Chef Brian Bistrong, formerly of The Harrison, decided he was done making money for someone else and opened his own restaurant at the corner of a leafy West Village block. The dining room is dominated by a watercolor of the owner’s orchard, where he grows the eponymous Braeburn apples that also appear on the menu. The air is redolent with French-inflected seasonal fare, perfect for the coming months, though the noise level rises precipitously when busy. Braeburn's menu is sparse: six entrees and one special, but I like this style. It signifies the chef's confidence in each item and allows for consistency from the kitchen. A warm-smoked local brook trout occupies a toothsome space between cooked, smoked and raw; simple medium-rare sea scallops, crosshatched before searing, paired with a demure walnut puree and classic braised endive, showed the care such a small menu can inspire; and a quail sausage appetizer is perhaps the best of the lot, the casing houses a whole deboned quail, a much simpler way to eat this tiny bird while keeping the varieties of texture and flavor recognizable.
To prepare for the cold night and a walk past the partying masses at the nearby Spotted Pig, linger over cups of Braeburn's hot chocolate: spicy, chocolatey, just sweet enough, and accompanied by a homemade toasted marshmallow, itâ€™s easily one of the best cups in town. Fortified with chocolate and timeless (if a bit heavy) cookery, we braved the Village chill, secure and empowered with the knowledge that we would make the same cold walk again soon, in anticipation. --Jeff Harris