It has been over 6 years since I first went to The Grocery, a restaurant many claim to be the best in Brooklyn and which has taken top rankings over other Market Specific / New American staples such as Rose Water, Applewood, Saul and The Garden Café. I rarely hear it mentioned in my inner circle and wonder if that is ’s because of its own confidence ($) or just because us Park Slopers have our hands full in this culinary category. It has an air acutely associated with fine dining establishments which typify Manhattan. Indeed this was the first thing I noticed upon entering. A simple 30 seats occupy a boxy room with no art or aesthetic distractions while quite murmurs replace the usual palatable playlist. And although the six servers were seemingly trained to be attentive and to anticipate the evenings flow, I found their eagerness intimidating for the restaurants size. Basically, it didn't feel like Brooklyn.
I was relieved when head chef / owner Sharon Pachter consulted our wine choices. She was relaxed yet proud and I sensed she could feel my passion for food. She recommended a 2005 Italian Nabbiola which gave the meal flight and depth. I was amazed by how she was calmly attentive to the room and even answered the phone in her comfy sweats; the pretension I first encountered was swallowed with my first sip of wine.
The menu is sincere if not redundant in its offerings. I could have guessed the selection of entrees (Pork Loin, Lamb, Duck Breast, a whole Fish and Seared Scallops) accompanied by atypical grains (Kasha, Farro) and rested atop seasonal purees or accented with the fruits of spring. A whole stuffed Trout, although perfectly cooked, was weighed down by its Cornbread and Ramp stuffing and lacked citrus. The highlights included a Duck Breast perfectly sweetened by accompanying braised red cabbage and dried apricots which fanned stunningly on the plate, while the Lamb chops were cleverly lightened by a gently executed cucumber yoghurt sauce.
The appetizers were bolder in concept, some of which worked beautifully such as a perfectly grilled Calamari salad with bright sliced long peppers, roasted and pickled Cauliflower and Cannelli beans. Others, such as the yam-like roasted Carrot blintz lost its individuality when paired with Dates, Orange and Walnuts. The Fried Artichoke salad was lightly battered, but confused by too many overpowering flavors (Lemon Aioli, Parmesan) and cluttered plating.
As a young foodie, I feel obligated to support and like “Market Specific” food and realize its reason d’etre. However, as a Park Slope Food Coop member and someone who carefully sources ingredients in my own kitchen, is it wrong to expect more at this price point? The emphasis on local ingredients shouldn’t replace the wonderment one can have by choosing to dine out.