Colonie of Dreams: Brooklyn is the New American

04/13/2011 4:00 AM |


127 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn Heights

Rating: 5 out of 5 L’s

Colonie, which occupies an airy space on a quiet block of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, has inspired awe and gratitude in its neighbors, hungry for a decent dining option in an otherwise rich neighborhood. With dinner service seven nights a week and indoor stroller parking at weekend brunch, the elegant and relaxed restaurant—and its locally driven seasonal menu—cultivates an air of authenticity to match the name, an homage to the territory known as “Bruykleen Colonie”on pre-Revolutionary War maps.

Opened in February by a team from downtown Manhattan restaurants Public and Double Crown, Colonie exceeds expectations generated by pre-opening buzz (it was funded in part via Kickstarter). When locals who invested in the restaurant during its construction phase return to experience the fruition of their contributions, they’re greeted, literally, by growth—the décor hinges on a giant living wall comprised of lush plants including edibles (basil, mint, marjoram) used on-site. It’s a sophisticated jungle in there.

Already, the restaurant balances the coolness of an impressive destination—with counter seating at a theatrical open kitchen and a flexible menu for romance at all price points—and the warmth of a community gathering place. Cheese comes from Anne Saxelby‘s Red Hook cave, and bread from Roberta’s Bushwick oven.

When, on a recent weeknight, I couldn’t detect the subtle citrus in a bergamot margarita, the bartender wafted the fresh fruit under my nose. The chef sent over an amuse-bouche of quail egg over grainy polenta and pork belly, a rich, earthy combination that provided grounding for the fried brussel sprouts with bacon and cranberries ($8) and grilled pork with grits and glazed root vegetables ($23) that followed.

A dry, barely pink rosé from the Hamptons’ Channing Daughters ($9 per glass) and its hint of sunshine brought the meal into spring. Colonie’s tap system is New York only, with three beers (from Ommegang and Sixpoint) and five wines (from the Hamptons, North Fork and the Finger Lakes). Yes, that’s right—keg wine, a growing trend due to its economic and environmental benefits, along with its novelty factor.

A server tried to explain the logic behind foie gras doughnuts with a sour cherry glaze (complicated just enough by star anise), but I still don’t understand how goose liver made its way onto my dessert plate. Sticky date cake with salted crème fraiche ice cream was so perfectly executed it caused time to stop—allowing me, during the pause, to take in the tinkling sound of the dining room against upbeat, unobtrusive music and that dreamy balance of salt-sweet that everyone is going for these days, few so successfully.

Despite some slow service at peak times, Colonie is exceedingly well adjusted. It has achieved, at this early stage, what New Yorkers—in pursuit of therapy, cleansing, Pilates, transcendence, you name it—want more than anything: the beauty of youth, the grace of experience, and comfort in its own skin.