The Breslin is the restaurant of New York’s Ace Hotel. Part vampire’s billiard room, part dot com entrepreneurial hangout, The Breslin is a mix of well-dressed diners in a dark and cavernous space which, despite the large North-facing windows, absorbs all natural light making it seem like a perpetually rainy day. The clientele is young and almost uncomfortably homogenous, a mix of caucasian and Asian. The atmosphere is one of exclusivity — there is always a wait for a lunch table. The young and hip staff, a little cold at first, is pleasantly warm and friendly after opening up. They’re really good-looking, too. There is no way that they eat from this menu daily.
Perhaps in an act of rebellion, the restaurant serves little to no healthful options. Even the weekend brunch low-fat options are sky high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. The menu, in fact, is rigidly carnivorous. An attempt to substitute or modify a dish will be met with a blank stare of disdain, but quickly followed by a tempered smile and a frown of calculated impossibility.
The best way to describe the dishes here are as “real.” There are no plays on words and no organic biodynamic vegetables are featured in italics (though in reality, they very well may be so). The menu reads straightforward with each dish’s ingredients listed on a single line.
On my recent visit, I ordered the chargrilled lamb burger with cumin mayo and thrice cooked chips. The Breslin’s burger is certainly one of the best in the city. Diners are not asked how they take their hamburgers, all are served medium rare. The marbleized fat deposits are clearly visible throughout, glistening between purple-pink strips of rich and tender meat. The rotund patty sits between two generous slices of crispy Ciabatta. The airy bread with its spoon-like dimples serves as a vehicle to deliver the dripping clarified butter straight to my coronary arteries. It also prevents the bun from getting soggy, all the way up to the last bite.
The burger is extremely tender, its meat pulls apart from the sole squeezing pressure of holding it in my hands. The clarified butter drips off the surface; part of it slips onto the wooden cutting board on which this burger is served, the rest is absorbed by the Bounty-like bun. The cumin mayonnaise, served on the side, is great to add an earthy spice for alternating bites.
I really love the hamburgers here. But unlike spotted pig, these are really greasy, almost unnecessarily (and intentionally) so. I hate arriving hungry and leaving uncomfortably with a heavy stomach and drained energy. These burgers are work. I think they are best for sharing.
The thrice cooked chips taste and smell of pork fat, likely the oil in which they are deep fried. This meaty taste amplifies the burger and a shallow dip in the spiced mayonnaise somehow highlights the golden potatoes. The chips are both crispy and chunky providing tremendous textural diversity.
I wish the menu had more diversity, particularly lighter options, so I could justify visiting more often. While I visit the adjacent Stumptown almost daily, once every two months is more than enough to exhaust the options available here. But for those looking for a juicy hamburger, The Breslin is guaranteed to fulfill any such craving.