Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Char. No. 4 - Fat Tuesday - A Disappointing Crawfish Boil in Brooklyn

A few friends and I visited Char No. 4 for their special "Crawfish Boil" and we all had one word in mind -- DISAPPOINTING. By the looks of the place, their email marketing campaign worked since most of the patrons were there for crawfish. The place was packed and unless you previously made a reservation, getting a table for four was no longer available until 9:45 p.m. But was all the hype, worth the wait? Sadly, I think Char No. 4 failed to deliver and here's why.

1. Taste. The entire plate of seafood lacked flavor. It tasted as if the cook(s) threw the crawfish, shrimp, clams, andouille sausage in one pot , boiled it and hoped the food would bask in its own flavors. Ok, maybe that is too cruel, afterall, I'm sure the cooks went to culinary school or have some basis of cooking. But, honestly, where was the flavor? It definitely wasn't in the soupy base because that tasted bland and even the shell-in cooked shrimp lacked flavor!

So, with us hungry patrons looking for flavor, we asked our waiter for some Old Bay seasoning... After a few seconds of confusion, he supposedly went to the kitchen and his response to us was they were all out of it. Okkkkayyy... Then, how about some salt and pepper? He comes back with thyme and some gumbo seasoning. As I tasted my shrimp with that gumbo seasoning, I instantly reached for my water and told my friends, don't use that. Oi, we simply just gave up and continued to eat the not-so-flavorful seafood in front of us -- afterall, it was $23 per person.

2. Portion Size. You could order the Crawfish for one, two, or whatever size of your party. We ordered for three. As we patiently waited for our crawfish, a neighboring table of 2 received theirs and it looked like a sizable portion - so we got giddy since we ordered for three and there "should" be more. Our portion came, and our smiley faces turned into frowns. Our plate was the same size as our neighboring table and the portion actually looked less. How could this be. We looked around as more plates were being delivered to tables of 2 and to no surprise, it looked like more. So, my friend not-so-discreetly asked one of the servers (who wasn't our waiter, but looked like he would be the owner/cooking staff) how they determined the size for each plate and for each serving (yes, bold, very bold!) ... and his response was, we weigh it and... though we serve it on the same plate, believe me, you're getting served for the number of people you ordered for. My friend looked at each other and just said, forget it - its not worth it.

As a note, the crawfish for three was not enough to eat (hmm, i wonder why), so we ordered three other items to accompany our meal. Gumbo, crabcakes and spicy pork nuggets -- all of which surprisingly had flavor and offered some redemption value, but not much. Of the three, I think the gumbo would probably be my favorite. The crabcakes are hard to mess up, however, the lemon cream on the plate was too lemony. The spicy pork nuggets was a surprise - take one bite and "poof" goes the nugget -- it as if the bite pushed the air out of the nugget and that was sort of cool.

3. Service. Aside from the awesome host, Brad, the waiter service was slow and not helpful. Our waiter didn't even mention the specials of the night and once the crawfish arrived didn't even bother to ask if we knew how to eat crawfish. Also, I don't even recall him coming by asking if the food was okay. Sadly, we still gave a good tip.

Any positives? Aside from the host, I found few. The decor is simple and nice. After looking over their website, I should mention that they have a large selection of whiskey. It features over 150 American whiskeys , augmented by an extensive list of whiskeys from Europe and beyond as well as a selection of all-bourbon cocktails. So, if you're craving some bourbon, this could be a good spot for that.

Overall, the crawfish boil was a bust. Paying $69 for a plate of bland seafood sized with what they consider a portion for three should have been served with more than three Abita beers -- and in my opinion, the crawfish boil was just not worth it. So, would I come here again? No. Although the gumbo, crabcakes and pork nuggets had flavor, the food was not all that spectacular - just okay and definitely does not warrant another visit.

For yesterday's post of the Fat Tuesday event at Char No. 4, click here.

Char No.4
196 Smith St. (btw Baltic & Warren)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.643.2106 -
Subway - F or G Train to Bergen

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