Review: Prune (East Village)

Sunday Brunch at Prune

I fell in love with Prune before I’d ever eaten there. Naming her restaurant after her childhood nickname, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton documented her experience opening Prune in her New York Times Bestseller, Blood, Bones, and Butter. By the time I had finally made dinner reservations, I already knew about Hamilton’s affinity for Negronis, her love of the simplicity found in radishes and butter (a favorite we share), and the attention to detail involved in cooking a hare. Like the menu that values “simple” delicious food, the restaurant itself is easily overlooked- so much so that after reading at length about the restaurant’s façade and 30-seat bistro dining room, I walked right past the distinctly purple awning and wide windows that look out on the sleepy residential street it’s nestled in. After a few 180˚s, I entered the dining room to be greeted by a blonde woman in a dress who showed me to my table.

(Spoiler Alert: I realized months later while attending a Taste Talks event that this blonde woman listening in on my know-it-all accounts of Gabrielle’s life, was the chef-author herself. Cue: me physically cringing for the next week with flashbacks of me rattling off Did-You-Knows about Gabrielle while she refilled my water glass).

Prune Carbonara

The menu, which recently underwent an enormous overhaul that coincided with the restaurants fifteenth anniversary and Hamilton’s first cookbook, featured a list of dishes inspired by the Italian countryside Hamilton loves: Duck breast with cipollini onions, dandelion greens, and agrodolce dressing, Escarole salad in the Ruman puntarelle style. I ordered a lamb dish with chickpeas, and a chicken broth with a poached egg. While the components of my meal were simple, the flavor of each dish was incredible. The broth in particular had a depth of flavor that I’ve never experienced from broth alone.

This past Sunday, I returned to stand outside of Prune at 9:30 AM, thirty minutes before doors opened with roughly forty other people layered in coats, hats, and mittens for brunch. While I love brunch, I’ve become distrustful of eating out for brunch after one too many botched Eggs Benedict and watered-down mimosas. Prune’s brunch was enough to earn my trust back instantly. Seated by the large front window, I felt like I was in an open-air French bistro despite the ice-cold pane of glass to my left.

Egg en Cocotte

As soon as the menu hit the table, my boyfriend and I went a little crazy and ordered all of the foods (many of our restaurant outings begin this way, but this was excusable for an anniversary brunch). Spaghetti a la Carbonara; fresh Ricotta with raspberries, figs, toasted pine nuts and honey served with Merveilles; Egg en Cocotte served with chicken, buttered white toasted and a mixed level vinaigrette. Drinks and sides all around!

While some of the foods were not perfect (the chickpea side wasn’t particularly interesting and the ricotta could have used some more honey), the meal was. From the slightly tart and salty center of the Merveilles to the friendly waiters, reasonably-priced food, and Beatles-heavy playlist, consider my dislike for brunch gone. Carbonara is often done too heavily, relying on a thick egg-cream sauce for its flavor. At Prune, however, the cream was traded for a significant dose of pepper and thorough coat of parmesan, allowing us to easily polish off a huge bowl of the lighter-than-expected dish. See you next Sunday, Prune.