If it weren't for the fabulous service at BruDa, we may have cut our losses and am-scrayed right after the apps. But I've always said that if the food is just fair yet the service sublime, any establishment deserves a second chance. Eager to please doesn't even come close to describing the attentiveness of our waiters, who - tada! - also happen to be the co-owners. And doing double duty on a slammed (and noisy) Thursday night doesn't seem to faze them in the least.
Neil Da Costa and co-owner V
ictor Brum (mash-up their last names to form the restaurant's name), have worked together for so long, they're like an old married couple who can probably finish each other's sentences. The two seamlessly navigate through the night making sure that each of their patrons is properly tended to, dropping by regularly to check on a particular plate or glass of wine.
The menu is as impressive a read as the service is sublime. But uhmmm...there's a teensy problem: the execution of practically every dish falls way short of the experience this duo aims for at BruDa. Chef Gordon Calman may have created a carte with grand European flair, using locally sourced ingredients, but there is a definite loss in the translation from paper to plate.
At first, flaws appear as mere forgivable missteps. Like a wild mushroom bisque ($8) that, while it sports some decent enough earthiness, has a broth that is way too thin to even be considered a soup, let alone a bisque. Then the tire-tough texture of seared scallops ($13) arrives, its lovely and velvety accompanying celeriac puree doing its best to help elevate this dish to passable. Okay, let's chalk this up to just a flukey bad start. And, we can't overlook the fact that the place filled up pretty quickly with a couple of large parties instantaneously. But then a slow-cooked spiced rabbit ($10) tells us that something is going terribly, horribly wrong in this kitchen. First of all, what spices? Looking forward to a little gaminess, instead we are met with what looks and tastes like an emptied can of flaked light tuna. And while the rosti on the side is beautifully browned and gooey on the inside, how is possible that it has no discernible potato flavour?
I love the fact that chef puts creative energy into a reinterpretation of a classic carbonara ($18), a New World version that includes beautifully handmade and toothsome papardelle. But again we ask, how on earth can a recipe which includes heavyweights like Serrano ham, a poached duck egg and chanterelles flatline on flavour? Does chef have an allergy to salt? I get his wanting to be subtle, but this is getting a tad ridiculous. A house-made pork sausage ($22) with mixed beans and a lardon ragout sounds like the perfect antidote to an otherwise miss of a meal. Could this next to last entry help mitigate the damage already done? Not unless you enjoy dried out meatloaf over a bed of beans you can barely chew. The same fate follows with a double-smoked pork tenderloin ($17) that's not only way overcooked, it's as tepid to the touch as the bacon that wraps it is flacid.
Which begs the question: who made the great desserts? A ganache-like smoked chocolate tart ($8) and Jamaican pumpkin ice cream ($6) crowned with an exquisite pine nut brittle couldn't possibly have come out of the same kitchen.
Sure, there is much more to a restaurant than its food. The BruDa boys are proof of that. Their passion and charm are the tastiest things they currently offer. And while chef Calman should be commended for dedicating himself to making everything from scratch, bread included, even if that means running back and forth from some hidden storage area to retrieve ingredients, why was practically every plate a problem? Coming from a chef who's worked for Susur Lee? I'm not saying someone put a curse on this spot in Little Italy; but BruDa is the third iteration of this space since Negroni and Carpano closed, all within a very short span of time. Will BruDa be the next casualty? I fear it may, unless chef amps up his game to ensure that no dish leaves his kitchen before its time.