Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Custom House

When my parents were visiting in July, they offered, on their last night in town, to take Elizabeth and me out for a really nice dinner. But I was just coming down with the nastiest cold I have had in years and I was pretty tired from more than a week's worth of constant activity. Do you know that feeling where all you want is something close by and delicious?

The Custom House had recently opened only one block away - I knew they had fish & chips on the menu and that sounded so good to me on this particular evening - so I suggested we head there for dinner.

At the back of the restaurant is a small, walled patio, perfect for a warm summer evening. That's where we sat.

Several things looked good on the menu.

My dad had a pint of Guinness. I was so under the weather that I couldn't even bring myself to order one. Normally a pint of Guinness or three always makes me feel better. Not this time.

We started with a Margherita flatbread. It was good, but insubstantial. They had basically taken about half of a pita bread, slicked it with some sauce and added six tiny drops of cheese. I mean, it tasted nice, but they probably used 50 cents worth of ingredients here and then charged us nine bucks. Even by Brooklyn Heights standards, this seems ridiculous.

I had the fish & chips. The tilapia was delicious, flaky white fish. The batter had not been cooked at a high enough temperature so it was not at all crispy; it was a greasy, flimsy batter that slid off the fish with each attempt at biting. But the fish really was good. (I know someone who went back a couple of weeks later and he reported that the fish was great and the batter crispy, so maybe my order was an anomaly.)

The fries were lousy. I mentioned the other day that I rarely order fries any more. This is why. They were just frozen potatoes that were not cooked long enough, resulting in mealy potatoes no different than most fast food joints.

The tartar sauce was delicious, and after finishing the container I asked for another.

My dad had the mussels and fries, and he enjoyed the mussels and loved the broth. I dipped a piece of his bread into the broth and I agreed that it was delicious.

My mom had the quesadilla, adding chicken and requesting guacamole on the side. I tried a bite of quesadilla. It was fine. That's about as enthusiastic as I could be.

Elizabeth had the crab cake sliders. The above picture is how they were served, just thrown onto the plate and looking like they'd been stepped on. (And there were only two of them. I tried to remember if I'd ever ordered sliders somewhere and only received two. I could not.) The crab cakes themselves were actually quite good, but this picture sums up how I felt about that place: that it's just kind of going through the motions.

None of us disliked our dinner, but none of us had anything really enthusiastic to say about it, other than my dad's broth and my tartar sauce. My dad picked up the check so I have no idea what it cost, but just looking at the menu and estimating, it was probably too much for just those two things to be above-average.

Still, the place is only a block away, and the girl who waited on us was really nice, so I decided to give it another try before I wrote about it.

The other day we returned with Elizabeth's parents for brunch. I looked at the beer menu - there were some good choices.

But I went with an iced tea.

The brunch menu did not look as good to me as the dinner menu, but then again I'm not a breakfast (or brunch) person. I still saw several things I wanted.

Rick had already eaten a light breakfast earlier in the morning, so he satisfied himself with a bowl of French Onion soup, which he really enjoyed.

I knew what Elizabeth was going to order as soon as I saw the menu: the French toast with Bananas Foster sauce. She definitely liked it.

I pushed the ketchup close to Kathy, who uses it as ubiquitously as anyone I have ever seen.

She enjoyed the flavor of the Eggs Benedict - I was able to snap a pic before the deluge of ketchup on the potatoes - but the poached eggs were quite overcooked and not at all runny. She pointed it out to the waiter.

"Those idiots!" he replied. I assume he was talking about the cooks.

I had the burger, a half-pound beef patty on a brioche bun with crispy onions and shiitake mushrooms. It was good. Not as good as the Five Guys immediately across the street or the Shake Shack a few blocks away, and certainly not as good as the burgers I make at home, but a solid restaurant burger. The fries were once again an afterthought - flabby, undercooked potatoes, and I ate very few of them.

I do want to like The Custom House. The employees are friendly and the layout is nice: there is a long bar with several flatscreen TVs (I realize that is not a plus for everyone) and there is an attractive fireplace at the front of the house. Twice I have stopped in for a single pint of Guinness and it has been a much more enjoyable occasion than either meal. Because the food just strikes me as being merely average, staid, and a little overpriced. In that regard it is no different than the majority of places at which I have eaten in Brooklyn Heights. No matter how much I would like it to stand apart, it really doesn't.


Anonymous said...

The meal at the Custom House cost $92, including tax and tip.

Anonymous said...

The reason I never bought into the slider craze is that I've seen too many orders come out looking like those. A chef should be ashamed to serve a plate looking like that, even at a fast food place.

Banana Wonder said...

Those poor crab cake sliders do look like they've been stomped on! Good thing the crab cake tasted alright. Hope you're feeling better and had a good time with your parents visiting.