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River Cafe


coughy
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The view is breathtaking. I went there once for a terrific Restaurant Week lunch. I don't really have any advice, except that their scallops were among the best I ever had.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I really like the food, as well as the room. The menu changes seasonally, so I'm not totally up to date. I was last there in early September - our party enjoyed all of the appetizers,whioh were a scallop ceviche, sauteed foie gras and a shrimp dish of some kind. Entrees included a lamb porterhouse that I loved, some kind of cod dish and a wild salmon that was ordered and devoured by the least adventurous of us. Get at least one chocolate marquise for dessert. The staff is knowledgable, and can be helpful when you're choosing from the wine list, which has a number of unusual things on it. Enjoy!

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okay - i'm back and boy was it terrific. the restaurant is so pretty - the flowers were magnificent. we were seated promptly at a beautiful window table. it is a price fixe menu - $70. first they brought us a wild mushroom soup to taste - it was rich and creamy. then the next sample was pan fried oyster wrapped in smoked salmon on a bed of chopped eggs/shallots topped off with osetra caviar - yum! my appetizer was three jumbo shrimp in a delicious sauce with pineapple/jalapeno - it was great. my main was rack of lamb that was soft and tender with sliced potatoes and creamy spinach. before dinner we were given either scallop ceviche or fois gras. i tasted both and they were really super. desserts were the best. i had a "brooklyn bridge" that was CHOCOLATE. it came with hazelnut and vanilla ice cream. a delicious cup of coffee ended a wonderful meal. there were 4 of us - we are not big drinkers at all - we each had a glass of wine. their wine list looked great and not outrageously priced - we didn't order a bottle because 2 drank red - 2 drank white and we didn't really want a lot. with tax and tip the bill came to $420 which we didn't think was expensive based on what we had eaten. we will definitely go back again.

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  • 2 years later...

Training Ground New York City Entry #36

One of the crises that every great restaurant must eventually face is what to do when the chef who "made" the restaurant leaves the kitchen. Can the restaurant continue or is it time to close up shop? Can one imagine Charlie Trotter's without CT, or Daniel sans Daniel, or Frontera Grill absent Rick Bayless. However, of course, restaurants do continue and even thrive despite a new toque. In Chicago (Evanston, actually) Trio thrived under Rick Tramonto, Shawn McClain, and Grant Achatz, until finally after Achatz's departure, owner Henry Adaniya decided to downscale the restaurant's culinary ambitions under Dale Levitski, marking the transition through a name change to Trio Atelier. In New York Maguy LeCoze's Le Bernardin purrs along nicely with Eric Ripert now at the helm. What connects the two establishments is the presence of a strong owner.

Perhaps the New York restaurant that has triumphed despite (or because of) kitchen turnover is Buzzy O'Keeffe's River Café, a restaurant that had a profound effect in its brave attempt to civilize the sorry docks beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, sandwiched between Brooklyn Heights and the white elephant Dumbo. While the spectacular view doesn't hurt (although the battle to claim the right table surely does), the parade of A-list chefs is impressive, including the pioneer Larry Forgione, Charlie Palmer, David Burke, Rick Laakonen, and now Brad Steelman. Many restaurants rest on their scenic haunches, but RC hopes for something more, and frequently achieves it.

At a recent dinner, I ordered the three course prix fixe menu, and despite a table as far from the marine action as possible (although with the prominent window no one is too far from the Lower Manhattan vista), I was well satisfied. Perhaps the food lacks the elegance of a Michelin three star restaurant, but the lack of a star reveals a certain scorn to the "boroughs." (Despite what the red guide suggests, you can ask for a window table, but unless you are known to the house, it is first come, first served).

The amuse was a silky yet hearty squash soup with apple brandy and pumpkin seeds. It set the tone for a defiantly seasonal menu, and was sophisticated enough that its simplicity added to its charm. The brandy cut the heaviness of the cream and squash, lightening the taste.

My appetizer was "Rabbit and Ravioli" Pancetta-Wrapped Loin of Rabbit served on a (Brooklyn) Ricotta-filled ravioli with garden pea puree and pan juices. The pea puree didn't have a strong enough presence to match the more dominant tastes, but the rabbit was so moist and juicy that it tasted like a cross between pork and sausage. The ravioli was properly cooked and enriched by the pan juices.

As an entree, I selected Millbrook Venison Loin with Green Peppercorns, Chestnut spaetzle, root vegetables, and wild lingonberry pan sauce. Again this was a tribute to November, perhaps the most autumnal dish of any I have had in Gotham. I loved the crispy, nutty spaetzle and felt that the root vegetables were sweetened and made Nordic with strains of lingonberry. Chef Steelman has no fear of undercooking meat. I was not asked how I wanted the venison served - I got it rare: perfect. A dish to prepare us for the long winter ahead.

Dessert was a Blueberry Almond tart with warm blueberries and caramel glazed almonds, lemon panna cotta, and blueberry sorbet. The presentation - a glass cone of panna cotta, a sphere of dark purple sherbert, and a small boat of berries and almonds - was impressive. Nothing was really wrong, if not quite spectacular. The tart had a granola-like texture, and the panna cotta, well-made, was plain, if pure. The sorbet was rich, dense berry-flavor, and a buoyant palate cleanser, if perhaps late in the meal.

In sum, the meal surpassed my expectations for a restaurant that is often remembered fondly for its history and for its ambiance. Yet, there must be something in the river air or in the layers of culinary history that keeps working its charm, inspiring whatever chefs are hired to do waterfront duty. For this, New Yorkers, facing chilling travel, give thanks.

The River Cafe

1 Water Street

Brooklyn (Below Brooklyn Bridge)

718-522-5200

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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I enjoy the River Cafe. The last time I dined there was last March. At that time, one of the apps was the rabbit with a pumpkin ravioli, which my husband ordered. It didn't interest me in the least. He said you MUST try this, the sum is greater than the parts. Sure enough eaten together...a bite of the salty rabbit/sausage with the somewhat bland ravioli.... the combination just totally popped. What a delicious surprise.

I have recommended the River Cafe to (I am not exaggerating) hundreds of visitors. Many British. All but one party told me they loved it. Many said it was a meal of a lifetime.

I think the restaurant's success lies in a few areas. First and foremost is the view and decor. I love to start my meal during the day and watch as the lights outside across the river gradually go on at dusk. By evening the view is so different and just spectacular really. A million dollar view. The mounds of fresh flowers also hit the right chords with me. I love them.

Next, the service is unbelievably genteel. Whether you are dining with a head of state, or Aunt Joan from Toledo, the waitstaff goes to great lengths to make everyone feel comfortable. If you tell the staff it is a special occasion they will do little things to make your meal extra nice. River Cafe makes service an art form.

Finally, the pricepoint is okay. If it were $200 a head or more, I don't think as many visitors would dine there. But at under $100 per person for three courses, it's just affordable enough to be "the" special meal on a NYC trip.

My one complaint--I would like to see a more extensive menu with more selections. That's it, I have no other quibbles. I'd enjoy dining again under the new chef.

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  • 4 months later...

Anyone have any feedback on the river cafe? Been checking it out in michelin and have friends who are keen to visit but havent heard anything about it myself?

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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The food at the River Cafe changes with the changing chefs, and the glory days of David Burke and Rick (is that his first name?) Lakonnen (is that his last name?) are in the past.

That said, the food at the River Cafe remains much better than it has to be. With the views they have, they could serve One If By Land-quality food and still do turn-away business. But they don't. Although it doesn't get talked about much, River Cafe remains one of the very very best restaurants in Brooklyn, and to my mind one of the better (although not very best) restaurants in New York City.

I'd have no hesitation in going.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Nice place, great views, good food - you won't be disappointed. I think it's the third or fourth best restaurant in Brooklyn. The only negative - it's somewhat overpriced with the food and grossly overpriced with the wine.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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The River Cafe is a beautiful restaurant full of fresh flowers. Wherever you sit you will have a million dollar view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline, and from the bar area outside, a glimpse of Lady Liberty.

The menu changes depending who the chef is, and the place has attracted a lot of top chefs along the way. The restaurant is still in its glory, in my humble opinion. Although the meal may not be the level of New York's top restaurants, it is quite good.

Another huge plus is the service. The waitstaff is attentive not intrusive, and they find a way to make people feel very comfortable. There is a special place in restaurant heaven for staff like that. If you are going for a special occasion, let them know!!!

Finally, they serve a dessert called The Brooklyn Bridge. At least one person should order it at the table. Desserts can be be quite good and it's a lot of fun sharing them.

This is lovely special occasion-type place.

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  • 1 year later...

We are coming over from France and meeting some CA buddies in NY (good half way point, after all!) for a 40th birthday party. The girl whose birthday it is has never been to NY. Thought River Cafe would be a good spot - have looked for threads on this restaurant and couldn't find any - is it just unbelievably tourist tat living on its view or is the food any good. Our friend is not particularly adventerous when it comes to food so if RC is too naff where can anyone suggest that perhaps does offer great views??

Thanks in advance for your comments!

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It's not just for tourists! It's true that, because the view is extraordinary, a lot of tourists go there, but it is a highly professional restaurant with food, service and general ambience of a first-tier place. It is much more like Gramercy Tavern than it is like Tavern on the Green. It has a real special occasion feel to it, whether you've come from close by (like me) or made it a true destination event. Go! I think you will have a fine time.

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  • 9 months later...

Happened to stop by the garden on the way back on the water taxi a few weeks back and remembered what a lovely place it used to be, but no clue on the current state of the food.

Can anyone comment?

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Happened to stop by the garden on the way back on the water taxi a few weeks back and remembered what a lovely place it used to be, but no clue on the current state of the food.

Can anyone comment?

Overall, the knock out room, view and general ambience goes a long way in overcoming what is now only good food, uninspired, from a competent kitchen. We still go a couple of times a year but made the mistake, last month, of going the week after an excellent meal at Eleven Madison Park. It paled in comparison, even at 2/3rds the price. Still has a very nice wine list and gracious service. They need a new, motivated up and coming chef to take over the kitchen.

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So sad to hear that.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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  • 2 years later...

Went here on a recent trip to NYC. For visitors it is an amazing setting and I can understand why it is so popular with non new yorkers. The service was excellent. The food was good without being memorable, good quality ingredients well executed. Worthy of one Michelin star but no more.

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