Brick Café (30-95 33rd St., Astoria)
Today, we decided to visit one of my longtime favorite Astoria restaurants, Brick Café. As it's been a few years since my last meal here, I was eagerly anticipating a magical Saturday brunch in the rustic, pastoral Euro-café I once so dearly adored. While the menu and decor haven't altered much, I was saddened to see that the energy has lost some of its spark.
As the picture above suggests, Brick doesn't seem to be the hotspot it once was. Though we dined al fresco on the sidewalk café, there weren't many more patrons outside, either. Sharing the vicinity with newcomers such as Bare Burger, Il Bambino, and Pomme Café, I expected that it might have lost some of its hype, but not all of its sparkle entirely.
From seating to check, our brunch took a little over two hours... and not because we were indecisive or chatty. Though I lost track, I would estimate that we had around four servers in charge of our table at various intervals during our meal -- none of whom seemed to communicate with one another. At one point, I saw our initial server inside eating a sandwich in the window while we were still waiting for our entrees. And it wasn't shift change, either, as my roommate had inquired. We had not been passed on to the incoming server, because when we left, all four of the various servers we'd had were still in uniform and in the vicinity, though rarely by our table.
I do feel conditioned to audition for the next season of True Blood or the next sequel in the Twilight series, as my incisors were significantly sharpened on the stale bread that was served. Praise the Lord for the black olive tapenade, because although I'd worry for those who suffer from TMJ, the olive paste makes the bread a somewhat endurable appetite quencher when waiting a half an hour or more for the first course.
That having been said, once it finally did arrive at the table, the food itself was actually fairly good -- even delicious, in a few instances.
The asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon, topped with mascarpone cheese and caviar was fresh, savory, light, and truly exquisite.
We devoured the tangy, grilled Maya shrimp with seasonal vegetables in a cilantro garlic olive oil.
I enjoyed the steak frites with green peppercorn and brandy sauce, although my medium rare was teetering on medium well to well done. The peppercorn sauce was delicious, and revitalized what could have otherwise tasted like beef jerky. On a positive note, I think that Brick imports their french fries directly from McDonalds...
Sticking with the lox motif, Matty enjoyed the smoked salmon sandwich with mascarpone cheese... essentially an entree version of the appetizer, sans the asparagus or fish eggs.
The crepes suzette took an additional twenty minutes, and the filling options were a bit misleading. We were to choose from rose hip, plum, raspberry, strawberry, or Nutella, then flamed in Grand Marnier. I get a little too excited about raspberries in my desserts, so the option of a framboise flambée seemed the perfect way to end the meal on a positive note.
Much to my chagrin, what arrived was essentially charred pancake quesadillas filled will raspberry smuckers jelly. Though I didn't taste the whisper of orange from any Grand Marnier, it was certainly apparent the dessert had been charred.
The best part, I had my cash in hand so that when the waiter finally popped up again I could pay the check immediately. When our initial server appeared for the first time in an hour and a half, he practically tossed the check presenter at my head, more like newspaper delivery boy. I yelped, "wait, here's the cash..." But it was too late... his blonde ponytail was already swinging through the doorway.
We waited a few more minutes, and then simply left the money on the table -- something I rarely do, nervous a passerby might snatch it up. We figured it was safe today, because it wasn't likely anybody, staff or pedestrian, would be passing by anytime soon.