Colonie: Locavore Heaven in Brooklyn Heights
Two years ago, when I got The New Brooklyn Cookbook for Christmas, I made a pledge to cross the East River for dinner more often. Since then I’ve tried approximately one Brooklyn restaurant. Until last weekend.
It recently came to my attention that my boyfriend’s old coworker is a part owner of Colonie. I’d been reading about the Brooklyn Heights restaurant (as well as its sister spots, Gran Electrica and the just-opened Governor, in Dumbo) for months so, upon realizing the connection, I immediately began begging my boyfriend to call his friend and get us a reservation. We finally went this past Saturday, and enjoyed one of the better meals I’ve had in a while.
When we arrived at around 8:30, the place was bursting at the seams. Our table wasn’t quite ready yet so we stood with what felt like all of Brooklyn Heights (plus Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Vinegar Hill) at the bar, drinking sparkling rosé and taking in the décor. This restaurant is gorgeous—a cross between a farmhouse and a medieval castle. A long zinc bar, framed by white cabinetry and a reclaimed mirror, is followed by a waiting area with steel industrial stools and an impressive wall garden of herbs. From there, the railroad space opens up into a dining room, complete with exposed brick, a chandelier made from a repurposed steel beam, and two large windows that wouldn’t be out of place in Rapunzel’s tower. There’s also a chef’s-table-style wraparound counter made with the same reclaimed wood as the high, rough-finished ceiling. I would’ve loved to sit up there and watch the cooks working but there were four of us so we ended up at the banquette (made from a repurposed church pew) instead.
Once seated, we basically went nuts. When you know the owner, you’re obliged to try one of everything…right? We started with drinks—Bulleit on the rocks for the boys and a bottle of Tempranillo for me and Maria. The food menu is made up of categories (crostini, salads, small, large, etc.) rather than a list of dishes so we decided to order tapas-style and share everything. Definitely the way to go here.
First, we dug into a cheese plate of Cremont (goat and cow), Moses Sleeper (cow), and Tarantaise (raw cow), all from Saxelby Cheesemongers. Delicious, especially spread on crusty slices of bread. We also got a charcuterie platter with coppa, speck, and prosciutto. Super fresh, salty goodness. Then we split orders of the house ricotta and duck rillette crostini. Hard to choose a favorite. The ricotta, drizzled with honey and topped with mint, was sweet perfection but the combination of smooth, rich duck pâté and pickled cippolini onions was pretty unreal.
Next, we got the duck egg and the cavatelli. The egg, fried and sitting on a bed of lentils and hen of the woods mushrooms, might have been the best thing I ate all night. Salty and earthy, drenched in runny yolk. I could’ve done without the pasta, though. I liked the smoked cippolinis and crunchy English peas but the dish needed a lot more pecorino to balance out the sweetness.
For entrées, we went one-of-each and rotated. I loved the wild striped bass, with its hint of cocoa and creamy fava bean veloute. The scallops got a nice kick from ginger and cardamom and I couldn’t get enough of the roasted garlic aioli (or crispy French fries) that came with the perfectly cooked hanger steak. The pork chop was the winner, though. Served with caramelized bread, braising greens, and turnips, the meat was juicy and bursting with an almost gravy-like flavor. So, so good.
Finally, we ordered not one, not two, but three desserts to finish off our meal. Sticky date cake, fresh doughnuts, and chocolate fondant. Initially, I wasn’t that excited about the date cake but it ended up being my favorite. The side of tangy salted crème fraiche ice cream was the ideal compliment to the sweet, dense cake. But the doughnuts, dipped in salty caramel custard, and the fondant weren’t too shabby either.
If it isn’t already obvious, we absolutely loved Colonie. From the amazing, farm-to-table food to the friendly service to the moderate prices, this place is more than worth a trip to Brooklyn. I might just find myself crossing the East River more often after all.