This post will be mostly a review of Thomas Beisl, Austrian restaurant in Fort Greene, Brooklyn across the street from BAM. However, I have to give a nod to what brought us there last night. Eight of us, The Gourmand & the Peasant and parts of each of our families, descended on the place to fill up before heading across the street to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to watch a sold out performance of Paul Simon’s Under African Skies. It was awesome, despite some rule-breaking dancers breaking the rules of some stuffy ushers, the house was energized, especially when David Byrne stole the show. A shock of white hair, Mr. Rogers-meets-punk-rock wardrobe and dance moves, the man is brilliant and, with his cover of “You Can Call Me Al,” he had the entire audience on their feet, singing along and dancing, before turning the show back to an aging Mr. Simon, and an assortment of other guest singers and musicians including the venerable Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Ok, back to dinner. As former members of restaurant business, the phrase “table of eight” can recall some anxieties. Get the food out at the same time. Keep the glasses filled and the bread coming. Not easy, but handled with grace at Thomas Beisl. We ordered appetizers to be eaten family-style. An arugula salad with a curled slice of parmesan cheese dressed lightly in olive oil, two endive salads, served with grapes and walnuts, two orders of herring in sour cream, an order of chicken liver terrine and a large plate of steak tartare, which came with french fries.
The steak tartare was met with squeals from the more squeamish members of our dinner party. Yes it really is raw meat, and yes, it is a dining luxury you will never again lack for craving once you’ve decided that you could actually (gasp!) like expertly prepared filet mignon, albeit without the fire. The heat in Thomas’ tartare comes from a unique addition of chili, so what it lacks in warmth, it makes up for in capsicum.
For dinner, I had Wiener schnitzel, a veal cutlet pounded thin, breaded and fried to a crisp golden brown and served with a generous wedge of lemon.
To drink, bottles of Schlumberger sparkling flowed, followed by a dry Riesling and Blaufrankish, a little known red grape varietal from the shores of the Danube in the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Riesling and the Blaufrankish were perfectly paired with our food courses and all three were under $35 a bottle. Not cheap, but for the convenience of being on the steps of an internationally recognized performing arts house, comparably affordable. I passed on a 2006 rosé – a shame its still being served to saps who don’t know that a new flock of 2007s have hit the shores and store shelves and far outshine the dusty, tired remnants of last spring.
There were desserts, and hopefully my familial readers will comment about them. I, however, am 13 days away from bikini, so I demurred.
All said and done, a delicious evening of song and feast for all the senses. Delightfully made memories of family togetherness, food and culture in my mind are in the making to recall over dinners to come.
25 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217