Although I stopped in at The Tangled Vine with a friend for a drink and some pre-dinner appetizers, as is wont to happen with me it became more like my first of two dinners (the second being pizza at my favorite local spot, Vezzo). It seems to be a nice, casual addition to the Upper West Side on a stretch of Amsterdam Avenue populated by several noisy sports bars.
Mushroom Fricassee seasonal mushrooms, duck egg, shoestring potato fries
The waitress was enthusiastic about this dish and made sure to point out that it had even just been added to the brunch menu. The mushrooms were tasty, emanating the round, dark flavor characteristic of the earthy sprouts. The shoestring potatoes made for a subtle texture contrast, but the dish could have used some stronger complementary flavors. The egg didn't fulfill that.
Grilled Shrimp & Chermoula crositini
The shrimp weren't terribly sweet and in fact were rather tasteless. And the Chermoula, an acidic Moroccan herb mixture, didn't do much to pump this appetizer up much. Instead, it seemed we were off to slow, bland start.
Pork Montaditos Berkshire pork belly sliders, pickled radish, garlic dijonaise
But once we moved on to the meat dishes, things improved. The pork belly sliders between what looked like folded pieces of warmed naan, were delicious. Slightly salty, the tender decadence of the pork belly was offset by the crunchy radish and a few greens. This was easy to finish off.
Organic Veal Meatballs tomato, fresh ricotta, roasted garlic
Perhaps left unsatisfied by the early disappointments, we made the veal meatballs a late addition. I'm glad the mediocrity of the first two dishes inspired us to order them — they were so light I'm not sure I even recognized the flavor of veal (which I didn't mind because I don't eat this meat often and sometimes don't enjoy it). That worked well in allowing the tomato sauce to shine; it had just the right amount of sweetness and bitterness and gave the dish a very homemade feel.
After a failed attempt to get brunch at the very popular Egg restaurant in Williamsburg, my dining companion and I headed to Dressler Restaurant, a much more low-key, less crowded brunch spot a few blocks south. We went for the savory-and-sweet sharing route; it works well for those into feeding both tastes of the tongue.
Brioche French Toast with Vanilla Mascarpone & Berries
A well-executed french toast with not too much mascarpone or sweetness overwhelming the toast and an ample heap of berries really lights up a morning.
The Dressler: Two poached eggs, Potato Galette, Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche, Hollandaise, Fine Herbs, Home Fries & Greens
I always like the brunch dishes that cover a little of everything. While this one lacks meat, the smoked salmon substitutes for it. And the stack was neatly built so you could cut into it and get a bite of everything at once. The home fries, hidden among the greens, were crispy and flavorful; a too-common brunch disappointment is herbed potatoes trying to pass for home fries.
Post-lunch we sought out dessert at the tiny Williamsburg spot called Saltie. And appropriately we settled on salted caramel ice cream.
It was a good-sized scoop for $3. And once we tasted it, we were glad to be sharing for it was the saltiest salty caramel I have ever had — in a good way. The saltiness was a rich surprise.
The texture was almost that of a thick cake batter, nearly chewy, perhaps the caramel and salt both adding more heft to the ice cream and making it chunkier, and more interesting and fun. A good option for fans of solid ice cream that doesn't quickly become runny and soupy.
Having read about the worthwhile loaf cakes at Saltie, I had to get one to go. I chose the ricotta loaf. It was a heavy slice. While it was dense, the texture was fairly crumbly and the flavor mild but satisfying and plenty large to tide over a weekend's worth of sweet toothiness!