Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
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.
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