259 Flatbush Ave (St. Marks Ave)
City: Brooklyn, NY
Phone: (718) 484-4114
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Patrick Allouache
Area: Prospect Heights
Having a large restaurant can be a blessing and a curse. Piquant in Prospect Heights is such a place. You can tell a lot of care went into the making of this restaurant from its sprawling bar with cushy suede seats and long light bulbs dangling from the ceiling that look like they came right out of Thomas Edison's laboratory. Tiled floors, exposed brick and floor-to-ceiling windows add to the charm, not to mention a huge outdoor garden with even more seating.
But the problem is filling such a space. On our visit, 8pm on a Saturday, the restaurant was barely half full with a lower level bar and dining area closed off. That may have more to do with what arrives on your plate than the ambience which could easily serve as any high-end spot in Manhattan.
The Southwestern fare is big on flash but unfortunately not much substance. While Piquant is serving up a solid quacamole ($10) and crispy calamari ($10) with a smoky chipotle sauce, it may not be enough to carry the rest of the menu. A sampling of three types of ceviche ($15) drew mixed reviews. One version - a mix of shrimp, papaya and fresno chilies was lively and fresh; the Big Eye Tuna in a mango puree less so, while the snapper with red onion and jalapenos was fishy tasting, and returned to the kitchen. That brings us to the sweet potato tamale ($8) which was actually very tasty. But it had four different sauces going on and salsa on top of pulled pork which pretty much drowned it out.
Main courses also seemed a bit like Sybil was in the kitchen. Take the duck combination ($22). On one side of the plate was crispy duck served schnitzel-style. It was excellent; moist on the inside and crispy outside. It's actually great way to serve duck. I wanted to package it. But across from it sat a seared duck duck leg that was rare and rubbery. And again the dish was splashed with at least three different sauces, none of which was very memorable. Other plates fared a bit better. Beef short ribs ($22) with chipotle mashed were tender and enoyable, as were the chicken quesadillas ($14). And the servings are large.
Still, Piquant needs to live up to its name; "lively," "stimulating," and "sharp", not bland and lifeless. If you're going to use chilies then use them. Add some heat. Add some spice. Add some love!! Any of the above would be an improvement and deserving of such a wonderful space.
Having said all that, I wouldn't write Piquant off. With some tweaks to the kitchen this could be a fabulous restaurant.
Review By: Thomas Rafael