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Colonie Restaurant in Brooklyn

Colonie, a newish restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, has been on the radar of my friends and I since before it even opened, due to the fact that one of them lives around the corner from the spot and had seen it under construction.  Last night, we paid another visit there after hitting a few wine tastings in the neighborhood (checking out Heights Chateau and Brooklyn Wine Exchange).  Interestingly enough, it had also been on Sam Sifton’s radar and profiled in The New York Times this week.

The ethos of this venture is to be warm and inviting while at the same time to be ecologically sensitive and to use as many local purveyors as possible to create their menu. On my first visit there (it was my friend’s second trip), I remarked that it had the feel of PUBLIC in Nolita with dark wood tones balanced out by metal and various candles and other culinary items placed around to provide light and color contrasts.  I found out later that the three owners of Colonie met while working there, so that didn’t end up being a surprise.  The nice aspect of this venue is that I felt that the decor blends into the space inviting a warmth that is sometimes lost with other restaurants that try too hard to portray a rustic-y or eco-oriented atmosphere.

The first time I was there was for the birthday drinks gathering for said friend.  We started at the bar and then managed to snag one of the two tables by the windows.  In a smart architectural move, the designers created banquettes that wrap neatly around each of these two large front spaces.  Prime real estate for viewing the comings and goings of fellow diners, these are a great place to perch your group, if you can get to them.  Last night, the place was quite crowded so we had to opt for another location further inside the restaurant.

Told that it would be a 40-minute wait to be seated last night, we almost left the restaurant.  Instead, one friend spied a long, narrow table with candles that had a few stools lined up underneath and a gorgeous, lush green wall of plants adorning the space above.  Told we could order appetizers and drinks from there, we took our places. There were a few down sides to this location, as we discovered.  It seemed a bit of a challenge to get menus and to get someone to take our orders.

In their defense, the serving staff might have though we were just cooling our heels there waiting for a table, as it is located between the bar and the main dining area.  The other negative thing, I discovered, was that the plants, while lovely, hang at just the right height to get caught in one’s hair, as they did with mine, making it an interesting evening balancing food and beverages on the slim table while trying not to get wrapped up in the tendrils of something green.

Last night, one of my friends went back to the Blood Orange Margarita, in honor of Cinco di Mayo.  The photo above is from our first visit, where I sampled them as well.  I have to say, these were much better the second time around.  The fruit component was much more flavorful and tart with more alcohol in the mix.  Whomever was behind the bar last night making those just needs to stay there.

I decided to go for something different with the Cool Hand Cuke, which was light and, well, cool.  As my friend said after taking a sip of it, with a bit more heat in the air, this is the perfect summertime refresher.  One drink we missed out on from our previous trip was the Blaire’s Pear cocktail (above).  Before you think this is a cloyingly sweet appletini-type drink, let me tell you it wasn’t.  It captured all the essence of pear-ness with a mix of spices that made it a great balance for food and conversation.

As the menu is seasonal (which is also a good thing), we might have to wait a while for that drink to come around again. I think this is part of the appeal of the restaurant for me, too.  I also enjoy the fact that I can get lots of smaller portions and nibbles to go with these drinks.  In the evening, I don’t necessarily want to have a big, heavy meal.  We could select from a plate of several cheeses (all from Salexby Cheesemongers), various types and styles of crostini, and other small bites.

Yesterday evening, I had the Ricotta, Honey, and Mint Crostini, which I loved for the amazing, pillowy-light fresh cheese with local honey drizzled on top of it.  The mint, I felt was more of an afterthought, as there wasn’t much of  it, and I thought the ricotta with the floral-perfumed sweetness of the honey was better just left alone.  The Mushroom Crostini was deemed a favorite of ours on our earlier visit and didn’t disappoint this time either.  The darkly, grilled delicious bread (the beautiful char that they get on it would set off the smoke detector in my apartment for sure) was piled high with various types of funghi, probably cooked in a healthy does of butter and cooked in herbs, before being sprinkled with parmesan.  Definitely rich and completely addictive.

My other friend had ordered the Rabbit Liver Mousse Crostini and the Cannellini Bean Crostini, so we actually ended up sampling all of the ones that were on the menu last night.  I thought the liver variety was tasty but not “a-ha wow,” unlike the Rabbit Rillette Crostini that my friend had raved about since our earlier visit.  I didn’t taste the bean version, as I was too busy savoring my other choices and my drink, but my friends said that it could have used a bit more garlic, along the lines of my own White Bean Dip that they’d had at a gathering at my apartment a few months back.

Overall, it is a place to which I’d return.  Yes, there are some soft points in the menu and in the service, as was pointed out in the review.  I think that grabbing dinner on the early or late side is best, although no one I saw hanging out seemed to mind being in a very full restaurant with a good vibe.  The decor lends itself to the mission and doesn’t compete with the meal, which I find very inviting as it doesn’t feel overdone.  I’m also very curious to see how the food will evolve with the changing seasons and the bounty that arrives in the area in the next few months.  I think that Colonie could have lots of promise in the future, and it provides a great excuse to pay a trip to see my friends who live in Brooklyn.

Buon appetito!

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