We have a problem with this brunch : Paul rated it 4/5 but Scott rated it 2/5… Both are great food journalists, so we let you decide!
New York foodies have long known all about chef Tom Colicchio, a local guy whose spreading empire of niche restaurants have gradually taken over the city’s Flatiron district to rave reviews.
His latest endeavor, though, abandons his safe traditional ground for the uncertainty of far west Chelsea: parked between a gas station, a big intersection, and the back end of the food-filled Chelsea Market, this is nothing if not a gamble. A gamble that, food-wise at least, is paying off.
The rent must be enormous, though. This dining space is big, tall, and breathtaking, divided in two by the bar. (The main room, in back, is not usually opened during brunch, but that’s okay—the front ‘Tap Room’ is more attractive anyway). Sit by the correct set of windows and you feast on good glimpses views of the Chelsea piers and maybe the Hudson River beyond.
The open-kitchen concept allows you see the chef in action as the brunch tickets are called out and the meals cooked to order. And it’s fun to watch the bartender work what seem like hundreds of taps, dispensing an expertly chosen selection of drafts to thirsty brunchers. (A surprising number of the diners here pass up a traditional mimosa and opt for brews instead—and it’s not hard to see why.)
Once you’re seated, a free basket of pastries is laid on the table: a great perk, and well done, with both sweet and savory options. This is good fresh bread. Lots of folks follow by ordering the brioche pain perdu (in other words, French toast), and it’s a good effort: syrupy sweet, with smoky maple syrup and a kick of bourbon in the compound butter.
However, after all that free bread earlier, I’ve got a better suggestion: do not miss out on the duck confit with poached eggs and red-eye gravy—one of the city’s most sumptuous brunch offerings, hands down. The confit comingles perfectly with the egg and swims in gravy. It’s all served over Johnnycakes, a New England specialty: small pancakes normally made of corn and molasses (though here made of rice), rarely seen anywhere outside, perhaps, truck-stops in Rhode Island. In this context, it’s an unexpected and great choice by the chef.
Other brunch entrees include a burger with pickled ramps, triple with a beery foam (pass), and a pretty good frittata of peas, caramelized onions, and decadent ricotta.
Where does this place fall short? Just one area: attitude. There’s an occasional touch of frostiness from the hostesses, who might seat you smack in the middle of an empty room at a small table beside other diners instead of at available, spacious window tables with great views. Luckily, the servers and kitchen staff haven’t inherited the ‘tude.
We don’t know if it’s Colicchio or the sons who are putting their stamp on the place, but they’re doing it right, so far.
What a disappointment ! We could not imagine to live a terrible experience like that at Colicchio&Sons. First, the restaurant’s Tap Room had eight open tables but the hostess was just able to claim that they were booked for the afternoon. Okay to eat at the bar…
One plus one is two, so why did the bartender only hand the two of us one menu? And what’s wrong with the Mimosa ? The juice in here just doesn’t have that citrusy, irresistible, fresh-squeezed flavor. We could be really worried about the next. This was restaurant week ; the locale was offering a $24 special, (no drink, no coffee included) starting with a choice of fresh fruit, or granola with Greek yogurt plus a main course from the usual brunch menu.
The menu said one could also have either roast potatoes or bacon. We asked for both, but, the bartender informed us “That portion of the special menu is one item only, shared by the table.” That gave us an opportunity to observe that even more tables were now open than when we first arrived.
Over a complementary cheddar cheese and bacon bun, bland and verging on dryness, but served with apple butter, we had to be patient until a server came from the kitchen, confusing our orders of fresh fruits, and granola with yogurt as he put them before us. Later, when a different server confused our mains, we waxed nostalgic over the value of effective restaurant management practices. We should mention that Bentel & Bentel Architects did indeed do an eye-pleasing job on this spacious interior, and that the privilege of sitting within it, even if at the bar, did not detract from our noticing that the fresh fruit was close to flavorless and that Greek yogurt, nice and creamy, was served in a container not even the size of a tiddlywinks cup.
The main was the brioche pain perdu, French for French toast. Three thick, though ethereally light brioche rounds with a soupcon of egg flavor, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with bourbon butter and real maple syrup were genuinely delightful. If the kitchen maintained this level throughout the brunch, one would love the brunch. The ricotta and field mushroom frittata with wildflower honey and arugula, however, was a flabbergasting disaster. The top outer surface of the egg had a plasticky appearance, while the other ingredients were poorly integrated into the whole. The roast potatoes, by the way, were unpleasant in texture and flavor, brushed with some curiously problematic oil, or something.
Colicchio & Sons, despite our experience this day, of course retains interest as a destination restaurant. The appealing, upscale Tap Room, filled with natural light, is right near Chelsea Market, the High Line and various galleries. Saturday and Sunday, brunch is served from 11 until 3:30. You may or may not need reservations. I believe that had we complained, and insisted on being seated at a table, we would have been accommodated. And, as high as the kitchen’s high points may be, what, we must ask, is going on with the total misses among the dishes, and that haphazard service, consistently delivered with a smile though it may be? Hello? Chef Colicchio, are you home?
Brunch at Colicchio & Sons – $25/$50