Thu Dec 13 2007
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
“Anything that can be made in house, is,” reads the menu at Belcourt, an earnest East Village brasserie from chef Matthew Hamilton (Prune, Uovo). The statement speaks to the restaurant’s ambition, which can be detected in all things, from the decor (owner Mehenni Zebentout’s meticulously sourced Deco antiques) to the rustic French dishes. It’s sublime when it works: Preserved rabbit legs cooked in duck fat, fortified with a bed of coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts and fennel, was an earthy, unctuous success. But it doesn’t always click: House-cured duck prosciutto was too bland to stand up to the sweet mascarpone and fig accompaniments. Lush boudin blanc—homemade chicken and pork sausage—was served dirty-water-dog–style, topped with kraut and grainy mustard in a pillowy Parker House bun. Cute as the idea was, the sausage lacked bite, and the pickled cabbage was overwhelmed by the bread. Ultimately it’s the desserts that provide a window into Hamilton’s strengths. A root beer float comprises creamy vanilla ice cream sunken into spicy, ginger-laced soda made on the premises; ricotta fritters were airy and delicate, served with bittersweet chocolate sauce. Until Hamilton finds his footing, nearby bistros like Lucien shouldn’t sweat the competition. Veniero’s, on the other hand, would do well to watch its back.