• 127 Atlantic Avenue
• Brooklyn, NY 11201
• (718) 855-7500 •
Uniqueness, by its very nature, is rare, and most restaurants are not. From fast food chains to Chinese takeout spots to diners to Italian restaurants to French bistros to dive bars, the thing that they all have in common is that the one over here looks like the one over there which looks like the one over thataway. Colonie is part of a newer version of this carbon copying, a subset of American dining that I will call Modern Brooklynian (some might call it Portlandian, but I don't live on that coast, so I won't). Modern Brooklynian is organic, or local, or both. If possible, it has an open kitchen where the chefs and the customers can size each other up. There is, of course, raw brick, lightbulbs with exposed filaments, and copious usage of fonts taken from a Music Man era barbershop window. The beer is craft, the cocktails are served in coupes, the fish is served with its head.
This is by no means putting down this style of restaurant. In fact, I love this kind of restaurant. To me, they epitomize a kind of urban dining at its best. Typically not run by superchefs who spend one day a week in the kitchen and the other six on the Rachael Ray Show hawking a line of Chinese-made cutlery with their name stamped on it, they actually care to make your experience enjoyable. The customers are locals or, at the very least, not tourists. The food matters at places like these, not the show. You eat, you laugh, you have a good time. For some people, they like the comfort of an Olive Garden. I like the comfort of a Modern Brooklynian restaurant like Colonie. But as I imply, Colonie is not unique. There's a Colonie in just about every neighborhood. They just aren't called Colonie. There's No. 7 in Fort Greene, Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Front Towards Enemy in Astoria, The Penrose on the Upper East Side, the now-closed-but-I-loved-it Goat Town in the Village. The list goes on. Doesn't mean it wasn't good.
Pike's girlfriend, Agnelle, happens to live just down the block from Colonie and when they asked if I was interested in going with them one day, I didn't hesitate. Like most Modern Brooklynians, Colonie fits the visual bill. Brick, open kitchen, yupster architechts in plaid, fish with the head still on it. We started with half a dozen Oysters. Colonie regrettably only sells these in groups of six, so we each got two. I would have liked to have been able to order nine. First world problems. It's hard to give a restaurant credit for something that they had no hand in beyond sending someone down to Oyster Mart, but these were extremely good. Robust and very smooth. Don't ask me what kind they were, because I not only don't remember, I never even paid attention. I'm not a food snob, I just play one on the internet. After that Pike and Agnelle both ordered the Squash Soup, a pureed butternut squash soup made with creme fraiche, sage, and hazelnut. They said it was good. I didn't get around to stealing any sips. My appetizer was the Winter Citrus, a salad of sorts made from rye berries, grapefruit, whipped goat cheese, and mint. It was amazing. I absolutely did not see this dish coming and it was the highlight of the night for me. Who knows how healthy it was, but it was light and refreshing and colorful. It would actually be a great summer dish. I can't recommend it enough.
For her entree, Agnelle decided to try the Blistered Duck Egg with mushrooms and wheatberry. Agnelle, Pike, and myself have something in common. When we see something on a menu that strikes us as unusual, we become very very tempted to order it. Some friends of mine are less adventurous. Unusual food = steer clear. Not us. In this case, the three of us debated. Who would order it? Do you think it's any good? What does blistering even do? In the end Agnelle grabbed it. To boil blistered duck egg into lay terms, it's basically an over easy egg, described in a fancy way. "When you pop the yolk," the waiter glowed "the yolk runs over the mushrooms and creates a delightful sauce." Salesmanship. I wasn't very impressed. Raise your hand if you know what duck egg tastes like. Raise 'em up. ... No one's hand is up. You're all wrong! It tastes like egg. In this case, egg over mushroom. I wasn't very impressed. My choice was the Rainbow Trout with fennel. It was served whole, sans organs or bones and was very good. Very light. Cottonball soft. If you like our fish as fishy-less as possible, this is what you want. It was a wee bit bland, thanks in large part to the fish being served whole, rather than as a filet served in a sauce, and the skin was somewhat like armor plating. It was easy enough to reach underneath and scoop out the goodies, but trying to gnaw through nature's chainmail wasn't my idea of a good time. I would still get it again, but I'd be cognizant of what I'm getting. Pike ordered the Bavette Cut steak, which was delicious, served with french fries and side salad mostly there to add color to the plate. Very tender, very flavorful, perfectly made. Few know that it's actually a less expensive cut of meat than flank steak. Pike won the entree portion of the competition.
In addition to our meals, we ordered one additional item from the "small" section of the menu, the Brussels Sprouts. First, I don't know why this was in the small section. It was huge. It was a bucket of brussels sprouts. Second, they stunk. Don't waste your money.
Whenever they come here, one of the things that Pike and Agnelle like to get is a dessert of Fresh Doughnuts. They're little doughnut balls filled with caramel custard, sitting in caramel custard, and dusted with sugar. Fresh doughnuts are always hard to pass up and I'm glad that we didn't. If Colonie does one thing well, it's getting me to describe their food as "light'; this is no exception. Be careful though. Eat these the wrong way and you'll get some doughnut love on your shirt.
The downside to Colonie was not the food, service, or atmosphere. It was the price. At the end of it all we spent $70 per person with tip. None of us drank more than a diet cola and we split the dessert three ways. "It's too much money," Pike said. "It's more expensive than The Smith and doesn't have a right to be." I tend to agree. At $50 per person, it's a great spot, especially for a person who lives nearby. But at $70, and coming from outside of the neighborhood, there are plenty of other places just like it that would likely be less expensive.