Located in Brooklyn, the Pines is a new restaurant, opened by one of the chefs from Roberta’s, a hipster’s paradise out in Bushwick. The Pines also has an outdoor “backyard grill,” which serves simplified food, as compared to their more complex main dining room.
Jesse: The Pines wasn’t initially on our list of NY restaurants we had to hit, but Ella from Blue Hill said it was a must. Several times, Julian had mentioned that Brooklyn was one of the hipster capitals of the US, and this being our first experience in Brooklyn, I definitely understood what he meant. The service style, although The Pines was a higher end restaurant, was a bit different than you’d normally expect for a place that costs about $70/ person.
Julian: Yeah, the servers were super casual–almost as if they didn’t really care. This was the night after going to Blue Hill, so maybe we were just expecting that level of hospitality, but it felt to me a little unprofessional for the price point. The design of the restaurant also seemed to be a little below the price point. The silverware was mis-matched, the chairs were rickety, the tables felt cramped, the kitchen crew was somewhat rag-tag…it goes with their theme (sort of a outdoorsy camp feel), but when you’re saving money in the design and service departments, you’d better make up for it by being generous with the food. But they were serving a single scallop, sliced very thinly, for $16 and 6 small raviolis for $25. I felt a bit jipped.
Jesse: I agree. I got a little bit of the vibe that they felt their food was so good that they could just kind of do whatever they wanted in other areas. Although it bothered us a bit- this obviously works for a lot of places (like Lucali’s in Brooklyn where they don’t take reservations and you could have to wait 3 hours for a seat and are greeted by a “you’e-lucky-to-be-in-my-presence” attitude hostess, or Absolute Bagels in Uptown where the lady at the counter will yell at you if you order an extra item once you get to the register). The mistmatched silverware, and sort-of reused vibe of the restaurant could have totally worked for me if the service had been a bit better. Actually, the bathroom was my favorite bathroom I’ve been in this whole trip.
A slight tangent:
I think what was happening at The Pines is a bit reflective of what’s happening in the food world in general (at least in the US). There’s a lot of young chefs going off and starting restaurants that showcase their food, but they seem to forget about the experience as a whole. No matter how good the food is, if a customer is paying top dollar for a meal, they should be treated hospitably. There is a big difference between hospitality and service. At The Pines, Torissi, Red Medicine (LA), Husk (Charleston), and the list goes on, the service was fine, but it wasn’t hospitality. It didn’t feel like the FOH wanted to be there and had a desire to make this be the best experience possible for us. Hospitality is something you can feel–the staff exudes it in their attitudes– and it feels good, it makes your experience memorable, it makes you feel special. For me, that’s just as essential a part of going to a great restaurant as the food.
dry-aged duck agnolotti
Juian: Well said. A bit about the food. We ordered everyhing to share, as they suggested. This whole sharing thing has become quite the trend, by the way. The only problem is, a lot of restaurants don’t design the dishes to be shared–they just plate them as they normally would, but put the dishes in the middle of the table instead of in front of each diner. This leads to awkward slicing and annoying passing of plates. The Pines, however, got this aspect of service right by plating dishes that didn’t really require knives or drippy sauces. I appreciate the thought that went into that. Anyway, I’d say the best dish we got was the foie gras course. This might have been because I haven’t had foie in over a year (damn you, California!) or because it was just really well done. It was basically a foie mousse served with strawberry rhubarb jelly and a giant piece of crusty brioche. Very well balanced and delicious. The dessert we got was also very good and creative. It was a play on hummus, with a tahini ice cream, candied garbanzos, a sesame crunch, and a cilantro syrup. Sounds weird but it worked!
Jesse: I think that about wraps it up.