Monday, September 19, 2011

Braai - New York

It was my last night in the city and I was looking for something different for dinner. Plucking an idea straight from the bowels of food related television, I decided to try and pay a visit to Brick Lane Curry House, home of the infamous phaal curry, a curry so hot the cook has to wear a gas mask when preparing it. I had my reservations made on open table and I was ready to go the nearly 40 blocks to dinner, it was just a matter of catching a cab. 30 minutes later I had blown my dinner reservation and any bit of patience I had left, I couldn’t catch a cab to save my life. Luckily, just then, a friend called to see if I was still up for meeting for dinner. So, I retreated to the Algonquin lobby and waited for Anne Marie to arrive.

A half hour later, we were on the way to dinner. Hoping to show me a new cuisine, Anne Marie had a certain place in mind. After walking through Times Square, we quickly arrived at Braai, a South African restaurant named for the local term for barbeque.

I’ve been told that South African cuisine is hard to peg, nicknamed the "rainbow cuisine" it seems to be a mixture of a variety of other cuisines, Indian, native, Dutch, Portuguese, etc. Luckily most everything on the menu, foreign name or not sounded quite appetizing. Hoping to try a little bit of every category, we decided to try a few different appetizers instead of one or two big entrees. That order in, the first thing brought to our table was an order of the frikadelle.

Essentially a beef and lamb meatball in a hearty sauce, this was a tidy order of well cooked and very well seasoned meatballs swimming in spicy tomatoes. With a very fine texture and a pleasant residual heat, this was a precocious start to the meal.

Next was a dish from the mini-sosaties section of the menu, the skewered mutton.
Beneath the thick sauce and taste of Cape Malay spices, there was a nicely charred, but overcooked piece of mutton.

I realize that mutton will never be at tender as lamb, but even with the excellent flavors, this was hard to eat.

One plate I was really looking forward to was the boerewors

Being a traditional pork and beef farmer’s sausage on a roll with onions and tomato sauce, it had the makings of a great sausage sandwich. Sadly, the flavorful and surprisingly spicy sausage had been overcooked as well. As good as it tasted when cooked to death, I can only wonder how it would taste if cooked properly.

Looking to try meat that’s a little out of the ordinary, we ponied up the extra four dollars for the ostrich braai burgers.

It was a nice pair of small burgers, well dressed and looking quite appetizing.

Unfortunately, the lean ostrich suffered the same fate as the much fattier sausage. What would have been a perfectly tasty burger was a wasteland of overcooked meat, nice toppings though.

The last dish could be best described as a beef bruschetta.
With a texture akin to chipped beef, this tomato and beef dish was on the salty side but still satisfying with a big beef flavor and plenty of fresh tomato.

Ideally with so much overcooked food, I would have told our waiter about the problem and it would have been rectified. Oddly, our waiter seemed to disappear after he brought the food, only pausing to tell us that the kitchen was closing and to see if we wanted to order any other dishes. So with the kitchen long closed and our meal finished he reappeared and after hearing about the food, only offered an odd commiserating story about how the kitchen staff would mess with him by making his staff meal order of meatballs extra greasy. Not knowing what to do with that information, we paid the bill and left.

It’s a shame that Braai was so disappointing. There were excellent flavors at work and so many biryanis, prawns, and steaks that we didn’t have a chance to try, but if they made such a hash of the appetizers, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the entrees. It looks like the next time I’m in New York and looking for something a little different, I’ll be better off skipping this South African outpost.

Braai Address & Information
329 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019 // 212.315.3315 // Braai Website // Braai Menus // Braai Reservations

Braai on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

had a cold feeling, nothing like the pictures.
The menue differed to the pictures.

The owner/ manager argued with us and ended up snatching the bill off the table and telling us to 'GET OUT OF MY RESTAURANT'

The food was poor and the service was poor. Not a south african is sight and when I querstioned the menu Raul (manager) said 'IF YOU DONT LIKE THE FOOD THEN YOU DONT KNOW WHAT FINE DINING IS!'

what an assumption and i will never go back and would rather go to MADIBA which is much better.

Cynical Cook said...


-Thanks for sharing your experience.