By Suzanne Parker
When Danny Brown, the chef and owner, opened his Wine Bar and Kitchen on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills in 2006, we were enthusiastic in our praise. In the meantime, he has continued to get better, winning the only Michelin star in Queens in 2010 along the way.
The menu has been expanded since its inception, but has remained true to Mr. Brown’s original vision of both a place for wine tastings accompanied by small plates of cheeses and charcuterie and a more ambitious French and Italian dinner menu.
If the wine list seems expertly chosen, it’s because it was chosen by experts. Mr. Brown is the son of Francoise Brown, a respected wine importer, so one might reasonably surmise that wine was his mother’s milk. Mrs. Brown has now retired from the importing business and has joined her son at his restaurant. If you’re there for wine sampling or a nice bottle to go with dinner, well-informed advice and samples are dispensed freely without a whiff of wine snobbery.
The definition of “salad” is broad here. A special of the evening, scallop salad, was warm and sauced and devoid of greens beyond a few snipped leaves of basil. Delicate Nantucket scallops and petite shrimp swam in a sauce redolent of cream and butter and saffron — French to the nth degree. Salad of roasted Brussels sprouts could convert even the staunchest of the Brussels-sprout-averse. Roasted Brussels sprouts are formed into a cake held together with Taleggio cheese, pistachios and a balsamic reduction, and topped with a handful of baby spinach leaves and garnished with mission figs.
Organic chicken “under a brick,” one of Danny Brown’s original signature dishes, is literally made with a brick. It is a perfectly roasted, flattened organic half chicken served with rosemary skillet potatoes and wilted escarole.
Handmade pappardelle with braised rabbit, Niçoise olives, oven-dried tomatoes and rosemary transported us to Umbria. The papardelle struck the perfect balance between tenderness and resistance, and the salty olives and pungent rosemary flawlessly complemented the slightly gamey rabbit.
The Black Angus New York strip steak comes in a velvety au poivre (pepper) sauce with a lightly browned cake of scalloped potatoes and ever-so-slightly wilted watercress on the side. Not only was this a spectacular piece of meat, but it had the added benefit of its provenance. Both this and the hanger steak come from Creekstone Farms, a beef producer that touts its commitment to the humane treatment of its animals alongside its quality claims for its beef. Their website brags that their processing plant was designed “with animal welfare in mind” by Dr. Temple Grandin, that goddess of animal husbandry.
The desserts are homemade and don’t disappoint, but the real after-dinner story is the especially deep selection of dessert wines and cognacs. We were particularly impressed with an ‘07 Chenin Blanc Demi-Sec, Dom. Richou, which wasn’t cloyingly sweet, as dessert wines can be, and had plenty of complexity.
The Bottom Line
Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen surpasses the definition of neighborhood bistro and enters the realm of destination restaurant. It offers a sophisticated and innovative menu in a casual and welcoming setting for diners who really care about food and wine.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen
104-02 Metropolitan Ave.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Price Range: Appetizers: $9-14, entrees: $14-33, Tuesdays 3-course prix fixe $28
Cuisine: Wine bar/bistro fare
Service: Friendly, accommodating, efficient
Hours: Tue – Thur: 5:30 p.m.- 10 p.m., Fri & Sat: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sun: 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Alcohol: Full bar
Children: Close quarters not appropriate for restless children.
Credit Cards: Yes
Noise Level: Acceptable
Handicap Accessible: Yes