Eaten, Barely Blogged: Mexico, Spain, Brooklyn
Pampano doesn't get the attention of other newer, cooler Mexican restaurants, but it remains popular, seemingly with early-stage dates, guys who appear businesslike, and older Spanish-speaking women with younger relatives who only speak English. I was there to sample a new summer menu spotlighting ingredients from La Paz in Baja California. (I've also been before of my own volition, so this isn't totally shilly. And yeah, Richard Sandoval rivals Ducasse with his international expansion efforts, but I'm still curious enough to try a tapa or two at Toro Toro when I'm in Dubai this weekend. Ha, that's sounds hilarious, as if I'm always off to glitzy places.) Supposedly, different regions in Mexico will be featured throughout the year. The full menu is here with details, but I can say that the bacon-wrapped shrimp (is there a bad bacon-wrapped shrimp?) with a chipotle sauce, grilled pineapple and melon ball-sized rounds of avocado was the standout with its sweet, creamy and salty components. And it didn't hurt that the presentation was so pretty. An all-seafood meal, there were also smoked clams, a tamarind mahi-mahi and a tuna tamalito. The guava pastry did not contain seafood, thankfully, just fruit and Damiana, an herbal liqueur said to have aphrodisiac properties (they're not boasting that claim on the menu, though maybe it's legit since even WebMD mentions that usage for the herb).
Tapeo29 I find myself coming back here with increasing frequency. The corner bar using open windows instead of air conditioning is more Madrid than Barcelona (though both cities would let you sweat in the summer) meaning traditional, not avant-garde (I don't know the Spanish for avant-garde–de vanguardia?). Chorizo al sidra, croquetas de bacalao and boquerones aren't surprising, but they are satisfying, and before 8pm on weeknights only $6 each (plus wine and cocktails for the same price). I always leave a little drunker than intended and just full enough.
Lavender Lake I didn't try any food and, frankly, it's the kind of place I read about on blogs, or rather The Times Style Magazine, in this case, and decide that there's no need to rush over. Can I live without "Scandinavian rustic" in Gowanus? (I also refuse to give pseudo-neighborhood, Gowanus, its own category–it's two blocks from the F train.) But I didn't realize it was located on the relaxing, over-the-canal route I occasionally take home when I feel like the F is going to crush my soul so I preemptively take the R all the way to Union Street and walk the mile-and-a-quarter to my apartment. So, I had an Aperol spritz, which is dangerously close to a white wine spritzer (in spirit, not taste) and awkwardly sat by myself on a folding chair too short to reach the bar-like ledge on the back patio. At 7pm there wasn't a free table in the entire yard, which is a common phenomena and I'm certain would've been the same even an hour earlier. I'm convinced no one in Carroll Gardens actually works, despite the crazy real estate prices. Regardless, it's a pretty place, all muted tones and reclaimed wood, like a physical Instagram.
Brooklyn Ice House I have far less to say about this Red Hook bar than Lavender Lake, and yet I like it more. Thai chile sauce wings served Buffalo style (blue cheese, carrots and celery) and a pint of Sixpoint Righteous Ale don't need rehashing. Neither bar has a website, which is distressing.