Midtown Manhattan can be a kind of culinary minefield, filled with restaurants serving delicious meals and memorable dining experiences, and those that make you wish you could forget them all together immediately — and very little in between. Luckily, weekend brunch at Bistango in the Kimberly Hotel falls into the former category, and offers what many of its gastronomically proficient neighbors do not: fair prices.
Chef Blessing Schuman-Strange has invented a refreshingly restrained, Italian-leaning menu of creative dishes, all of which are available gluten-free upon request. Although he could easily import many of his ingredients from the Mediterranean, he instead sources many from his home continent, and clearly takes pride in doing so. “I get the ricotta in the beets marinato salad from this guy up in Montreal who’s doing some amazing things,” Schuman-Strange animatedly revealed last weekend. “The short rib comes from this farm in Northern California that really treats their animals in the right way.” This attitude is also reflected in the service found in the front of the house, as our server was knowledgeable and passionate about each of the dishes, but never imparted an air of pretension and related to us in a genuine and charming manner throughout the meal.
The chef’s care and close relationships with his vendors are on display within the menu, which comprises insalata ($10 to $14), pasta and flatbreads ($14 to $20), sandwiches ($13 to $16), weekend first-meal staples like French toast and blueberry pancakes ($13 each), and contorni like pancetta bacon ($5) and roasted Brussels sprouts ($6). Standout dishes include the uovos al forno with braised short rib, tomato sauce with a pleasant kick, and a riff on salsa verde; the funghi flatbread of wild mushrooms, caramelized shallots, thyme, and truffle oil; the beets marinato of both the red and golden varieties with sheep’s milk ricotta, spiced pistachios, and fine herbs; and the Bistango Burger: Pat LaFrieda short-rib patty, pepperonata, provolone, and garlic aioli.
Don’t be too shy to try a cocktail, as the Rye Not with Bulleit Rye and Calvados is seductively smooth and feels surprisingly brunch-appropriate, despite the somewhat early hour. You can go all-out, too, and order dessert; the tiramisù is made in-house and while it’s made the traditional (and correct) way with lady fingers, there is the lovely surprise of cocoa nibs worked in between two of the layers that amps up the chocolate component of the dish without overpowering the coffee the lady fingers were dipped in.
Brunch is served from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and is the perfect meal either before or after shopping at the many retail options in the area, or to share with friends visiting the city and staying on the East Side.