Monday, December 17, 2007

The River Café

I've heard stories about The River Café, usually filled with superlatives. I wasn't sure it would live up to its reputation, but last Saturday we made the trek out to Dumbo to find out what all the fuss was about.

The first thing that strikes you about the joint is how much it seems like an oasis. The surrounding neighborhood isn't much to write home about, and it makes you wonder just where the hell you're trying to get to that's so important. Once you turn the corner in to the valet circle, though, it's like entering a completely different world, especially with all the lights they had up on the surrounding trees. The Brooklyn Bridge towers above you, making for a pretty striking experience as you enter the restaurant.

We had reservations for 6, and the main dining area was surprisingly empty when we showed up. I'm glad we got there when we did, since we ended up getting a table right next to the window. The dining room is actually built out over the East River - it's like actually eating on the water. The bridge rises above you and stretches over to Manhattan, the skyline basically filling your view. One great thing about how the room is designed: there are mirrors at eye-level all around you, so no matter where you look, you catch a glimpse of the river and skyline. Ok, enough about the dining area, let's talk about the food!

The River Café offers a price-fixed menu. After bringing you a small apéritif of a truffle chicken salad, you're given the menu and instructions to choose one appetizer and one entrée. They also offered appetizer and entrée specials, and afterwards you given given a choice of desserts.

We started out well, each ordering a different appetizer.

I had the yellowfin tuna, which was seared with a foie gras stuffing and served with a black truffle vinaigrette. There seemed to be an awful lot of foie gras on the appetizer menu (three different dishes by my count), but this one was the only one any of us had. The combination of flavors was really exceptional, and I highly recommend it.

The special appetizer was lobster ravioli and scallops with a cream sauce, and unfortunately I didn't get a great picture of it. It was as good as it sounds, though.

My father had the buffalo steak tartare, and his won our award for "Best Appetizer." it's quite a production, as you can see. The waiter will gleefully turn the dish in to an incredible mix of flavors, right at the table. It was very rich, so I'd recommend pairing it with a lighter entrée, which my father did.

For our main course, the four of us were less varied, splitting equally between the Branzino Fillet (Mediterranean sea bass, chorizo and shrimp "stuffing", smoked tomato petals, petit zucchini, and a charred lemon confit), and the special, which was a lobster tail served inside a hollowed-out pumpkin with sauteed cabbage and a kind of pumpkin mousse. I'm really not doing it justice with the description, so just check out the picture. While I somewhat regret the fact that we only had two different entrées between the four of us, I don't think any of us would have traded what we ordered for anything else - both dishes were that good.

For dessert we went back to a variety, since we knew everyone would be trying everyone else's. Everything was great, but I think my goat cheese cheesecake carried the day. The Chocolate Marquis Brooklyn Bridge certainly took home the award for "Most Striking Presentation," arriving with an actual chocolate bridge decorating the plate.

The River Cafe ended up being one of those dining experiences that I'll always remember. It really is something special, and while it's expensive, it's worth going to at least once.


The River Café
1 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY

Google Map


Anonymous said...

You neglected to mention a couple of bottles of wine and champagne to start.Your write-up combined with the fact you will never forget the experience is one that both Pat and I share. I'm already saving up so we can do it again onmy 100th birthday - 2043 when yu too will have something to celebrae because you will qualify for medicare.

Ray at Sheepshead Bites said...

Hey, Dad is one funny guy. He made me laugh out loud with his comment about the Medicare thing. By then, though, I'm sure they will be out of funds or they would have upped the age.

With regard to the post and pictures: Thanks. I have always wanted to see a real review of this restaurant. I have never been there. The pictures are good enough to tell the story and I know how it is trying to take pictures in a darkened restaurant.