Seersucker

Seersucker is certainly not alone in its desire to abide by the farm-to-table ethos, but we’ve seldom seen a restaurant be so utterly earnest about it all. We arrived without reservations (though to be fair to us, really early for a Saturday night) and were very kindly told we could sit if we were OK with leaving in an hour. It’s been my experience that it is never a bad thing to agree to such a stipulation; it’s up to them, afterall, to provide you swift service, so if they have a self-imposed deadline it will hardly be your fault when your dining goes over the allotted window of time. Plus, are they really going to kick you out after exactly an hour (or how ever long you’re quoted)? Surely not.

The greeter — who, again, and I don’t mean to belabor this too much, was so hopelessly hipster that I’m sure she has a sitcom airing on the CW Friday nights — cheerfully tapped our names into her tablet, which I quietly observed was the ill-conceived Dell Inspiron Duo. Even if the food were  perhaps beyond our understanding, at least I could judge this place’s questionable choice in electronics.

Upon arrival at the table we all immediately noticed the water glasses were, what else, mason jars. I also pointed out that the table sel was provided in tiny open bowls, presumably for the pinching. Oh come on, Seersucker. Can we calm it down a little? It’s not that serious.

Pouring over the drink menu (no pun intended), we noticed the bar stocked several wines on-tap. Though ostensibly lower brow than bottled wine, we communally agreed the on-tap idea was novel if not at least a little cool.

Still — and somehow in keeping with the “seriously earnest local food” theme — the wine was brought out in mini carafes. I guess to help us imagine the wine came from a local producer who couldn’t be bothered with bottles? Let’s imagine this for a second. Basically they empty bottles (or perhaps tiny kegs?) of wine into some sort of tapping system. Next that wine is doled out into mini carafes. These are then immediately brought to the table. Here, they are finally emptied into a glass. Oddly, the waitress waited for one guest to taste the wine and nod in approval. I mean, could this not be more complicated? Plus, the pre-tasting of wine is supposed to be so that you don’t order a bottle that has spoiled. Removing the bottle altogether from this scenario, and what are we left with?

“Would you prefer still or sparkling water? We filter and carbonate our water in-house,” our waiter gratuitously explained. I half-expected him to follow that question up with, “and by the way, our air is house-conditioned, the ice is house-frozen, and the toothpicks are house-wittled.”

It’s water, people.

I don’t mean to highlight these non-food points too much more, but if it isn’t clear already from reading this far, let me make it absolutely clear: Seersucker is trying so very hard to prove just how dedicated to local, slow, authentic food that it actually takes you out of the experience, rather than helps you transcend it. Take the menu, for example, which puts a bold star next to every dish whose ingredients are derived from produce bought at the local [Carroll Gardens] farmers market. OK, fine, but if that is your whole restaurant’s purpose…and almost every dish has a star anyway…why are you pointing it out? Not to mention that particular farmers market is on Sundays, so are they really holding this stuff upwards of 6 days? Or do they have some other arrangement with the market, in which case these aren’t technically from the market?

Anyway, flustering with the menus, we hastily ordered a plate of biscuits and preserves for the table while we contemplated bolder actions. The biscuits themselves were totally fine, although I can’t remember anything worth noting. The preserves, on the other hand, were sadly very very boring. To be fair the molasses butter was accurately described, but I was expecting — you know — a lot of molasses flavor. It was just butter. The apple butter could not be described as anything other than boring. OK here’s one more: mush. I’m not even positive it tasted like apples. The cherry preserves were fine, but as the third I tasted I’m wondering if that was simply in comparison to the other two.

Next came this absurd amuse bouche, which was described to us as just a tasting of local fresh vegetables to give us an idea of the menu/restaurant. “Fresh” might have been said out loud approximately 18 million times. The dish was literally like a single fava bean, a charred shishito pepper, a piece of carrot, and something resembling a radish. Underneath was a yogurt dressing of some kind. Honestly, who is expecting much, but couldn’t they have done something, anything to elevate the vegetables? I’m not even just harping on the rawness. Why not, for example, shred the vegetables and toss them in the yogurt dressing? Why not blend them into a tiny soup? Why not layer them into a “sandwich.” Of course I love raw vegetables (well, the pepper wasn’t raw), but I definitely could have done without. It was unintentionally funny.

A basic iceberg lettuce, blue cheese, and black walnut salad arrived next. Nothing too much to report other than that while I appreciated that they had sliced and artfully arranged everything, I was seriously hoping for more quantity. The dressing was flavorful if a little salty. Also, why the sprouts?

Finally came the main course in the form of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and carrots. Times three. The good thing about almost everyone ordering the same thing is you don’t have to pretend you want to share. Perhaps it’s appropriate given the theme of the restaurant, but for me the carrots were the best part, and not because the chicken wasn’t good. It was just simply acceptable. If you’d ordered it in any casual restaurant, you would neither think it was amazing nor be disappointed. It was objectively fried chicken. “Yes. Yes, this is fried chicken,” I say to no one in particular. However, I will admit that I appreciated that it wasn’t only white meat (to my knowledge) despite being boneless. There was some real juiciness there. I suppose, then, that the fault lies in the crust. Again, it was nothing unspectacular, it just wasn’t the flaky, crunchy, moist crust I would consider a home run. Oh, and please stop putting sprouts as garnishes on top of things. It’s not cute and serves no purpose other than to add green to a very brown plate.

Which brings us to the bill and as well our final thoughts. Seersucker is totally passable and technically flawless, but it is also unequalled in its unimpressiveness. Plus, it tries so hard that instead of the environment feeling seamless, it just comes off a little stuffy and artificia0l, ironically.

P.S. The service was by no means swift enough to finish us in the quoted hour, and indeed we could see various people waiting at the bar for our table to open up. Not our fault!

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2 thoughts on “Seersucker

  1. Jerch says:

    It looks like you came to BTYM from New York Mag. Have you read any of our other restaurant posts? I can’t tell whether you enjoyed this review or not.

    I only mentioned the Dell Inspiron Duo because it was an ill-conceived device in general. I would have not noted an iPad vs. Kindle Fire vs. some other tablet. It’s just odd to find the Duo in the wild. I didn’t think anyone bought that thing.

    You bring up the hour cut-off a few times. My point wasn’t that we were unabashedly ready to go over an hour. Rather, we could order and consume a meal in under an hour, or the restaurant would not expedite everything within an hour — either way not affecting us. Seersucker did not bring out the food fast enough, so we went over an hour.

    At no point were we rude to Seersucker’s staff. Yes, this review is very snarky and critical. That’s the point. We left feeling this way. Then I wrote it down. You obviously read it.

    Which brings me back to the original point of the review:The food was passable but unremarkable, and the atmosphere of the restaurant got in the way.

    Your concerns with this review seem to center on our attitude both openly and quietly with the people working in the restaurant, so I’m going to guess you are a server at a popular restaurant? Let me know if I’m wrong/when we can come in for a free review dinner. All of the colorful details (salt in bowls, mason jar glasses, house-filtered house-carbonated water, etc.) are just that: color. They did not overwhelmingly affect our taste buds. My remarks were culled from the four diners present, and remember that three of us had the same entree. It was just not good enough. Subjectively, I can be less alarmed by a restaurant’s random stray bits of fluff if it’s otherwise greatly enjoyable in some other way. I maybe don’t love everything about Henry Public’s brunch, but it’s such a fantastic bar (and plainly, a fun place to bring visitors) that it’s OK. Have you been to Seersucker? I didn’t HATE it. I just didn’t find it incredible. It was memorable for the artifice, of which there was a lot.

  2. You sound like one of the worst customers ever. Working in restaurants, I have seen your type a million times–a sourpuss with absolutely zero intention of having a good time, nit-picking everything about a restaurant, looking for any reason possible to complain. The hostess, even being as hip as you allude to, was nice enough to try to squeeze you in to the restaurant under the assumption that you would leave in an hour. You clearly had no intention of adhering to this stipulation, coming off as confrontational and ungrateful for the strings she was pulling to try to make sure you had a good time (with no reservation on a Saturday night, mind you.)

    You seem like one of those people that desperately wishes they were one of the “cool kids”, though obviously not one of them, you resort to calling anything remotely out of the norm, or remotely progressive ‘hipster’. You constanty make reference to how pretentious this place seems to you, yet you devote your second paragraph to mocking them for their choice of tablet. A mason jar crosses the line, but an iPad wouldn’t be too ‘hipster’ for you.

    Your last line summarizes the attitude most ungrateful, rude customers have towards people in the hospitality field: Not our fault!

    Hey, you were nice enough to accomodate us on no notice on a Saturday night, remaining ever-cheerful the whole time? Don’t care. There are people at the bar waiting for the table that they actualy had the foresight to reserve? Fuck ’em. You’re adhering to your artistic/ethical/culinary ethos? Too ‘hipster’. Running a ‘totally passable and utterly flawless’ restaurant amidst a sea of horrible businesses with no creative ambition? Who cares?

    I hope, for their sake, that after this totally mind-numbing review they lose you as a customer and never have to put up with your I-could-do-it-better attitude again.

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