Restaurant Review: Chestnut

Reviewed 3/25/09

For our fancy dinner as part of Dine-In Brooklyn — an annual week-long extravaganza during which pricey Brooklyn restaurants offer a three-course dinner for $23 — Gina, Kate, and I picked picked Chestnut, a restaurant in Carroll Gardens with a self-proclaimed “refined rustic” style. $23 is still more than I’d generally spend, but I always try to take advantage of it because I’d never go to most of these restaurants otherwise.

The lighting in the dining room was so cozy, and I loved how the wall of French doors allowed a view of Smith Street (one of Brooklyn’s most charming streets packed with amazing restaurants).

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Once we were seated, the server brought us rosemary foccaccia and whole wheat raisin walnut bread (plus pickles, but I let the other girls eat all of those because I’m not a fan). I had a slice of each bread dipped in olive oil.

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The foccaccia had a sprinkling of sea salt over the top and was sooooo good with the rosemary. And the raisin walnut bread was dense on the inside and crunchy on the outside because the crust was geniously studded with walnuts.

During these restaurant weeks, many restaurants offer a separate “downgraded” menu with just a few choices because they are stingy and don’t want to give away their best dishes for reduced prices. Chestnut, however, had the full menu available! The only catch was that certain items (the ones marked with smiley faces) would cost an extra $7 … but our server explained that even if we ordered two “smiley face” courses, the charge would still only be $7 (and not $14). That made me happy. So happy that, in an unprecedented maneuver, I decided to go smiley face all the way 😀

For my first course, I ordered the grilled octopus with sunchokes, kumquat, & fennel pollen:

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Let me just say that I love grilled octopus. I know that some are afraid of the suction cups:

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But if you are afraid, you really need to get over it because it’s sooooo good. The texture is similar to chicken, so it’s really not that scary. Gina and Kate each had a successful bite 🙂

I had to taste everything at the table, of course, so I also had a “nugget” of Gina’s potato gnocchi with prociutto and oyster mushrooms.

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I generally don’t like gnocchi due to my potato-aversion, but I thought these had a very creamy inside texture with a bit of crisp on the outside. Gina, who has much more potato experience, thought they reminded her a little bit too much of tater tots.

Kate ordered the buckwheat crepe with faro, gravlox, and creme fraiche:

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This one was definitely a winner! The faro inside the crepe added a satisfying nutty chew, and the smokey flavor from the salmon infused the whole tower perfectly.

I continued the seafood theme for my main course because I so rarely cook fish (making arrangements for leftovers can be challenging) … and because it’s normally the most expensive thing on the menu. Here’s my wild striped bass with cerliac and spicy sopressata:

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This was so tasty! Another dish with a fun, crispy outside (seems to be a theme of this meal), as the salmon was pan-seared and then drizzled with orange olive oil. I loved the bed of celeriac and sopressata matchsticks.

(Side note: It was not lost on me that my more expensive selections arrived in the teeeeeeeeeniest portions. But that was probably a good thing since I had eaten about 100 pounds of produce earlier in the day!)

Gina ordered the chicken breast with sausage filling and potato gallette. The gallette was so impressive! A work of potato art:

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I tasted some of the chicken and stuffing, also delicious. I feel like a broken record, but everything that touched my lips at this restaurant tasted amazing!

Kate ordered the kabocha squash ravioli with pumpkin seeds and ricotta salata:

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Also super yummy. The sauce was sweet and buttery, and the cheese added just the right amount of tang.

And then it was time for dessert! I’m so lucky that my friends get just as excited about food as I do 😀

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I chose the chai affogato with cardamom ice cream and pistachio. I had no idea what that meant, but I accepted the challenge because (1) it’s hard to go wrong with dessert and (2) the flavor combo sounded unbeatable. I was kind of hoping for some sort of warm chai cake with cardamom ice cream on the side and a sprinkling of pistachios over the top. In reality, I got a cold tea ice cream float:

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Even though this dessert did not match up to my original fantasy, the flavor combo was still delicious, and I think it would be the ideal summer treat.

Gina’s choice was the chocolate budino (sort of like a warm lava cake) with peanut butter mousse:

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Ooooh, this was so rich! I had a microscopic bite, since the dessert was pretty microscopic to begin with, and the flavors completely exploded in my mouth.

Kate ordered the cheesecake with mixed berries and hibiscus syrup:

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I obviously had a bite of that, too. The mix of hibiscus syrup with thick graham cracker crust made me swoon.

To conclude, here’s some more evidence of the “refined-rustic” decor of the restaurant:

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This is the view of the bar from outside. The window looked so pretty, and if you inspect closely, you can see the wooden ladder behind the bar that the bartenders climb when they need things up high. Very charmingly “rustic,” if you ask me.

I had worried initially that I would leave the restaurant stuffed out of my mind because I really wasn’t that hungry to begin with, but I felt perfectly satisfied thanks to all the reasonable portions. Chestnut was one of the best restaurant week experiences I’ve had, taking into account Manhattan’s restaurant week as well. Yay for food success!!

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