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Casimir Restaurant
103 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 358-9683‎

{Google Maps | Website}

The East Village of New York City is often an enigma to me.  It’s far enough off the subway lines to be secluded enough to house a number of what we like to call “hidden gems” – more so than other out of the way locales like the Upper East Side.  Ten years ago the East Village was just turning from the gritty birthplace of punk rock to a hip, trendy neighborhood, and at the same time Casimir was opening its doors for the first time. 

As the resident French restaurant early on in the emerging East Village scene, owner/host Guillaume Blestel has carefully created a dining experience reminiscent of the off-the-beaten-path, family-run bistros that dot Paris’ back alleys.  Blestel, who also owns Zebulon, a café and performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, turned to executive chef Blair Hanelt to create a menu of classics and new dishes with a decidedly French feel.  You’ll remember why you loved French Onion Soup after tasting Casimir’s version, with each spoonful featuring a harmonizing soup to bread to cheese ratio.  Salads are also a great way to start your meal with refreshing offerings that range from the simple (Mixed Greens) to Gallic-inspired delights such as the new DaBarry (fennel, radicchio, mesclun, asparagus, green beans and truffle oil dressing), or favorites like the Rambuteau (sautéed chicken liver and sweet shallots over greens), Escartefigue (marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, red pepper confit) and Carpaccio (raw beef tenderloin with parmesan, virgin olive oil and arugula).  You can make a meal out of the restaurant’s Paysan Bites, including Casimir Country Pate, Escargots Provencal and Smoked Herring or Grilled Garlic Sausage, both served with warm potato salad.

Tonight my wife & I opted for some traditional dishes.  She started with the Escartefigue salad with marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, and red pepper confit for $9, then moved on to the Pan Seared Grouper With A Tomato Saffron Broth, Zucchini, Carrots & Asparagus for $18.  The Grouper was actually a substitute for Striped Bass.  An inferior substitute?  Hardly.  The grouper was flaky and delicious, and perfectly cooked.  “I love the broth,” she declared.

Steak Tartare

I started with a glass of white Cote Du Rhone which if you’ve never tried it, tastes light & citrusy, not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc but with more bite.  Much richer.  Fantastic!  I started with a traditional Nicoise Salad with tuna – a special on tonight’s menu, and special indeed.  Entrees at Casimir all look delicious on paper, except to my wife.  The thought of Steak Tartare made her ill, but when the waitress recommended it to me, I couldn’t resist.  It was served with fries and greens for $18.  It was perfectly uncooked – slightly spicy, fresh, and creamy.  The wife even tried a bite – and liked it!

Other entrees include Filet Mignon (with black pepper cognac sauce), Steak Frites and Steamed Mussels in white wine.  A decadent Terrine de Foie Gras (with croutons and frisee) is a great take on a French delicacy.  There’s also Murray, a brand new chicken dish (organic free-range honey glazed Moroccan spiced chicken with apricot–olive relish and couscous), Duck Confit (with garlic roasted potatoes and frisee) and “La Frioule, Casimir’s rich fish bouillabaisse.  Penne de Jardin (with seasonal vegetables and truffle oil) and Vegetable Couscous (with baby vegetables and harissa) are great options for those seeking meat-free dining. 

For dessert we ordered the Assiette de Fromage (with apples, grapes and nuts) for $12, and Espresso with Pistacio Ice Cream $4.  Both are outstanding, and I highly recommend either.  Other desserts include Profiteroles and Vanilla Crème Brulee, and  Iles Flottantes, literally ‘Floating Islands,’ an offering of creamy custard topped with poached meringue—the perfect way to end a meal.

Casimir’s eclectic collection of French red, white and rose wines, as well as champagne, beer, and spirits including Pastis, Cognacs, Single-Malt Scotch and Grappa, serve as great accompaniments to any meal.  The restaurant also features a creative cocktail list including Le Zebulon (rum, ginger, lime, nutmeg), Le Casablanca (Malibu, OJ, 7UP) and Le Pollux (Stoli Vanilla, Cointreau, Pineapple) and the new Hippolyte (gin, Cointreau, ginger, lime)

Casimir also serves lunch daily, and a weekend brunch.  The $9.95 Brunch Special features entrees such as Brioche French Toast (served with fresh fruit, syrup and sweetened cream), Croque Monsieur or Madame (served with mixed greens) and Tunisian Eggs (3 eggs baked in terra cotta with spicy tomato and feta).  Their a la carte brunch menu features favorites from their dinner menu suitable for afternoon eating, such as Black Boudin Sausage (with apples and mashed potatoes), Hamburger New Orleans (with tartar sauce and bacon) and the popular La Velodrome salad with arugula, parmesan and roasted garlic croutons.

Casimir is open for dinner from 5:30 pm to 12:00 am Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30 pm to 1:00 am Friday and Saturday.  Weekend brunch runs from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  American Express and cash are accepted.  For more information, visit www.casimirrestaurant.com and become a fan on Facebook.

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reBar
147 Front Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.797.2322
{Google Maps | Flickr Set | Website}

DUMBO gastropub reBar (147 Front Street between Pearl and Jay Streets) is proud to announce recent changes that make it worth a first, second, or even a third look!  The addition of Jeremy Leech as executive chef, a rotating seasonal menu and a redesigned dining area kicks off a whole new era in downtown Brooklyn dining. 

Coming by way of Portland and Orlando after a successful stint as executive sous-chef at Park Slope’s Flatbush Farm, Chef Jeremy Leech brings with him an original take on American Continental cuisine.  Leech collaborated with reBar owner Jason Stevens, bar manager Luke Wheeler and maitre ‘d/wine director Bernard Bunye, to put a decidedly seasonal, organic, and locally sourced spin on dishes designed to complement beer, wine and cocktail offerings.  Whether you visit for lunch, brunch, dinner or just a little something at the bar while enjoying over one of reBar’s 15 taps and 120 bottles of world renowned beers, Chef Leech has created a fresh prospective on pub cuisine.  Lovers of libations need not fear, reBar still features the creative cocktails and outstanding wine selections (many Sustainable Agriculture, Organic, and Biodynamic Farming-produced) that made it the winner of Best New Bar of the Year (2007) by Time Out New York magazine.

Stop in for lunch and enjoy the new $8 lunch break, tempting sandwiches teamed with unlimited fountain soda and a choice of hand cut fries, mango fennel apple slaw or side salad.  Offerings include the intimidating ½-pound reBurger (served with house made pickles, Spanish onions, Roma tomato, lettuce, harissa mayo and American cheese on an artisan potato bun – add Chubi bacon for $2 extra), the Philly Cheese Steak (plus Chef Jeremy’s smoked gouda cheese sauce wit’ or wit’out, on a baked Amoroso’s roll), a decadent Grilled Cheese (Danish blue, provolone, imported parmesan with truffle oil, on pressed ciabatta) and reBar’s signature Pulled Pork (24 hour cured, 7 hour slow roasted Smithfield pork, house made BBQ sauce on an artisan potato bun with a side of crème fraiche).  There is even a Vegan (grilled seasonal veggies and soy spread within a baked Amoroso’s roll) for those seeking a meat and dairy-free option.

A la carte lunch offerings are divided into soups and salads, and small plates including Sweet Pea Soup (delicious Chubi bacon another $2 away), a vibrant Cobb Salad (mixed greens, egg whites & yolks, blue cheese, cucumbers, seasonal vegetables; extra for all natural chicken, house marinated hanger steak and seared fish du jour), Marble Potatoes (cast iron roasted with forest mushrooms, confit garlic cream sauce, provolone), a creamy bowl of Mac ‘N Cheese (elbow macaroni, chef’s smoked gouda sauce – bacon $2 extra) and Lemon-scented Artichoke and Spinach Dip (with crispy naan bread). Also unique to the lunch menu is a 12 ounce 24 day dry-aged Angus New York Strip Steak, served with whisky peppercorn sauce and stacks of hand cut fries.

Dinner dazzles as Chef Leech brings his seasonal sensibilities to small plates, soups and salads and mains.  Start with highlights including Ahi Tuna Two Ways (seared/raw center cut, peppermint oil, smoked salt), Yellow Wax Beans (sautéed with spicy chorizo, pearl onions), Leafless Salad (hearts of palm, mixed plum tomatoes, feta cheese, Meyer lemon vinaigrette) and the outstandingly simple and EatingEverywhere.com recommended Polenta (sunny side up egg, truffle oil, pine nuts, parsley salad).

Main’s include Silk Road Bouillabaisse (South Asian saffron broth, blue prawns, day boat scallops, Wellfleet little neck clams, Bouchot mussels, Spanish sardines, seasonal vegetables, baguette), Artichoke (roasted organic with smoked faro, maitake mushrooms, white asparagus-garlic emulsion), Boar Sausage (house made polenta, O’Hara’s demi glace, sautéed organic green and white asparagus), Chicken Breast (brick pressed free-range organic with organic spring succotash) and Fish of the Day (Chef’s preparation).

Weekend brunch features all of your mid-day favorites including eggs, pancakes, and waffles.  Other specialties include Stuffed French Toast (with marshmallow fluff) Fried Chicken & Waffles (with pure Vermont maple syrup) and House-Smoked Salmon (with egg yokes/whites, capers, red onions, toast and cream cheese).  The bar menu, features a selection of small plate dishes as well as original bites such as Paprika Almonds and Crispy Crab Stuffed Cucumbers

Don’t tell anyone, but reBar even has a secret menu!  Tucked in the back of every check server (which are old novels) is a menu of specials and unique dishes for those in the know.

reBar also boasts a new look.  Once the site of the Grand Union Tea Company, reBar has managed to preserve the integrity of its home while remaining appealing to modern diners.  The focal point of the revamped dining room is the Lee Davis designed 2,000 lb (one ton) 20 foot communal table, crafted from reclaimed wood.  With seating for up to 22 guests on this centerpiece, large groups and couples alike can dine together beneath the antique chandeliers and soaring terra-cotta barrel-vaulted ceilings.  Cork paneling interplays with brick walls and custom made tables and chairs to give the area a warm and inviting feel.  The bar area is separated by dramatic ironwork that leads to another communal “harvest table” (this one bar height) as well as seating at the bar and perimeter. Works by some of the area’s most talented artists inject modern flavor into the airy public and private dining areas.

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reBar is located in the heart of Brooklyn’s DUMBO at 147 Front Street, and is open daily Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 am to 2:00 am, and Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 am.  reBar takes reservations on www.Opentable.com and through their website.  For more information, please call owner Jason Stevens at 917-406-9192, or 718.797.2322 for reservations and to reach reBar directly, or visit www.rebarnyc.com . 

MELTMelt
440 Bergen Street @ 5th Ave (Park Slope)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
347-756-5522

{Google Maps | Website}

Open Mon 5:30pm-10pm; Tue-Thu 5:30pm-11pm; Fri 5:30pm-12am; Sat 10:30am-12am; Sun 10:30am-10pm

A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing the Top Chef Season 4 contestant, New Zealand born chef Mark Simmons for Debonair Magazine. At the time he was co-executive chef at Get Fresh Market & Table also in Park Slope. He has since moved on, however to what I assumed would have been greener pastures. Get Fresh is about as green as you can get. It’s organic, fresh, and the menu changes based on what’s available. The name Melt invokes images of tuna and cheese, grilled cheese, cheese fondue…lots of cheese, and hardly green.

Mark Simmons

Last month Mark hosted a tasting menu on a Tuesday night, and I thought it might be nice to check it out. At first glance, Melt hardly looks greener. It has a trendy vibe. The interior is sober & modern in a West Elm sort of way. The bar is well stocked and neatly displayed. They have beautiful dark hardwood floors and a glass storefront that opens to Bergen Street. The design hardly matches the name, and I would come to find out that the food – the most important factor makes you forget you even cared about the other two.

My fried Andrew joined me for the meal. The offering was a 5-course tasting menu for $25 plus wine pairings for an additional $20. We started with roasted butternut squash soup with a basil pine nut dumpling. The soup was creamy without being overbearing. The dumpling – more like a potato croquette added some crunch to the smoothness of the soup. The wine pairing was perfect! They gave us a 2006 Tinto Grio from Portugal. It is a light red; a little bit sweet, but dry enough to balance out the sweetness of the soup.

The next course was a Nicoise Salad made with iceberg lettuce, olives, seared tuna, soft boiled quail eggs, and a champagne vinaigrette paired with Elderlen Unoaked Chardonnay, 2008 Australia. I’m not usually a huge fan of chardonnay, but this one is exquisite! Again the wine balanced out the food – a dish dominated by the tuna, but completed by the divine quail eggs.

The first of two meat courses was a rack of lamb with sweet potato puree and sauteed spinach paired with a California Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m a huge fan of lamb, and this cut was just gamy enough. I don’t like when lamb is too mellow. That’s why I order lamb – for the flavor! This was bold, but the sweetness of the squash mellowed the pungent meat. And again the wine pairing was spot on.

The second meat course was a beer braised pork short rib with baby broccoli & potato gratin paired with an Aglionico from Italy, 2006. This wine had notes of pepper, allspice, chocolate, & blackberry – bolder flavors than the fall-off-the-bone short rib. Oddly, upon finishing this course neither of us felt overly full. Satisfied, but not stuffed. Isn’t that how all meals should be?

Finally, for dessert we had tapioca pudding with maple glazed figs and a 2006 German Reisling. There was a certain saltiness and spiciness to the pudding – perhaps from nutmeg. I’m of the thought that dessert doesn’t have to be overly sweet, but just sweet enough. I could eat cheese for dessert. Anything paired with the perfect wine works. And this entire meal worked. And not only did it work, but it left me thinking about how to justify it in print, and four weeks later here I am reciting it mostly from memory and urging all ye readers to try this place. I forgot that I thought the design was cold, and that the name, Melt made no sense at first and just enjoyed the warm food.

Andy & I ordered a follow-up glass of the Tinto Grio and discussed the name. We concluded it must have something to do with the melting of flavors, cultures, and emotions that went into the meal. We left satisfied, pleased, and not much poorer – out about $60 each for what I think is one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Brooklyn or anywhere else.

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