I have celebrated a few major milestone birthdays (16, 21, my Mom's 50th) at the River Cafe (1 Water Street, at Old Fulton St., 718-522-5200) and have always had a lovely time. It's a perfect spot for special occasions or just for a treat. I hear they had record numbers on Valentine's Day for dinner (so much for doom and gloom restaurant reports) and while I've eaten dinner there a number of times, I was lucky enough to be taken this past weekend for Brunch for the first time.
You first enter their long cobble-stoned driveway, at the end of which you're greeted by valets, if arriving by car. Once you step through the door, it's as if you've arrived at a flower shop. HUGE bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers are everywhere, including palm fronds and more tropical looking plants. Framed maps and old newspapers line the dark wood wall where you're asked for your coat before you're directed through another set of doors into the main dining room to be seated. It's then that you take in that view. The skyline of lower Manhattan is framed by the big windows along the far wall. The Brooklyn Bridge extends out over the water in it's colossal beauty and the water is alive with boats of all shape and size.
We were seated along the wall side by side, facing the dining room and the water. The dining room is not very large, so it feels intimate, and there's not a bad seat in the house. You can see the water from every spot. The menu listed about 15 options of appetizers and main courses and is Prix Fixe ($55 for Brunch). We were also presented with an Amuse Bouche course of banana & walnut with homemade granola and a drizzle of cream from Ronnybrook Farm. Warm and delicious, interestingly served in an egg shell.
To start, I ordered the Pear Salad with Cider Vinaigrette, Walnuts, Maple Bacon and Goat Cheese Fondue. The half pear was warm and subtly sweet, the goat cheese fondue was decadent in its creaminess and the bits of bacon and walnut added an earthiness to the dish. Yum!
My boyfriend chose the Smoked Rainbow Trout with a Horseradish Crust, Quail Egg & Caviar Sauce. The portion of wonderfully smoked trout was substantial and the sauce was perfectly light and salty. The quail egg was served on the cutest mini-bagel ever. Lovely.
As my main course I got the Farm Egg and Lobster Tail Omelette with Black Truffle Cheese & Herbed Butter & Biscuit. This was incredible. The lobster tail was succulent, the omelette was rich and stuffed with the perfect amount of cheese. The biscuit was good too! Loved it.
The best dish of the day was what my boyfriend got as his main, the Amish Chicken Pancetta with Cornbread and Confit Giblet Stuffing & Caramelized Onions in a Sweet Pea Sauce. Again, the serving was quite substantial with four big pieces of chicken which was marvelous. The chicken was juicy and tender and had the most amazing flavor. Everything was perfect about this dish, and it was beautifully presented.
There is a dessert menu but we were both too stuffed to eat any more. It was a lovely way to start the day and enjoy the specialness of Brooklyn dining.