A while ago I read an article about Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, a small kitchen which is attached to a grocery store. The piece questioned whether this was the toughest reservation to get in the USA. I was intrigued as I had never heard of the place. It was once it received a third Michelin star that it happened. I decided to try and get a reservation. A New York food blog told me “try to get a reservation, you won’t’’. This only spurred me on further. How dare that mean blog man tell me I couldn’t go!
So, six weeks from our journey, I got myself prepared. Two phones, ten fingers and an iron will. After 40 minutes I got through. I felt sick. ‘Please hold’ I was told three times before I was finally transferred to the reservations lady. There was nothing. I could have cried. Such stress and anxiety and I was brutally rebuffed.
I was dejected, yet I had to try again the following week. After 30 minutes of pressing the redial button until my fingers hurt, I was given a reservation on the last night of our holiday. My co-workers thought such a level of giddiness was un-achievable. They were wrong.
We didn’t really know what to expect as there aren’t many pictures online and you can’t preview the menu before hand. But it’s all very simple. Chef’s Table is just that. A Chef’s Table in the middle of a kitchen with 18 seats, a nice lady who hosts the evening, and one waitress.
In the beginning everybody sat quietly, backs straight on the less than comfortable stools. I saw some alpha males puffing their chests out as they competed for title of most seasoned diner at Chef’s Table. The curly haired chap across from us won the ram battle with two previous visits. Quick fingers (or lots of minions) I thought to myself.
We could see Chef milling around overseeing the final pre-meal preparations. At the time it was BYOB (they have since procured their liquor license) so we sipped our wine and waited in suspenseful silence.
There was lots of sashimi (LOTS), sea urchin, abalone, caviar, masses of white truffle, octopus; this place is not for the fussy eater. Everything was delicious and totally unlike anything I have eaten before. Mostly Japanese in influence but other varieties as well. No theatre, no nitrous oxide, no deconstructed classics. Just exciting cooking of the highest level. Mind blown.
After a few courses everybody was chatting happily. This is a place for serious restaurant goers and we shared our stories from The Fat Duck and Noma with some lovely Americans who in turn enlightened us about Alinea and Masa. They even asked us out for ramen afterwards. They were obviously more seasoned eaters than us, as we were stuffed.
After we’d polished off the final dessert (a soufflé with lemon thyme ice-cream, phenomenal) Chef Ramirez ventured around the room and chatted with everybody. What a nice guy. I’d read he was shy, but we found him funny and personable. He joked about the location of the restaurant, calling it ‘Crooklyn Fare’ and he had a good chat with the hubby about tattoos. The only secret to his cooking he would share with me was that ‘onions and garlic are the life force of all food’. I couldn’t agree more.
Photos and notes are not allowed at Chef’s Table (hubby sneakily took the one above). They also don’t provide menus to take away with you. I even emailed to request one, but was told most politely that they don’t publish this information. I both love and hate this. It pains me that I can’t remember every morsel that we ate; with 25 courses, there’s no way we could and for this reason, I wish I had pictures to help with my ailing memory. But on the other hand, there is an element of mystery around the meal, even to those who have been. The memories I do have are of beautifully presented food, bright colours, great smells & the excitement of not knowing what was coming next.
Three Michelin stars, no table cloths, one waitress, one toilet. Yet this is probably the best meal I have ever eaten. It is so intimate and eye opening and my palate was so challenged. It is expensive (even more so now it’s no longer BYOB) but this is special occasion dining and its tasting menu at $185 is still cheaper than a lot of its three star peers in the New York restaurant scene.
I learned a few days ago that it is upsizing to a site in Manhattan; still keeping The Chef’s Table but including regular seating also. This saddens me greatly; I can’t help but worry its going to lose its charm. Venturing out to Brooklyn on the subway was all part of the experience and to eat Chef Ramirez’s food without watching the preparation surely will lose a lot of the magic. But I suppose time will tell.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, it’s been emotional.