Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Breslin, New York NY

If one were to attempt to explain the “boutique” ACE hotel to a friend the descriptors would undoubtedly include brash, hipster, unique, and *gasp* affordable considering its location. With a fresh flower man in the doorway, an eclectic souvenir store in the lobby, and more fedoras and skinny jeans than you can shake a stick at, the ACE also contains three eateries and a coffee shop – the most notable of which is the newly Michelin Starred “The Breslin.” Owned and operated by April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig fame and considered “nose-to-tail” and “meat-centric” I have to admit the concept screamed “gastropub” to me, but a quick review of the breakfast menu also suggested I check it out to find out for myself.

Taking the early train from New Hyde Park to Penn and greeted by far less friendly weather conditions than the day prior I made my way expediently to the ACE Hotel only to walk right past the main entrance before stopping at Stumptown and making an about-face. Entering through the lobby entrance as the front doors were not yet open I was greeted by two young ladies at the hostess stand and led to a table without delay. Opting to keep my bag and coat with me the bag took a chair while I took the booth and within seconds my water and coffee were filled and a menu presented.

Already well aware of what I’d be ordering before I arrived I next spent some time examining the interior – heavy, dark, “pub-y” quite like The Girl and The Goat in Chicago, but significantly smaller. With the kitchen wide open to public view and myriad animal sculptures of various materials and forms aplenty the feel was essentially a gussied up hunting lodge. Sipping my nutty Stumptown blend it wouldn’t be long before my server would arrive – a cute and bubbly young woman named Allison who called everyone dear, babe, or hun regardless of age or gender. Pleasant, fun, and upbeat despite being the only primary server on duty that morning (all the while training another young lady, as well) I have to say that the service was great from her end but lacking from the ancillary staff as coffee often sat empty and required requests for a refill.

With a soundtrack of stereotyped 80’s kitsch playing overhead and orders placed it would be perhaps 15 minutes of reading my Relais & Chateaux guide before my first course would arrive – the $18 Oven baked 3 cheese sandwich with house smoked ham and egg. Thinking to myself that for $18 this had better be the best egg sandwich ever – well, I’ll just say that if it wasn’t the best, it was certainly close – this was a damned good sandwich. With at two hefty slices of savory ham tucked between thick slices of buttered sourdough and loaded with cheese the sandwich was rustic and hearty at baseline – the addition of a barely cooked farm egg simply put it over the top.

With Allison returning to collect my empty plate a new pair of diners sat down next to me and while browsing the menu I overheard them discussing my follow-up to the egg sandwich – the lady of the pair referring to it as the most decadent thing she’d ever eaten for breakfast. Described on arrival by Allison as “the devil’s doughnut,” the fried peanut and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla was most certainly decadent, but I’d suggest it a creation from the heavens rather from below. This time replacing sourdough with hollowed out brioche roll this sandwich was much more a doughnut and absolutely stuffed with bourbon and vanilla poached bananas and gooey peanut butter. Topped with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar as though it weren’t already sweet enough, it isn’t the most decadent thing I’ve ever eaten for breakfast, but I think that says more about me than it does about The Breslin.

With another coffee refill plus one for the road my check was delivered – pricey for breakfast to be sure, but worth every penny given the quality of the food. Thanking Allison and leaving just as the opening notes of Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine started overhead I made my way to street after wandering the hotel for a bit – the flower guy was still there and so were the hipsters lined up out the door at Stumptown, like Tribeca or Soho had migrated uptown - perhaps for good reason given my experience at The Breslin.


Roz said...

Excellent job, as usual. I found your description of the "scene" especially interesting. As you know, we've not been to The Breslin or to the John Dory Oyster Bar (though we did go once to the original John Dory with u.e.). But when we drive back to NJ, we always take 29th St.. thus regularly passing the Ace, and sometimes having to stop near the front because of cab jams. You've done a great job satisfying my curiosity about what it's like inside.

That donut thingy has my mouth watering. (Note to self: Do *not* read uhockey's reviews *before* eating breakfast!) If not for the music, I'd be checking that puppy out!

uhockey said...

The music is cheesy, but it is actually quite restrained compared to the Chang, Batali, etc of the world - it is actually part of the "scene" and didn't really overwhelm - I'd still check the place out, but perhaps for a weekend brunch with the even more diverse menu.

Roz said...

As a lamb lover, I've always been intrigued by The Breslin's lamb burger, which everyone who's had it says is fantastic. However, there's no way I'd ever go to The Breslin for weekend brunch (or lunch or dinner) because in addition to the "scene" in general not being my thing, they do not take reservations.

We've not been to Babbo because (a) I refuse to do the telephone tango, and (b) I know the music would irritate me.

uhockey said...

That is fair - the Breslin is actually QUIET compared to Babbo, but Babbo is really quite excellent. That said, you can get Batali's food at ~10 places in NYC, so it isn't the "destination" it once was.

Avoid Ko. And if you ever go to Chicago, think Alinea and not Schwa. :)

Roz said...

True about Batali restaurants. Our building is situated close to Eataly (just across Madison Sq. Park), so that takes care of Italian. And Irving Place is only a few blocks away, so there's Casa Mono, which I know you love. I really must get there again to have the foie gras. It's being served with "cinco cebollas." I just found this mouthwatering photo of it on Serious Eats:

As you've seen from the discussion about Ko on CH, I have no intention of going there.

I've never been to Chicago and would very much like to try some of the restaurants there. If we ever do the road trip to K.C. we've talked about, I'd certainly think about mapping a route that would include a couple of days in Chicago.