Reviews: Applewood Brunch, Cocotte & Parco
When I first ate at Applewood about a year ago, I proclaimed to myself that this could very well be the best restaurant in Brooklyn (in the end though is there really such a thing?). The seared duck breast and grilled venison were perfect. Any place that has a commitment to organic foods has an automatic leg up in my book. Since then, Applewood has garnered much press.
Although I haven't eaten dinner there since that magical time last year, a few weekends ago I met an old high school friend there for brunch. The food I had re-confirmed to me that Applewood is in the upper echelon of Brooklyn restaurants.
The countrified decor is reserved and tasteful; cheerful and welcoming. Since this is the time of year for citrus, I went for the blood orange mimosa. I was particularly excited to see biscuits on the menu, which I chose instead of toast. The winter omelet with earthy mushrooms, garlic confit, rapini and cheddar cheese really won me over. I can still taste that creamy, sweet and soft garlic. This, I thought, is what sets the place apart. The total brunch bill for two people including coffee, our meals, one mimosa and tip came to about $36.00. This seemed entirely reasonable to me considering the quality and the innovation.
I've heard a lot about Cocotte, a French-country restaurant, so I had been meaning to give it a try. One Sunday night a friend and I stumbled upon it. I was surprised at how empty it was. Still, I thought this is the kind of neighborhood establishment Brooklyn excells at -- quality food with enough originality to keep you interested and enough familiarity to keep you coming back all in a comfortable yet sophisticated setting.
You can tell what kind of mood I was in. I went for French onion soup and the Cognac burger. The soup was classic with sweet onions and gooey melted cheese. Perfect to sooth Sunday night qualms about returning to the day job on Monday. Although I ordered the burger medium rare, it came out medium. Still, I liked the burger's charred exterior, but I couldn't taste how the Cognac made a difference. My companion had better luck with a tender grilled venison.
I have no doubt that for solid French food Cocotte hits the mark. I won't hesitate to return for a dose of grilled venison or steak and frites. There is, however, something about the place that I can't quite place my finger on, some sort of "identity crisis." The beamed ceiling, wooden tables and glowing candles work to create a more elegant, sophisticated setting that belies the French country menu. The loungy electronic music didn't help either. All the while they served water in mason jars. To me that would've been a cute touch some place else, but not here.
These things may seem trivial, but to me these things can make or break a restaurant.
Parco is a coffee shop. I'm not sure when it opened, but the sign outside advertizing La Colombe coffee drew me in. It's one of my favorite coffees which is also served at Cafe Regular, a favorite spot of mine.
Parco is a tiny place with light blue walls. It has the charming feeling of being thrown together on a whim, proverbial empty gilded frame hanging on the wall and all. Though the pastries looked good, I tried nothing other than the cappuccino. My sole purpose was to see if it's as good as Cafe Regular's. A good cappuccino is hard to come by and worth going out of my way for.
Unfortunately, Parco did not deliver. The flavor of the coffee lacked an oomph and the foam, while piled on high, was too airy. I prefer the luscious, creamy foam at Cafe Regular. Parco has the beans. Now all they need is the technique.
Applewood is located at 501 11th St., 718-768-2044, Cocotte is located at 337 5th Ave., 718-832-6848, and Parco is located at 427 7th Ave, 718-499-6997