268 Clinton Street, Cobble Hill, 718-855-8110
Rating: 5 out of 5 L's
Get over the seemingly bourgie and hard-to-spell name—Breuckelen is the best restaurant to hit Cobble Hill in a long time. Prices are on par with Smith Street's most expensive eateries (entrees range from $19 to $26 here, as they do at Saul, Chesnut, and the Grocery), but there's definitely an old-neighborhood edge to this side-street locavore haven. Let's start with the guy who greets you at the door. It's as though a big, gregarious Brooklyn bouncer jumped the real maitre'd, snatched his suit, and just started power-hosting. If there are patrons waiting out front for a table (and as long as the weather is tolerable, there usually are), he's barreling past the bar with the stems of wine glasses woven between his fingers and a bottle tucked under his arm, and getting the party stated by pouring rounds for the customers-in-waiting.
Inside the midnight blue storefront, located on the first floor of a Clinton Street brownstone built in 1879, chef-owner Andrew Karasz does his share of schmoozing with guests, too. A longtime neighborhood resident who has been frequenting Breuckelen's space during all of its bar and restaurant incarnations through the past 20 years, Karasz beams as he shares the history of the giant wrenches suspended from the exposed brick walls—they were originally used during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Karasz began cooking professionally in Napa Valley and San Francisco, and his ever-changing menu at Breuckelen brings home the ethos of impeccably fresh California cuisine. If you can't commit to a spendy dinner, snag a seat at the bar and pair a cocktail (such as the 268 Clinton—macerated Concord grape, gin and prosecco) with a plate of calamari. The generous and crisply battered heap of squid is meltingly tender inside because—according to our server—the fish was never frozen and the kitchen always uses fresh oil for frying. Tossed with creamy avocado pieces, delicate hearts of palm, slightly bitter frisee, and salty shaved Parmesan, it's a perfect shareable bar snack.
Heartier fare, like a roasted pork chop with apple-barley risotto, graces the dinner menu. The striped bass, served in a thick, buttery pool of Manila clam chowder with savory bacon and light and puffy house-baked oyster crackers, is about as stick-to-your-ribs as a fish dish can get. The Florida grouper, served with a mound of early beluga lentils, baby beets, and horseradish crème fraiche further showcases Karasz's seafood expertise. Sure, the tables are jammed pretty close together for such high-end dining—and it's more noisy than romantic here—but sharing some elbow room with your neighbors the Brooklyn way.