Dinner at Rein on Wednesday was a climactic end to Patch's three-part series on Belgium born chef Steven De Bruyn, the lunch experience, Sunday brunch and alas the seasonal dinner menu. My guest was a Massapequa mommy and PTA advocate who I've known since I'm 14 (a.k.a. the friend from Queens).
We arrived at 7:15 p.m. and the restaurant was nearing full capacity. A lively bar scene convened as the Mets game played on televisions behind the chic bar. There aren't many places in the metropolitan area where you can watch the N.Y. Mets while sipping champagne in the backdrop of chunky art and rich mahogany decor as a world renowned chef prepares you something to munch on.
As this series culminates, the most impressive thing about Rein is its ability to achieve this very unique balance. Although the restaurant provides a very classy upscale atmosphere and Chef De Bruyn's New American food is world class, the restaurant is enormously cozy and the staff extremely warm and friendly.
As our server, Michael, arrived to greet us, he put down a small tray with almonds, Turkish olives and rich Gouda, which was firmer in texture than most Goudas, more like an Asiago, and had a good sharp bite to it.
In honor of World Cup mania and Spain's victory, Chef De Bruyn created the evening's specials with a Spain theme in mind. For starters, he offered a gazpacho – a cold tomato soup with sherry and marinated shrimp. In addition, there was gnocchi with roasted plum in the middle with a balsamic brown butter with saffron.
The friend from Queens went with the gnocchi. Fully Italian-American, she had never seen gnocchi in her whole Italian life look like this. There were two of them and they were cylinder shaped and about two inches long. They were airy, fluffy and light. The plum middle was a surprise and added a hint of sweetness. They sat atop a plate of rich brown butter sauce with reduced balsamic that you had to mop up with the restaurant's freshly baked focaccia.
For a starter I went with the Hoisin Ginger Marinated Steak Salad. The beef was prime, neatly sliced and seared. The sugar from the Hoisin created a wafer-like crust on the steak. The salad, including mango chunks, scallions and diced cucumber, was dressed with citrus vinaigrette. The aroma of this multi-flavored dish arrived before it reached the table.
I went with the Spain-themed entrée, a Red Snapper atop an eggplant puree with a small dollop of roasted pepper relish and tapenade (olive paste) and surrounded by fava beans, which were delicate, almost buttery. The tapenade arose from high-end olives and was nice and briny. The eggplant puree looked benign but had a blast of flavor. The relish was full of smoky roasted red-pepper flavor and lent itself to the Snapper more than the olive spread. The fish was white and flakey. This marriage of flavors was enormously creative.
The friend from Queens went with the Pistachio Grilled Lamb Chops with mushroom and fingerling fricassee with zucchini and a purple mustard sauce and sweat pea coulis. There were three little lamb chops – the meat was succulent and tender. The pea coulis (puree) was painted about the chops. The wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and petite zucchini hid under the delicate chops. The veggies provided earthy flavors and sat atop a nice brown demi glaze. The purple mustard sauce was minimal but apparently made from grape musk.
For dessert, the friend from Queens went with the chocolate flourless cake while I went with the cherry pistachio cake, which had alternating layers of vanilla cream, cherry gelee and a thin layer of pistachio cake. It was surrounded by a small dollop of freshly made pistachio ice cream and cherry compote. Cherry and pistachio make great bedfellows.