Everyone will tell you that it's best to wait a few weeks—or even a few months—after a restaurant opens before you try it out. The kitchen needs time to get the recipes right, they say. The staff needs to get to know each other. And usually, on this issue anyway, everyone's right.
Except in the case of Belcourt.
Last night, a mere 48 hours into his new wonderful venture, chef Matthew Hamilton fired up a superb meal for me and my oh-so-cutting-edge daughters. Really, from start to finish, this was one of the great dinners we've had all year.
We began our feast with two starters: a beautifully autumnal Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Raviolo—the pasta nice and chewy, the filling generous and sweet—topped with grilled wild mushrooms, brown butter, and sage; and what may have been our favorite dish of the night, a skewer of incredibly rich and butter-soft Grilled Sweetbreads, marinated in lemon and garlic, and accompanied by charred flat bread, a roasted garlic spread, and champagne grapes. Truly top-notch stuff.
We then split two mains, and two side dishes. A word about the sides... usually, of course, you order from this category because otherwise your entree will arrive sadly solo. But at Belcourt, the mains come fully loaded, so you should only get a side or three because they are very good, not because you'll go hungry without. For example, our deep bowl of Polenta with Gorgonzola. Yes, it was perfectly prepared, smooth and rib-sticking with the blue adding a nice bite. And the earthy, firm Baked Sun Chokes drizzled with hazelnut butter were a huge hit with Bo and Co. But did we need them? Please. We practically waddled home as it was.
Anyway, back to the mains. The Salt Cod Bourride was a hearty stew of a dish, the flaky fish sharing a big bowl with at least a half dozen manila clams, red potatoes, tender grilled fennel, and several amazingly intense brandade dumplings, which delivered an explosion of oceanic flavor. Speaking of hearty: the Slow Roasted Pork Belly and Sausage, a salty, spicy, crispy, fatty festival of pig products, balanced by terrific, vinegary sauerkraut, sweet pickled beets, and lavender spaetzle. This was so good that, even after all our food, Bo and Co still squabbled over who deserved the larger of the last two bites of belly.
The only hint that we were dining in a spanking-new establishment came with dessert, as they only had three available, one of which, the Ricotta Cheese Cake, turned out to be too cold, and too bland. What we should have done is just ordered two or three of the Chocolate Pot de Creme, which was thick and sweet and caramel-y and delicious.
Belcourt is located on the corner of Second Avenue and 4th Street. The place is casual, comfortable and fun, our waitress was delightful, the music good, Hamilton's two-year-old daughter cute as a button.