This is the sort of restaurant that The Breslin is: You will arrive on a Monday night to find the restaurant full and the bar jammed with the studiedly — and also studly — casual set. The wait, they will say, is 45 minutes to an hour.
You have a drink, some snacks and 45 minutes go by. An hour passes. There is still no word — even though a stroll through the dining room shows that there are not one, not two, but a few tables that have been sitting empty for a bit.
At almost 90 minutes, it’s getting a little tiresome. Nearby Koreatown is starting to look like a surer bet for dinner — but just as you start to gesture toward your bar waitress for the check, you spy her spotting you and then sprinting over to the hostess for a quick discussion. Faster than you can say “Check, please,” the hostess is by your side, telling you that now, there is a table open.
You consider leaving because, well, this is all a little bizarre. But you decide to stay — and it’s a good thing you do because what’s on the dinner menu, it turns out, is worth waiting for.
But you really wouldn’t expect anything less or different from owners of the Spotted Pig, the small West Village gastropub that quickly became the place for Leonardo DiCaprio spottings when it first opened in 2004.
Before we get to dinner, let’s talk bar snacks.
The Breslin takes its gastropub affiliation very seriously — which is a very nice way of saying, if you are worried about your arteries/muffin top, do not come here.
Everything that crosses your lips on the snacks menu will show up on your thighs the next morning. If not sooner.
We couldn’t resist the pork scratchings ($5), which came in too-cute packaging. (We did marvel a little at the price — you can find massive bags of these in some Asian grocery stores for less than a third of the price.)
Be warned — they’re just a little too fantastic with beer or wine. If you have a long wait for your dinner table, these scratchings are dangerous.
Of course, we had to order the scrumpets with mint vinegar ($7). This turned out to be strips of lamb that had been breaded and deep-fried.
We liked the concept but the lamb turned out to be a wee bit tough for our liking.
Continuing with the “What waistline?” theme, next up was the $6 scotch egg — a hard-boiled egg that’s been wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and deep-fried.
This was pretty good, as scotch eggs go — the crust was crispy and lovely and the sausage was well-seasoned.
Having loaded up before dinner, once we sat down, we started with some small appetizers.
The $15 house-smoked ham came with a tart and spicy piccalilli (vegetables, usually cauliflower, that have been pickled in mustard and turmeric) that immediately brought Mike back to his Iowa boyhood.
He declared them a very good specimen of piccalilli. And they did work nicely with the slightly sweet and salty ham.
If they had this in an entree size, I could have this for lunch every day. I loved the crunch that the pomegranate added to this dish.
From our table with a front-row view of the restaurant’s open kitchen, it became apparent to us what the most popular entree at the restaurant was: the $17 grilled lamb burger with cumin mayo and thrice-cooked chips.
So we ordered one — it wasn’t bad. I was a little leery of the still-hard cold slice of feta cheese that topped it but the combination was tasty.
It’s not mind-blowing like the Spotted Pig’s burger that’s usually oozing with so much melted Roquefort that you may emerge from the meal with cheese all over your hands and wrists — but, really, that’s a hard burger for anyone to top.
Next up was a dish that took us by surprise: vinegared poussin with roasted pumpkin and mint ($32)
We’re generally loathe to order the chicken on the menu but the waiter assured us this one was anything but pedestrian. He was right — this game hen was incredibly tender and flavorful. We loved the sweet pumpkin accompaniment. The crunchy pomegranate seeds also made an appearance here.
For dessert, we had to try the sticky toffee pudding ($9), which came with vanilla ice-cream, pear slivers, soft and sweet, a coffee sauce and caramel popcorn bits, which were a delightful touch. (Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield, who’s now here, too, sure does like her crunch.)
The high-as-a-kite sweet and sticky pudding, anchored slightly with the rich, deep-flavored sauce and capped with the mouthfeel of the crackling popcorn was a combination that I’ll remember for a while.
As enjoyable as this meal was, sadly, it was probably the last that I’ll have at the Breslin for a while.
If the success trajectory of the Spotted Pig is any indication, the Breslin will likely get more impossibly packed as the days go by. The waits for a table can only get more tedious.
And if Leonardo DiCaprio starts hanging out there, all I have to say is: God help us all.
The Breslin, 20 W. 29th Street at the Ace Hotel, 212.679.2222, http://thebreslin.com/