  From the moment I entered the bustling space, I was slightly surprised by the friendly service we received, and the fact that we were seated rather promptly.

"I'd like a lemonade sans ice, please," I responded after, whom I thought was our waitress, asked what we'd like to drink.  After a couple of minutes had passed, a different employee approached and introduced "your Arnold Palmer, ma'am."   I politely told the woman that I did not order an Arnold Palmer (iced tea + lemonade), but rather, a lemonade.  She apologized and said she'd be back shortly.  Within moments, yet another employee approached the table with "your Arnold Palmer, ma'am."  This time, the person handing me the incorrect drink was, in fact, our waitress.  I told her that I had ordered a lemonade sans ice, and she quickly scurried off to alleviate the problem.  Upon returning with my lemonade, Dara and I placed our food order, under the notion that we'd split everything in half.

Chilled Gulf Shrimp Salad: serving as an "appetizer" of sorts, this plate of artfully composed ingredients arrived simultaneously with a short loaf of homemade bread and spreadable butter.  Three of the largest and most plump shrimp I've ever seen were carefully placed atop steamed and halved artichoke hearts, ribbons of sliced fennel, and a shallow pool of "coral vinaigrette," which tasted similar to French dressing.  Aside from the bland "coral vinaigrette," and the fact that the shrimp had not been de-veined, I was quite pleased with this dish.  Texturally, the "Chilled Gulf Shrimp" was a hit.

Minetta Tavern: Chilled Gulf Shrimp, $16Shirred Eggs & Black Truffles: I must give Dara credit for this entree, as it was she who chose to order it.  The dish's name alone prompts diners, such as myself, to wonder, "What in the hell is a 'shirred egg?'"  Basically, a shirred egg is a fancy ass term for "baked eggs."  MT's version was served in a ramekin (approximately 6" x 6"x 1") that had been filled to the brim, then baked, with what appeared to be three shirred eggs, heavy cream, a sharp cheese along the lines of comte or gruyere, and finished with shaved black truffles, fresh parsley, and coarsely-ground black pepper.  "Baguette soldiers," or pieces of crunchy, buttered toast/crostini (in layman's terms) served as an accompaniment.  The best way to describe the taste of the shirred eggs would be to have you imagine: poached eggs + gruyere cheese-flavored custard + butter + heavy cream + earthy black truffles + fondue.  Note to self: must order an extra side of bread to sop up all of the rich, decadent goodness that is the "shirred eggs."

Minetta Tavern: Shirred Eggs & Black Truffles, $20And...drum roll, please...the infamous Black Label Burger (we'll call it the "BLB" for short): if you were to compare this burger to a person, it's right on par, visually, with Megan Fox (or whomever you find to be the most attractive woman on the planet).  Yes folks, it is that stunning to look at.  

"How would you like your burger cooked?" the waitress asked.  Dara and I looked at each other and agreed that "medium" was a safe bet.  The waitress smiled, scribbled down our order, then stepped away.  Literally, about one-minute later, she returned with a nervous grin.  "Our kitchen prepares our food in the European fashion.  Do you know what a 'medium-cooked' hamburger patty looks like?  It's not bloody, but does have a pink center."  Was this lady serious?  "European fashion?"  Wasn't the hamburger created in the U.S.A.?  I know that the waitress meant well, but her patronizing words came out humorously wrong.

Since the kitchen knew that Dara and I were going to share the BLB, they split the burger for us prior to service.  We met this gesture with much appreciation; as cutting a burger in half is messy!  Each of our plates were topped with: a "butter lettuce" leaf, tomato slice, house-made pickles (I actually hated them; the pickles were extremely sour and gag-inducing), a mound of piping hot French fries, and one-half of a burger.  Served atop a buttered, sesame-seed brioche bun, was about a 1"-thick beef patty oozing with its own juices.  The outer circumference of the patty had at least, and I'm not exaggerating, a 1/2mm "crust," which I assume was achieved by spending a serious amount of time simmering in butter.  A thin schmear of caramelized onions crowned the patty.  *Note to future diners: MT does not serve the BLB with cheese and, if requested, will urge against it.  They feel that, aside from the caramelized onions, no additional topping should take away from the intense flavor of this special beef blend. 

So, was the BLB worth its $26 price tag?  In my opinion, no.  While it was ridiculously delicious, I still prefer Peter Luger's $8.95 version. 

"Why does MT's BLB cost $26?" you ask.  Click *here* to read more. 

Minetta Tavern: Black Label Burger, $26Conclusion: Did I order dessert?  Yes, I did.  In fact, I ordered a scoop of "malted vanilla ice cream," and it was delicious.  However, I didn't feel the need to write about it because it was not made in house, rather, it's a flavor produced by Il Laboratorio del Gelato.

My experience at MT was enjoyable, too expensive, annoying, delicious, and aloof, all at the same time.  Aside from the lemonade mishap and the patronizing manner in which I was informed that the kitchen "cooks in the European fashion," I found the service we received to be quite pleasant.  The crowd, many decked out in floor-length fur coats donning Birkin bags in every color under the rainbow, was not particularly "my cup of tea."  To me, an ideal Sunday brunch will always be free of: fur, designer bags, and being stared down by cougar socialites with really bad plastic surgery.

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
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