R.I.P. That was fast. (6/17/14)
It can be hard to gauge a restaurant this fresh, especially during the lull between Christmas and the new year. At least in this East Williamsburg deadzone that everyone calls Bushwick where it appears that 80% of the neighborhood has returned from whence they came for the holidays. Only two blocks from the Morgan Ave. L and the streets are dead and dark at 7pm, making the area seem more desolate than is actually the case (grousers who would like to cling to the area as gritty and undiscovered should take note).
1 Knickerbocker hits all of the stylistic notes that one has come to expect from a gastropub and that are still in vogue on the cusp of 2014: tin ceilings, house-made bitters, boutique vermouths, pickles, offal. Oh, and a scotch egg, which I’d like to deem a local prerequisite even though The Rookery is the only other example I can think of (shocked at Dear Bushwick’s omission).
One thing that separates 1 Knickerbocker from its ilk in other neighborhoods is the size. The place is enormous and a perfect antidote for those averse to squeezing between two inches of table space. Booth for six? No problem. And on this particular evening, a luxury for two. (For the record, The Randolph Brooklyn also ranks highly for booth-lovers.)
You can start with a nice Manhattan riff. With rye and an absinthe rinse, the drink is a little Sazerac-y. Birch bitters up the herbal quotient.
Admittedly, it was the fried pig ears that drew me in. This version plays up the crunch more than the chew (I don’t mind a bit more gooeyness) and gets its lusciousness from mayonnaise flavored with pickled peppers. Fried curry leaves were a distinctive touch. Where curry powder tastes like fake Indian food, if you’ve ever smelled or nibbled curry leaves–maybe without even knowing it–the flavor is recognizably Indian.
There is synergy with the scotch egg, which also relies on a flavored mayonnaise–black garlic, in this case–and a pickled hard-boiled egg fried in a pakora-like coating, so one or the other would probably suffice. Thankfully, the sausage is chicken instead of the usual pork, so overall this isn’t as heavy as it looks.
Shredded brussels sprouts and chickpeas with a peppery yogurt dressing.
Ok, more pickles and eggs. The farmer’s plate did have a hearty selection of smoked meats, and substantial cheeses, though clearly, I was remiss in ordering any warm entrees like the roast elk or pork cheeks, mostly because I was snacking and drinking. Despite saying gastropub, the mains have touches like caraway, spaetzle, juniper and dill that are less London and more Berlin bistro.
1 Knickerbocker * 1 Knickerbocker Ave., Brooklyn, NY