And it’s out of the gate: Chef April Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman — the team behind perpetual West Village hotspot The Spotted Pig, and recently deceased seafood destination The John Dory — have opened up shop in the Ace Hotel with The Breslin Bar. After plenty of delays, the place is now serving breakfast and lunch as of today. After the jump: the lowdown on lunch service, menus, sightings, and a run-in with Mr. Friedman himself.
I grabbed a seat at the bar with a copy of today’s Post; at 2pm, the place was fairly packed. Saddled up to the lunch menu. Ordered: the mixed salad with anchovy dressing, the beef Tongue sandwich with lentil soup, a side of fries (malt vinegar and sea salt crisps), and an iced tea. Tragically, my phone battery died out after about five minutes, so I had to preserve part of my meal for posterity (or at least: pictures back at the office). The waitress was nice enough to jury-rig some tinfoil and a brown bag from the in-house Stumptown Coffee.
The salad was the first to arrive, though it wasn’t the side salad: they brought me the Caesar salad that was supposed to go to the guy next to me, though I was a little hungry and didn’t notice. After I dug in for about two minutes, one of the bar staff kindly noted that it wasn’t my salad, and they’d bring the side salad too, if I wanted. Whoops. No worries: the Caesar was pretty great, nice, meaty fork-and-knife lettuce pictured. None of this small chopped romaine bullshit. In spite of the lone anchovy placed squarely on top of the salad, and the promise of “anchovy croutons,” the anchovy taste wasn’t overpoweringly strong, and was balanced by the light, peppery bite of whatever those leafy sprigs were.
Getting up to leave, at that moment: Eater owner Lockhart Steele, who had the lamb burger (“great”) and Grub Street/Gawker/Out/New York Times freelance-about-town Joshua David Stein, who was sitting down with Ken Friedman for a quick word. I caught Friedman for a moment, too: Ken’s been having some issues with his neighbors across the street — a mosque — who take issue with The Breslin serving pork and liquor, which is against the laws of Islam. Friedman (who’s in compliance regardless of their grievances) compromised by lining the front of the Breslin with trees in planters that cover the windows about halfway up. “I was up at 7:30 this morning buying these things in the Garden District.” The nice irony to all of this? The trees now lining the front of The Breslin’s giant windows give the restaurant more of the Ace Hotel’s natural, northwestern-born feel. But Friedman quickly jumped off to greet some other friendly faces in the restaurant — a handsome guy named Todd, who may or may not work in the food industry, who’s Page Six sighting I was maybe reading just as Friedman jumped up to greet him there with two other guys. Before he skated off, Friedman promised that the John Dory would, in fact, be re-opening in a location to be announced.
The mains arrived: the beef tongue sandwich arrived on had a nice, crunchy bite to it, and the tongue — instead of your typical deli-thin slicing — was almost a patty, from which a hit of strong, garlicky, beefy flavoring emerged on each bite. It was glorious. The malt vinegar and sea salt fries were nice, sausage-sized bites, but a little overly salted, though that could be dealt with after a little fork scraping of the salt flakes that stayed on top. Ketchup had to be asked for, and there was a heated discussion about ketchup-distribution procedure between what appeared to be the bar manager and a server. No mayo came with it, which for gastropubby food was a little surprising, as was the fact that the guys next to me got some without asking. With the sandwich came a perfect-sized, half-cup portion of lentil soup that had a nice few droplets of oil sitting on top; it maybe could’ve used a dash more salt, but considering the fries, I was good. Only service issue besides the ketchup was the iced tea — basic, offered with simple syrup — which took until the main arrived to get refilled.
The receipt came, and the salad charge wasn’t there … nice. Total, without the salad charge, with tip: $36 for one lunch (sandwich, fries, iced tea), which was more than enough to be full and take home. The salad was just an order to see what they could do with vegetables, which was, naturally, a savory, spicy shindig.
Other notes: music ranged from Outkast, to B.I.G., to Wilco. Place stayed at a nice noise level the entire time. If I’d crunched my time, in-and-out would’ve been thirty to forty-five minutes. Dinner service hasn’t started yet, but it’s forthcoming.
Verdict: Small service kinks and slight (but: subjective?) salt issues to be worked out; then again, it’s British bar food. Salt’s the name of the game. Fatwa on Friedman is over for now. The new Battle of The Breslin’s gonna be getting a two-top for 1pm lunch, which, from the looks of it, will be well worth whatever effort’s put in to doing so. Next mission: Breakfast. Menu below: