Friday 29 July 2016

An Intimate 3-Star Experience at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare

200 Schermerhorn St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
+1 718-243-0050

Reservations recommended?: YES- It took Hubby 200 (YES 200!) tries on the phone, the moment the restaurant opened for reservations for our preferred date (6 weeks ahead).  You must be willing to persevere and even then you may not be lucky enough to get a seat.
Note there is no online booking available.

Atmosphere: Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare is a tiny 18 seat space, in what appeared to be a rather sketchy area of Brooklyn (at least hen we were there before our 9:45 reservation).  But don't let that scare you off.  Once they quickly lock the door behind you, you will instantly feel as though you are in the best of hands.  You will be led to your seat around the stainless steel counter, where you will watch the magical show unfold.  With only 4 chefs in the kitchen (including chef Cesar Ramirez himself), it is a perfectly orchestrated display of precision, artistry and unbeatable talent.  The intimacy of the space sets Chef's Table apart from other Michelin Star restaurants in its ability to make each guest feel as though they had received a personal invite from Chef Ramirez himself.
One small tip- for those with back/knee issues, you will be pretty tightly squat in against the counter which may not be the most comfortable so yo may wish to request a seat at either end.  I did, appreciated the hook for my purse under the counter!

Service: The service at Chef's Table is second to none.  From the moment you walk in the door, you are treated like a part of the family.  Chef Ramirez personally came to welcome us, and then returned to check in several times during the meal to ensure that we were enjoying our dishes.  The hostess, who stood all night in the centre of the counter (we have yet to figure out how she got in there!) was a delight, and delivered all of our dishes with a brief description and a suggestion on how it should be eaten (all in one bite, with your hands, all components together, etc).  The sommelier for the evening was refreshingly down to earth, and took time to come chat with us informally about our stay in New York and give us some touring tips.  We were also visited by a new member of the staff who was a fellow Vancouverite.  There was no way we could have been made to feel more at home.

Food: This is the only Michelin Star place I have been yet that does not allow diners to snap shots of their food.  It was sad not having any photos to look back on the next day, =but I guess they have their reasons for this rule.  Even without pictures though, I can remember each dish, especially my favourites, even without the visual.  The food at Chef's Table is fairly simple for the most part, without a lot of bells and whistles attached.  Having said that, the dishes are anything but boring.  The flavours that are created in the seemingly "simple" dishes are outstanding, especially when you consider the small space and few pieces of equipment that he is working with.  There is definitely a focus on seafood here, especially shellfish, but surprisingly my favourite dish was the plate of vegetables prepared on their grill while Hubby's was the beef.  It would be difficult to find fault with any of the plates though- the word "perfection" certainly comes to mind.

Overall Verdict?
Chef's Table At Brooklyn Fare is a true labor of love for Chef Ramirez, which is evidenced by the fact that he is still there working the line with the other chefs (very admirable) and by the heart and soul that comes through in each of his dishes.  The intimate feeling created by all of the staff is unparalleled, and creates a very memorable dining experience.  I will certainly have fond memories for a long time to come.

Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday 10 July 2016

Juniper Kitchen and Bar- Chinatown's Newest Local Gem

185 Keefer St
Vancouver, BC 
V6B 6L4
(604) 681-1695

Reservations required? Probably a good idea, although if you show up and have some time to kill while you wait for a table, the Keefer Bar is right next store, and a great place to grab a pre-dinner cocktail.

Atmosphere (4.5/5)- The room at Keefer is refreshing and casual, with simple light wood decor, accented with nice blue banquets.  The space is divided into a bar level, with a dining space and the bar with a few high top tables. A few steps down to a lower dining level where we sat.  On the night of our visit (around 8:30) the space was only around half full but was actually much busier when we left at around 10:30.  The space lends itself well to the early and late night crowd alike, with its great bar and welcoming vibe.

Service (4.5/5)- Our main server for the evening was extremely personable and engaging.  We received a great rundown of the menu and all of our questions were answered.  Our dishes were delivered in good time, and our water glasses constantly refilled.  I noted that all of our servers seemed to be very passionate about their work and the restaurant in general, which added to the overall experience.

Food and drink (8.5/10)- There is a handful of cocktails on the menu (plus a few specials), and a small but well thought out selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle, including a good selection of local wines).  Few beers on tap (all local) as well.

The menu is divided into "the cellar" (bar snacks), "wood board" (charcuterie/cheese), "fields and forage" (veggies/fish) and "puddle and pond" (meat).  There were also a few feature dishes on the night of our visit, which incorporated ingredients available that particular day/week.  Dishes are meant to share, and choosing a few dishes from each section of the menu (depending on the number in your party) is recommended.  The menu is constantly evolving based on seasonality, and we were told that about 30% of the menu turns over within any given month.  I particularly enjoyed the generous portion of seasonal veggies (cabbage, sprouts, radish) on every dish, which added freshness and contributed to that local flair.  At the end of the night, our bill was $170 (including a bottle of wine) which we thought was reasonable for the quantity and quality of food.

As it was only Hubby and I, we decided to skip the snacks and move right into the wood boards.  We opted for the fish charcuterie which was a genius play on the typical meat charcuterie (and perfect for pescatarians like me!).  The combination of fish changes regularly, and on the night of our visit consisted of a "pot of octopus" (grilled and chopped in a mason jar, covered in black sesame seeds- my favourite!), smoked tuna and anchovies.  On the side was a nice selection of flatbread, crostini, pickled veg and sprouts. A great sharing plate and the perfect start to the meal.

Grilled beets and burrata- This was my favourite dish, which is not surprising since I am such a sucker for beets.  This was a perfectly composed dish, with grilled beet, grilled baby carrot and a bit of raw beet and a carrot puree for contrasting textures.  Add some creamy burrata cheese and you have a winner!

Smoked duck wings- Hubby could not stop talking about these gems, particularly the sweet, sticky, Asian-flavoured sauce.

Turnip top and tail gnocchi- I loved everything about this dish, except the unfortunate inedible skin of the turnips (the only let down of the evening).  The gnocchi themselves were wonderful, and the hazelnuts were a perfect addition to an otherwise light dish.

Black lentil cabbage roll- These were literally a vegan's dream, with perfectly cooked lentils rolled inside a cabbage leaf and topped with a slew of mixed mushrooms.  Filling and delicious!

Overall verdict?  
Juniper is a place that I can see myself going back to again and again.  With its constantly changing, local menu, its welcoming atmosphere and heartfelt service, I hope that I am right in predicting a long and successful life for this Chinatown newbie.  Until the next time Juniper!

Juniper Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato