Last night, James and I had dinner with friends at the new Klee Brasserie on Ninth Avenue. It was the first time we had spent dinner with the two of them, and they were up for the adventure of dining at a place that had been open less than a week. It's in the old Magnifico space, but you would be unlikely to recognize it. It has been fully rearranged, with a long bar on one side. I was told that the bar there at the moment isn't the final version.
The chef, Daniel Angerer, is Austrian, but I would describe the food as creative New York comfort food. There are elements of Austrian/Germanic cooking, plus some Italian and other influences. Not much in the way of Asian highlights.
I like the space. It's comfortable, and the tables aren't so close together that they have to pull one table out to seat people. I refuse to eat at places that charge $20+ for entrees and then do that to the customers. The sound level is good, which is another plus in its favor. The place was pretty full, and we could hear each other at a largish table for 4 with no problem.
The wine list is still being worked on, but the one we ordered from had a number of good deals on Austrian wines. We had a Grüner Veltiner and a Blaufränkisch both under $40. There are a number of wines available by the glass or the carafe.
The food was very good, with perhaps a little more excitement in the appetizer course. I have no idea why that is often the case, but I see it a lot when we eat out. Among the group, we had
- Shrimp cocktail with champagne mustard rather than cocktail sauce
- Chicken soup that arrived with the broth in a French press
- Char tartare with lime and golden beet "caviar," and
- Alsatian Tarte Flambée, but was described as "Alsatian thin crust pizza." It was made with crème fraîche, lardons, and Vidalia onions. I'm a big fan of the dish, and it was one of the best versions I have ever had. I think the next time I go, we might split it between a couple of people as an appetizer, as it was decently sized.
For main courses, we had
- Black Hog pork chop with roasted red cabbage, apples, Calvados and mustard relish
- Duckling (Long Island), slow roasted Jersey Plums, quinoa, klee honey (two of us)
- Halibut (Novia Scotia), pine nut crusted, Brussel sprouts, basil and lemongrass broth
All were very good, but I think the (perfectly cooked) duckling was a little under-seasoned. I never ask for salt in a restaurant, but this time I did. I quickly and courteously received a little dish of excellent sea salt.
The service (which was very pleasant) is still working out some kinks, as is to be expected on what I think was the first night with a significant crowd. For dessert, we had a free assortment of excellent little cookies on the house. They were yummy, but I suspect the kitchen might have been a little overwhelmed at that point and was giving out dessert samplers rather than making individual desserts. Given the chef's Austrian background, I expect that will change pretty quickly.
Prices ranged from $8-14 for appetizers and $18-27 for entrees. For comparison, that's around the price range of Red Cat, and slightly more than Trestle on Tenth.
There are rotating specials each day, such as Macaroni and Cheese with Maine lobster and four cheeses on Fridays, and Wiener schnitzel on Saturdays.
I'm very happy to have this in the neighborhood, and expect to visit on a regular basis. I'll probably do an update after they've had some time to settle in, and we've had a chance to try out more of the menu.
200 Ninth Ave. (between 22nd and 23rd)