Friday, November 27, 2009

Take your palate to delicious new heights at Vue Restaurant

By Marshall Slater

Vue Restaurant is, to my knowledge, Brooklyn’s only rooftop dining establishment. While its location atop the Hotel LeBleu (a large and very much in demand luxury boutique hotel) is certainly singular, the venue’s location is further unique, sandwiched in a commercial/retail strip in a neighborhood that is near the end of its transition from working class to a setting that is more luxury condos and Manhattan east than Park Slope south.

And while the restaurant does not sit on a revolving turntable, one side offers views of the Brooklyn cityscape, while the opposite side boasts the outdoor dining room (it will, probably by mid December, be semi-enclosed and heated for immediate and year-round use), which commands unobstructed vistas that stretch from the Verrazano Bridge to the State of Liberty, Lower Manhattan and the towers and lights of midtown.

Vue is actually two carnations with a single name: the restaurant itself sits on the eighth floor, which the Vue bar and lounge is a flight above, completely separate from the dining room and attracting its own crowd for the drinks, the company, the DJs, and the night life. And while this aspect of Vue is very popular, indeed, it is the restaurant which will be the focus of this article.

The dining room has been compared to a slice out of neo-modern Miami, and the comparison has merit. It is designed in a modern, impressionistic style with a soft blue theme of bubbles and waves, flat screens in the walls, floor to ceiling glass to accommodate the views, and soft and comfy banquettes, which stretch in soft angles around the walls. The whole scene is cool and laid back and comes as quite a jolt as you emerge from the elevator, considering the street area downstairs you just left.

So order up a bottle of Riesling and begin perusing the thickly padded books, which contain an innovative and very atypical bill of fare. But do sample the excellent fresh rolls, made irresistible with the addition of marvelous sweet chili butter. Begin the meal with the pan fried noodle wrapped chicken or the filet mignon starter covered with caramelized onions and wrapped with bacon, finished with a chili garlic dressing.

In another singular creation, the meat from short ribs is mashed and spiced and then wrapped in what they call gold coins, actually a thin pastry shell which is presented with a truffle zabaglione dipping sauce on a plate, which has been decorated with a mix of greens and cucumbers slices upon which are placed sliced cherry tomatoes.

The calamari is distinguished in that, instead of small rings, there are thick slices of the seafood, which are marvelously tender and coated with an almost ethereal batter that is delicious and a perfect complement to the seafood. It is served with a sweet chili glaze, adding immensely to your enjoyment. There is also a jumbo lump crabmeat cake that is served with red caviar, diced tomatoes and fresh avocado slices all on lighter than air pastry squares, which crumble away leaving just their essence at first bite. A crème dressing completes the dish.

Now please note that while the tastes are luxurious and the preparation extravagant, pricing is quite reasonable; there is no appetizer above $10 and the average is around $7 or $8.

Entrées continue this exploration into creative combinations and wonderfully clever match-ups of ingredients. A case in point is the burger, here made from Kobe beef, arguably the finest in the world, and served with shoestring fries. The Denmark Baby Back Ribs come with a macaroni and bleu cheese accompaniment. Fried chicken is served with Asian pear slaw and garlic chive mashed potatoes. You get the idea; each dish is a new treat.

Jumbo shrimp (these are true three bite shrimps) are grilled, presented with a sprig of fresh thyme, and served with a topping of minced fresh lobster with an Old Bay dressing and the most gentle — but no less flavorful — BBQ sauce, which is drizzled on the plate. Fresh, sweet, corn (in a heavy cream) is the base of the dish; the corn is a confection unto itself. The dish is artfully plated, with the ingredients forming a lobster tail.

The Mediterranean Sea bass is perfectly filleted and grilled to bring out a singular succulence and moistness. The fish itself is excellent and flavorful; enhanced with Parmesan cheese, fresh veggies, artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Other main courses include an all vegetarian dish aptly named The Garden of Dreams…a full size portion of the filet mignon appetizer mentioned earlier and a Kobe Beef Chili served with Yukon Gold potato skins with bacon, cheddar and sour cream. Salmon is seared and prepared with a Meyer lemon marinade. There is also something called an Everything Crusted New York Strip Steak, which we did not get to sample, but which garners raves (as does the restaurant in general) from web foodies who proclaim their love for the dish and their fondness for the relatively new restaurant, which opened less than six months ago.

By the way, the kitchen was clever enough to offer many of the entrée addendums as full side dishes such as the Asian Pear cole slaw, the macaroni and bleu cheese, roasted garlic chive mashed potatoes and zucchini and squash ribbons. Now when you read the menu and you can’t decide between the main courses, order one and add a side dish to give you the best of both worlds. Side dishes average just $5 so there is no reason to resist.

For dessert? Make the molten chocolate cake (push down the fork and out spurts the liquid chocolate confection) your choice, with crushed macadamia nuts, blueberries and above average whipped cream. There’s also a fresh fruit (on this night, apple-watermelon) sorbet to please and to cleanse the palate.

Note that Vue offers a Saturday and Sunday brunch, price fixed at $19 and including mimosa. Options run the gamut from lobster Benedict with corn pancakes and an Old Bay Hollandaise sauce to a Blue Point Oyster Frittata served with caviar and (you gotta love this one) green market eggs, done any style, and served with pastrami from Katz’s Deli and Yukon Gold hash brown potatoes. There are a half dozen other equally impressive offerings.

Vue Restaurant
370 Fourth Avenue in Park Slope718-625-2177, 888-879-9628 or
Hours: dinner is featured Sunday – Thursday, 5 – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until midnight. Saturday and Sunday brunch is offered 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The upstairs bar/lounge is open Sunday – Wednesday, 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. and until 3 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday (the expanded hours and days were expected to start imminently, but call to make sure). Sunday and Monday nights offer football specials (call about drink and food specials) while happy hour runs seven days, 5 – 9 p.m. with $5 well drinks, $4 wines and $3 beers. DJs spin Thursday – Saturday starting at 6 p.m. Note that a specialty cocktail menu is also available both in the restaurant and the lounge.

Most major credit cards are accepted.

There is free parking at all times and free valet parking, Thursday – Saturday.

Private parties up to 150 are accommodated; outside catering is available.A prix fixed dinner menu will be coming soon. Ask for details.

Photo by Stefano Giovannini


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