The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
20 West 29th Street near Broadway, Midtown West, (212) 679-1939
Getting There: N,R,W,1 to 28th Street
Restaurant Review: The Breslin
Putting an experience at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room into words was no easy task, because it was so vastly different from our expectation. Whether critical praise or personal recommendations are to blame, The Breslin is the exact opposite of the stuffy, traditional, dare I say classy, picture that had been painted by misconception. Instead, the bar and restaurant that sits on the ground floor in the Ace Hotel is casual yet chic, forging a pub-like atmosphere within a prime Manhattan hotspot. If the routine hour long wait times didn’t give away the fact that we were dining somewhere special, the mobbed bar scene sipping on the place’s signature cocktails was sure to do so.
The space is adorned with 130 seats, and since they don’t take reservations, much like sister eatery “The Spotted Pig,” wait times can get extensive. But there’s something about the bar area’s setup that simply lends itself to conversation, turning a quick chat with a friend into an engrossing hour long discussion. Whether it’s the energetic noise level, the friendly bartenders, or simple pre-meal anticipation, the space is just conducive to conversation and before you know it, the time wait time has passed and the table is ready.
The restaurant is divided sectionally, much like you would expect to find in a conventional European style pub, except with an open kitchen that is eye catching on the walk to be seated. The small wooden tables are right-next-to-your-neighbor style, but at no point are you necessarily cramped. Each table is covered in brown butcher paper as if to say “we know the food is good, but we still don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Where the seats are diminutive, the same can be said for the menu, which changes monthly, with new additions daily. Interestingly The Breslin uses the philosophy of “nose-to-tail” cooking, utilizing every possible edible piece of meat from the animal. Clearly this leaves eaters with an assortment of new tastes to experiment with, although more conservative patrons might feel a bit neglected. We found neither to be the case however, as selecting from the menu became no problem for us.
Candidly, we stayed away from the interesting snack items like “broiled peanuts fried in pork fat” ($6), the “chicken live parfait with Madeira jelly” ($9), and the “whipped lardo with pizza Bianca” ($7), for a more traditional two appetizer, two entrée approach. Our server recommended the “seared Spanish mackerel on the plancha” ($15), served beautifully after being seared skin down on wood, flipped and lightly cooked on the opposite side, over an onion pepper and tomato piperade sautee and surrounded by tasty marcona almonds. The fish was cooked to perfection, meshing admirably with the sweet sauce puree below it. Equally as savory was the “burrata bruschetta” ($16), a heaping glob of creamy burrata mozzarella cheese coupled with seasonal summer squash and served over a thick, buttery slab of toast. Although both dishes were not excessively large, they were appropriately sized for two to share as a precursor to dinner.
As the menus were placed down, two items immediately struck our eyes that we refused to stray from. First, the “squid on the plancha” ($19) was a small plate of purple-tentacled fare, served with chunks of fresh zucchini, and bits of what can only be described as crunchy fried pieces. The dish was tangy and delicious, leaving us appreciative that it was not overly sauced and the flavor of the squid could be savored. Unfortunately, the dish was no match for The Breslin’s “chargrilled lamb burger” ($21). The absolute must try sandwich was impeccably cooked to temperature and topped with sharp feta cheese and a cumin infused mayo sided by “thrice cooked chips” or some thick cut, savory French fries. The burger was incredibly hearty, with a rich, thick flavor that makes you think you might be full after each bite. The meat was deliciously salty, and the juice burst out from the meat with every single bite.
As every bit of the burger was devoured and our white napkins had been waived, we had been completely satiated without feeling gorged. The Breslin may have been a vastly different dining experience than we were expecting, but the fact that it was exceedingly casual actually turned out to be a good thing. Sometimes it’s nice to leave the jacket at home and still enjoy some refinement. The atmosphere was electric and the food outstanding, our waiter tirelessly pleased us. Dimly lit and distinctive for being everything you thought it wouldn’t, we tip our hats to The Breslin for a truly marvelous evening out.