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200 Schermerhorn St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel. +1 718 243-0050
20 Course Tasting Menu
This recent dinner at Brooklyn Fare was one of my most memorable culinary experiences. Chef César Ramirez’s food dazzles at every turn, with a seemingly endless array of thrilling twists and turns.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Brooklyn Fare at all. Too many rules. No cell phones, no photos, no note taking. And a dress code. I hate dress codes. Tables are booked six weeks in advance, which requires considerable planning ahead. My personal preference is for a little more spontaneity. But I had heard so many great things about the food and reservations are extremely hard to come by. When dear friends called and told us they had made a booking, we couldn’t resist the temptation to check it out. I am thrilled we did.
What followed was one of the most spectacular dining experiences I have ever been a part of. Ramirez, who is originally from Mexico, is quite shy at first. Over time, though, his Latin warmth emerges. Guests will see Ramirez doing a bit of everything, from supervising his chefs to clearing tables, each task done with humility and an exacting standard of perfection. Ramirez explains that he wants guests to feel as though they are in his home. Indeed, Chef’s Table is very intimate. The C-shaped counter in the open kitchen seats just 18 guests. A stunning array of copper pots and pans hangs above, adding shades of color, light and reflection that are striking. A team of chefs works behind the stoves with a level of efficiency that is fun to watch. This is the culinary equivalent of ballet. Total grace and no wasted movement. The table settings are elegant and beautiful yet also minimal. Over the course of several hours, a stunning array of white china is brought out. Each course is truly a work of art.
Ramirez’s food draws on French and Japanese themes, especially in the early courses, which are heavily fish and seafood based. Duck and beef appear only towards the end of the meal. Even with the steady procession of courses, some of them quite rich, the food never feels heavy or overdone. The cuisine is inventive, beautifully presented and, most importantly, showcases the purity of pristine raw materials above all else. Some of the influences from the time Ramirez spent working alongside David Bouley are evident, but Ramirez has his own style. There is little question of that. On this night the food is simply dazzling from the first course to the last.
Wine Director Michelle Smith has compiled a beautiful list that is also very well suited to the food. Champagne, grower Champagne in particular, and Burgundy are well represented. All of the wines are served in Zalto glasses, another superb touch. On this night, we brought the wines, but there are plenty of excellent choices on the list that I would be thrilled to drink.
We start with the 2002 Extra Brut Grand Cru Millesimé from Jacques Selosse, which is magnificent. This is an especially fresh, vibrant bottle, with tons of energy, direction and cut. The signature Selosse notes are there, but at the same time, the 2002 appears to be aging slowly and gracefully, which is great news for readers who own this magnificent wine. Champagne is a great match to Cesar Ramirez’s food. At first I thought the richness of Selosse might be too much, but not in this case. The 2002 is simply spectacular. Peter Di Poli’s 2010 Sauvignon Voglar is stunning. Over the last few months, the 2010 has acquired gorgeous textural depth and richness to match its expressive, varietal aromatics. This is another fabulous wine, especially with some of the fattier and smoked fish courses that followed.
Peter Michael’s 2010 Coeur à Coeur, the domaine’s Sémillon/Sauvignon blend, is a bit of a mystery. The wine never seems to come together in the glass. I keep hoping for the aromatics and fruit to emerge, but they never seem to. The 2010 should have been a terrific, but on this night it falls flat. Kistler’s 2010 Pinot Noir Occidental Station Cuvée Catherine, on the other hand is flat-out stunning. Even better than I remember it, the 2010 bursts from the glass with an exotic mélange of dark red and blue fruit, graphite, Asian spices and orange peel. There is a tension and energy to the 2010 that pairs exceptionally well with the fattier meats that appear towards the end of this meal. In a word: stunning!
As we were finishing our dinner, the guest for the second seating started coming in. The show was about to start all over again. Readers who have an opportunity to eat at the Chef’s Table should not hesitate. César Ramirez is a brilliant and extraordinarily talented chef. He is also a visionary. Readers who appreciate the finest in artisan, hand crafted food need to spend some time at Brooklyn Fare while Ramirez is at his peak. The prix-fixe, 20-course seasonal tasting menu is $255 a person plus 20% service. While not inexpensive, I must say it is worth every penny. In today’s world chefs are tempted endlessly by opportunities to expand their empires globally. Even with all of the acclaim he has received, César Ramirez remains down to earth, passionate and obsessed with quality, three of the many reasons I can’t wait to get back to Brooklyn Fare.
-- Antonio Galloni
Cover photo credit: Brooklyn Fare