A, C, E at 14th St.
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This venue is closed.
Everything about Braeburn seems calculated to induce a sense of almost somnolent calm. There is the lilting, vaguely clichéd, bucolic-sounding name. There are the decorative pinecones and apples (in keeping with the restaurant’s name) strewn around the entrance (which prompted my wife to label the restaurant “Gramercy Tavern Lite”). There is the promise of a sturdy, though elegant, brunch on the weekends (biscuits and gravy, poached eggs with duck confit, cheddar grits) and the presence of daily blue-plate specials on the dinner menu (macaroni and cheese on Mondays, chicken pot pie on Wednesdays, braised-short-rib pot au feu on Saturday night). There is the use of what appear to be birch-tree saplings as a prominent decorative motif, and the display, in the little dining room, of a breezy, wall-size painting depicting a silhouette of barns, a stand of trees, and one or two contentedly grazing sheep.
“This is all very New Canaan,” someone said, as we squeezed into our little wooden chairs, at our little wooden table. Nor was the generic, slightly twee vibe in the joint greatly relieved by the clientele, some of whom wore thick cable sweaters and employed bifocals to peer at their menus through the faux-candlelight gloom. But Braeburn has what most bourgeois little dining establishments in the wilds of suburban Connecticut do not. It has the services of a topflight New York City chef, Brian Bistrong, who ran the kitchen for several years at the Harrison, in Tribeca. Bistrong’s mentor was Jimmy Bradley, one of the originators of high-end, bistro-style American restaurant cuisine. So the menu at this unassuming little restaurant is filled with all sorts of Bradleyesque elevated-barnyard treats, like pots of cauliflower tossed with raisins and buttery bread crumbs, hand-rolled pasta folded with bitter greens and bits of braised rabbit, and rigorously sourced artisanal lamb loin, cut in delicate slices and set in a spicy chickpea stew, spiked with preserved lemon.
Chefs around town tend to prepare skate in the same redundant, Francophile way, but Bistrong rolls his in bread crumbs and sets it with wilted spinach and Japanese mushrooms in a rich broth flavored with mussels. The priciest item on the menu is a hunk of New York strip ($33) was fatty and undercharred when I tried it. The duck breast (sliced and served with Brussels sprouts on a bed of wheat berries) and country chicken (drizzled with brown butter and lemons) are competent renditions of these standard haute-barnyard dishes. But neither was quite as good as the lamb loin, which combines classic French technique with the unexpected spiciness of Moroccan cuisine and costs only $24.Ideal Meal
Sea scallops or quail sausage, loin of lamb, Meyer-lemon tart. French toast or poached eggs and duck confit at brunch.