Twelve years ago, an Ace Hotel opened near Madison Square Park and became not only a trendy place to stay for out-of-towners, but also a destination for New Yorkers, who packed the aggressively hip lobby for cocktails and art openings, dined on massive plates of meat at the Breslin, and got amped for the city's first Stumptown.
Now they hope to repeat that trick in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, opening a new hotel among the high-rises of Schermerhorn Street, starring a loungey lobby and workspace designed to lure in the locals, and a handsome restaurant-by-night, bakery-by-morning spot called As You Are.
The restaurant is run by Breslin veteran Ryan Jordan, who has lived in Bushwick for 14 years and, as he told Gothamist last week, sees As You Are as "a love letter to Brooklyn. It tells a story. I don't want to pinpoint any specific neighborhood or any specific nationality, but it's an honoring of all the people who came before us, and a homage to a lot of the things I've loved eating here."
This leaves room for Jordan to have some fun. His Chicken Liver and Onion dish, for example, which you'll find in the Snack section of the still-evolving menu, arrives looking like a trio of cupcakes, with Jordan's funky, creamy liver plopped atop a barely-sweet bay leaf madeleine. These are delicious, as are wonderfully greasy Parker House Rolls, which come with a blob of intense roasted garlic butter.
The sleeper hit here is probably the Octopus Mezcal Ragu, a bowl of firm, housemade pasta tossed in a lovely, surprisingly citrusy sauce studded with cephalopod. There are a number of other seafood dishes here as well, including Baked Clams with hot sauce, Bangs Island Mussels with hollandaise, and a perfectly prepared entree of Roasted Skate covered in a lively green olive tapenade and various bitter chicories.
Anchovy is the unexpected ingredient that makes a side dish of Potato and Cabbage memorable, and some salsa verde really elevates another very good side, of roasted Maitake Mushroom. Other offerings worth considering are the Game Hen Peri Peri, the Roasted Cauliflower entree served with a runny egg, a rack of Lamb Ribs with a chili crisp, and a Short Rib Burger with melted emmental cheese and served on a house baked, jumbo-sized English muffin.
While the multi-course feast was highly enjoyable, I must say the secret weapon at As You Are is pastry chef Danny Alvarez, formerly of Daily Provisions and now handling all the sweets and baked goods here, both at the restaurant and the bakery. Alvarez's Chocolate Layer Cake on the dinner dessert menu, smartly paired with a tart raspberry sorbet, is phenomenal, and the hot toffee sauce poured over our bowl of Toasted Oat Ice Cream turned that dish into a party.
These desserts were so good I returned to As You Are last Saturday morning for a full slate of Alvarez's breakfast treats, and if I lived nearby I'd be tempted to do the same every day. The fluffy Black and White Donut is not only topped with chocolate and vanilla, but also houses two flavors of cream inside. And the similarly-stuffed PBJ Donut is just as good--both are instant "Best Donuts In NYC" list contenders--as are the custardy Pastel de Nata and the luscious Brownie Cookies.
Don't sleep on the jammed-up Corn Cakes either, nor Alvarez's BEC, which here stands for beans, egg, and chorizo, all held together by a focaccia bowl and a dollop of tomatillo salsa giving an extra kick to the proceedings. The bakery sits right near the entrance to the left of the hotel's "stoop" outside, and serves drip coffee, either hot or iced, with espresso drinks coming soon.
The whole main-floor space, which includes the 130-seat restaurant and the sprawling lobby, was designed by Roman and Williams, who also did the Nomad Ace. It's comfortable, tasteful, and hip, and seems certain to be a hit with both Boerum Hill neighbors seeking a fresh WFH spot and the out-of-towners staying upstairs. "I cook for the neighborhood," said Jordan. "And I cook for the hotel guests. I really like to make people happy when it comes to food, because food makes me happy."
As You Are is located at 252 Schermerhorn Street, at the corner of Bond Street, on the ground floor of the Ace Hotel. The bakery is currently open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and dinner is served on Sunday through Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Lunch, brunch, and a bar-snack menu coming soon (718-303-3535; asyouarebk.com)