Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dressler: Season to Taste...

Because everyone likes a little controversy, Eater's post last week about a pissed off patron who "freaked out" after receiving a suggested tip card with their check at Williamsburg restaurant can be viewed as either a cautionary tale, or just another shameless attempt to drum up attention. A majority of the website's faithful took it upon themselves to not only blast the original commenter, but also proclaim to the world how they ALWAYS tip 40%. Thus, it seem as good a time as any to discuss my meal at Dressler from this past Fall.

Having long been a fan of both DuMont and DuMont BurgerMW and I were eager to visit restaurateur Colin Devlin's more refined Michelin-starred sister. Helmed by Chef Polo Dobkin, Dressler has a reputation as being a bastion of Brooklyn fine dining, which may have contributed to my unrealistic expectations, and ultimately resulted in an underwhelming experience.

Unassumingly located on Broadway just down the street from Diner and Peter Lugar, lies Dressler. Looks can be deceiving, and what appeared to be little more than a quaint neighborhood restaurant was buzzing with activity by the time we arrived for our reservation. Dim lighting with intricately crafted chandeliers and an absolutely stunning bar summed up the restaurant's aesthetic-- nothing like either of its neighbors. Speaking of the bar, we decided to start with two cocktails. MW's order, The Gretsch - Hendrick's Gin, Cucumber Infused Vermouth - read smooth and crisp, but ended up tasting way too strong. Similarly, I also experienced a lack of balance with The Brooklyn - Wild Turkey Rye, Maraschino, Antica Sweet Vermouth, Amber Picon - finding it slightly overwhelming.

Bread service consisted of two choices: a Multi Grain or Ciabatta Roll served with butter and salt. The butter was nice and soft, but neither was memorable.

Our server arrived and explained that the restaurant had just recently dropped its tasting menu, which in hindsight was quite possibly a blessing in disguise on this particular night. Ordering a la carte, we decided to start with the Oyster Tasting which included two of the following varieties: Beausoliel (New Brunswick), Watch Hill (Rhode Island), Island Creek (Duxbury, Massachusetts), Kumamoto (South Puget Sound, Washington) and Fanny Bay (Vancouver Island, British Columbia) with Mignonette and Horseradish. Fresh and briny, these were not only a wonderful beginning, but ended up being the best course of the entire meal.

For her appetizer MW chose the Pan Roasted Diver Scallops with Cauliflower, Chanterelles, Pancetta and White Truffle Oil. The scallops had a distinct sear on them and looked magnificent. but were completely overpowered by excessive amounts of salt and truffle oil. Considered one of the restaurant's signature dishes (and our most anticipated), we were left to wonder what could have been had the kitchen exercised some more restraint.

My Veal Sweetbreads with an Apple-Fennel Purée, Roasted Tomato, Sherry Vinaigrette and Demi Glace was more of the same. Much like the scallops, the sweetbreads were prepared flawlessly only to be ruined by too much salt. The flavor of the crisp sweetbreads were masked by an over-reduced demi glace rendering it acrid, and left us to wondering how the rest of our meal would fare.

Fortunately, MW's Grilled Striploin "4x4" with Romesco, Fingerlings, Onion Jam, Chanterelles and Bordelaise was slightly better. The striploin was well cooked, and the combination of the nutty romesco, earthy chantrelles and sweet onion jam accented the meat beautifully. Overall the dish desperately needed some acid, as the potatoes and bordelaise left us searching for the server refilling water glasses. 

My Roasted Long Island Duck and Confit Crepinette with Boulangere Potato, Sautéed Spinach and Baby Turnips also seemed a bit heavy. As with almost everything this evening, the duck had been cooked perfectly (are you beginning to see a theme?). Thick medium rare slices of breast meat with an incredibly crisped skin was fanned over a bed of spinach next to a crepinette of moist duck confit. But just as our other dishes were marred by over-seasoning, this too fell victim to a similar fate. Like with MW's striploin, a little bit of acid could have gone a long way to help mitigate the aggressively seasoned crepinette.

Figuring that the restaurant's sweets would be spared from too much salt, we both opted for dessert. Whatever mishaps the kitchen was experiencing sure did not translate to the pastry area, as both of our desserts were somewhat redeeming. MW's Cheesecake with Port Wine Roasted Figs, Pignoli Crust and Orange Vanilla Sauce was a sophisticated version of this iconic dessert. A light cheesecake topped with complex port roasted figs and a savory pine nut crust was far better than all of those dense and cloyingly sweet impersonators.

My Maple Crème Caramel with Candied Pecans and Cherry Sauce was also noteworthy. The delicate maple-flavored crème caramel juxtaposed magnificently with the sour cherry sauce and crunchy pecans. Smooth, sour and crunchy all in one, we also liked how the desserts fit the restaurant's seasonal theme.

To finish our meal we were presented with petits fours, which in our case, was two mini Pistachio Cookies.

As much as it pains me to write this, our disappointing experience at Dressler forced me to consider the merit of former New York Times critic Mimi Sheraton's recent comments regarding Brooklyn restaurants in general. Sadly, at least in the case of the Dressler, I actually find myself somewhat in agreement with Ms. Sheraton, and while I often champion Brooklyn restaurants, there are far too many good restaurants throughout New York City to warrant a return to Dressler. I'm perfectly willing, even hoping, to accept the fact that we may have caught the kitchen on an off day, bug it's undeniable that Dressler left us with a bad taste in our mouths.

149 Broadway
Brooklyn, New York 11211
(718) 384-6343

Dressler on Urbanspoon

To see all the pictures from this meal click HERE.

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