140 Smith Street between Bergen Street and Dean Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
For my birthday dinner destination, I carefully poured over the list of Michelin-starred restaurants and cross-checked with OpenTable for availabilities and researched the menus online, keeping an eye out for tasting menus. What was kind of edging itself into the forefront was Saul which kind of flies under the radar since it’s in Brooklyn, Boerum Hill to be exact. And it’s not flashy or gimmicky. Matter settled. Reservation booked, Dave and I headed to Brooklyn.
We almost went into Apartment 138 next door, oops. Once you step into Saul, you see that it’s not a huge space by all means. The walls are brick, and some rectangular abstract art paintings decorate one wall, while grass-like plants sprout up on the other side. I am not an interior decorator and do not know what to call these things. Interestingly enough, there are fans on the ceiling, which consists of gray patterned tiles. Background music consisted of slowish songs by Wilco, Radiohead, and others.
The menus were cutely presented, with each one featuring a different photograph. I only glanced at the appetizers and mains since I was more fixated on the tasting menu, which is its own separate menu. For some reason, only one is given, and Dave and I had to share it. But looking at the seven courses, we approved and decided to go for it. It’s $85 plus an optional $60 wine pairing which we nixed. The tasting menu courses did all seem to come from the regular menu.
There was plenty of wine to choose from, but the cocktail list didn’t really grab me. The bartenders, while appearing to serve up a full bar, could not make an amaretto sour. Hmm. Dave found his dirty martini made with Tito’s Handmade vodka to be satisfactory.
A runner brought out bread and then an amuse bouche which was a mushroom puree with croutons and truffle oil. What a warming ramekin on a winter’s day. There was also warmth brought about by a peppery undertone. A positive, auspicious start to the meal.
Crudo of Japanese Yellowtail
marinade of citrus extra virgin olive oil, cilantro, peppers
It was like having summer in your mouth, with the lightness, the citrus flavors, the fish. I requested no cilantro, so the evil herb was thankfully left off my dish. Wonderful way to start off the meal.
Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi
sugar snap peas, parmesan, prosciutto
Peas made their first appearance. The gnocchi weren’t as cheesy as you’d expect, but they were pleasing. The prosciutto was fried up to resemble bacon. Mmm.
Grilled Spanish Octopus
slow cooked pork belly, grilled scallion, kohlrabi, sriracha chili, honey, lime, sesame
Hmm, what do I remember. I did believe the octopus to be dandy, and I recall liking the vinaigrette it was in.
There was an odd long lag time between the octopus and the striped bass. Not sure what was going on there.
Sautéed Striped Bass
spring vegetable ragout, smoky ham hock broth
The veggie soup was comforting and went down easy. Eating bass at a restaurant named Saul makes me think of Saul Bass who designed the opening titles to Psycho. I wonder if anyone else thought that. Cooked fish items tend to not impress me all that much, but I liked this fine. The white corn in the ragout was delightful.
Foie Gras Terrine
duck confit, brioche, cherry
The superstar of the meal was definitely the foie gras. Here it was paired with sweet fruit flavors. Quince, apricot I believe. I forgot what the runner said. Brioche on the bottom. Oh, if only there were more. I do dig the semi-juxtaposition of liver with fruit.
Roasted Breast & Confit Leg of Squab
potato puree, Brussels sprouts
After the foie gras, the squab was kind of a letdown. Okay, that’s bit harsh, but it just was not on the same level. Don’t get me wrong, it was great, but no foie gras. Yummy mashed potatoes, excuse me, potato puree, and Brussels sprouts. Peas make another appearance.
Choice of dessert or cheese
For dessert, you were given a choice of cheese or a traditional dessert. The options hailed from places such as Oregon, Indiana, and France. Dave initially wanted to get the cheese but decided not to when he learned that you only were served one. The dessert options included Baked Alaska, panna cotta, bread pudding, apple cherry crumble, pine nut tart, and goat cheese cheesecake. I was going to choose the goat cheese cheesecake since the Baked Alaska didn’t seem very exciting to me (coffee and vanilla ice cream on dark chocolate cookie), but then I thought, what the hey, the Baked Alaska is Saul’s signature dessert, and I’ve never had such a thing before. Looking back, the dessert was the weakest dish in the tasting menu, Dave and I both agreed. The pear sorbet portion of Dave’s goat cheese cheesecake was a revelation. You could taste the grainy pear bits in the sorbet. It was like if a pear froze itself and became sorbet. The Baked Alaska resembled a gooey marshmallow-covered porcupine. Generally I do not like meringue much so I was in trouble, but the ice cream and cookie portions redeemed it all. Apparently Saul’s frozen ice cream treat is so famous that there was an episode of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay featuring the Baked Alaska.
The service was maybe not as refined as some restaurants I’ve been to, as silverware was sometimes kind of dropped down, and not all of the crumbs were scraped off the table paper. The table paper reminded me of the wings sports bar where we had been earlier, Blondie’s on the Upper West Side. Our waitress sometimes seemed nice, and other times she seemed moody. Couldn’t figure her out.
We also received a treat with the bill: two homemade caramels. And we were stoked when we were given a small tin of the caramels to take home. I love restaurant take homes! The tin was even decorated with Christmas masking tape. Perfect way to cap off a fantastic meal.
P.S. Chef Saul Bolton also owns The Vanderbilt which I have never been to but have heard of. Just an FYI.