Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Come off the beaten path: Danny Brown

A restaurant review by Eric Guido


Beet Salad 
Assorted Beets with Fresh Goat Cheese, 
Pepper Cress & Hazelnut Vinaigrette 
It’s funny how we often lose ourselves in the restaurant game. We read about the newest and hippest place, or the restaurant edition of our favorite magazine fills our minds with all the anticipation of that perfect meal, leading to an infatuation with an establishment a state or two away—or even on the other side of the country. Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about what’s out there that we forget what’s right down the road. This year, I’ve been working hard to commit myself to my local restaurateurs, and lucky for me, there’s a burgeoning food and wine scene that’s taken shape only five minutes away from my home.

Now I don’t live in Manhattan or Williamsburg, nor do I live in Astoria or Dumbo. No, I live in Glendale, Queens, only a stones throw away from Forest Hills and some of the finest dining that Queens has to offer, but most people don’t know it yet.


Confit of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck
Red Beets, Braised Leeks, Wilted Frisée & Leek Vinaigrette 
This brings me to Danny Brown, a small corner footprint on Metropolitan Ave. and 71st drive. It wasn’t its Wine Spectator Award of Excellence or Zagat’s list of 8 top New York Wine bars which drew me there. Nor was it the Michelin star that Danny Brown received in 2011. Instead it was true word of mouth, the best kind of restaurant guide. So what kept me from Danny Brown for so long? Literally, it was my old way of thinking that my fine dining should be done in the city because of my small-minded way of thinking that the city is where everything new and interesting would be happening. What a mistake.

The calm before the storm.  Not a table
was empty when we left an hour later.
Before I go any further, it bears mentioning, with all of the praise I’m about to heap on this excellent restaurant, that my meal took place on a Sunday night. Sunday night, generally considered being one of the worst nights to dine out. Yet, you’d never know it from this experience, nor would I say it matters here, as excellence appears to be expected at all times at Danny Brown.

You have got to love dining in view
of the kitchen.  The smells and sounds
add so much depth to the experience.
I entered into an unimposing dining room, clean, precise and with an understated elegance, which immediately put me at ease. Our table overlooked the small kitchen, lending a reassurance to this establishment’s confidence in their art and form. Each chef was on display; all stations were easily in view and the calm, professionalism of each employee shone through in spades.


Marinated Seafood Salad 
Scallops, Shrimp & Squid w/ shaved Radicchio

Haricots Verts, Tarragon Pistou & Basil Aïoli
The menu was broken down into small or “bigger” plates, with an entire page dedicated to cured meats and cheeses. It was described by Danny Brown as an informal mix of French, Italian and Spanish cuisine with a blend of traditional and current cooking methods. Informal may be a descriptor used here, and I can attest to how cozy and relaxing my meal was, but the food was to die for and could be presented at some of the top-level restaurants I’ve experienced throughout my life. This isn’t what I’d expect at a country table in France—instead it’s fine dining without the pretense.

Hand Made Ricotta Gnocchi
Riesling Poached Apricots, Shaved Cucumber,
Speck & Marjoram 
     
The portion sizes were perfect for a multi-course dinner, and honestly, that’s the best way to enjoy this meal, because only one “bigger” plate, would only be a sinful temptation to what you would be missing. Now that I’ve dined here, my next visit will include even more plates with a group that won’t mind sharing. Each course came with a level of intensity and depth that I would expect from a Per Se tasting menu, along with a delineation of flavors, which could be perfectly blended on the fork or enjoyed one bite at a time. I am in love.

2010 Schloss Vollrads Riesling - A nose
of honeysuckle, peach skins & spring
grass.  Ripe peach, cantaloupe & citrus
rind on the palate with an acid twang.
Finishing clean and mouth-watering.
The wines list provided a perfect mix of both affordable and reserve level offerings, with a fairly priced list of wines by the glass. It wasn’t the largest tome imaginable, nor was it lacking in any way. Instead, it read like a well-stocked cellar, with a range from the young and fruity through the aged and nuanced. I had no doubt that I could find a wine for any occasion. On this evening, I chose a young 2012 Riesling with a noticeable level of residual sugar and low alcohol, perfect for a Sunday dinner for two. And the price--$45!

I left Danny Brown with a list of reasons why I must go back again and a check for two that came to a little over $200 for three courses and a bottle of wine. It was the perfect marriage of excellence, flavor, diversity, atmosphere and value. I highly recommend taking the time to come off the beaten path and enjoy this wonderful dining experience.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post Eric. Local gems are always special. We have few in Jersey as well.

    ReplyDelete