Cooklyn There are two types of New Brooklyn restaurants: those that bore and those that deliver the goods. (Also, I’m patiently awaiting the emergence of the New Queens restaurant). Cooklyn, perhaps even in spite of its name, falls into the latter camp with the assist of a few unexpected Greek touches. Yes, there’s octopus. I never order pasta but those I sampled, from a squid ink cavatelli to a lobster mac and cheese to a new-for-spring beef cheek fusilli with fontina, dried cherries, Kalamata olives and mint were strong. Notable small plates (no, they’re not going away) include two of the most un-Chinese versions of buns and wontons I’ve encountered in recent memory: lamb, dill and feta like a mini gyro, and venison dumplings (pictured) served with stone ground mustard.
Pizzeria Uno Like many fleeing obsessions, I don’t recall how or why I became consumed with hitting up an Uno for the first time in over 13 years (thanks to a history of documenting the mundane, I know exactly when my previous and first visit took place even if it’s embarrassing reading old missives). In that decade-plus span Uno added farro, artisan a.k.a. non-deep dish crusts, and arugula and prosciutto as toppings. What? No. I’m pleased to see that the chain is ditching the pseudo-upscale healthy trends and getting back to doughy basics. Sure, deep dish is kind of an abomination. Yet if you think of it as a lasagna with a tart-like buttery crust, it’s reconcilable.
Maravillas I naively assumed that a dish called chicharrones en salsa verde would contain a strip of crispy pork, all crunch and contrast, not soggy, soft skin rolled around the meat. I did not hate this, mostly because the sauce was great and that level of fiery where you begin feeling a tingle creep through your tonsils up into your ears, and perfectly tempered by corn tortillas that I’m pretty sure weren’t store bought. The chips made from these tortillas were light and flaky, but the nachos they were a part of? My gringo punishment. (I’d just had an exchange with the guy replacing a window in my apartment upon seeing my last name: “Can you make Spanish food? You look like someone who cooks cabbage.”) They were cold, not just cold like food delivered carelessly and slow–the pork was steamy–but never warmed in the first place. Chilled beans and solid squares of Munster beneath hte guacamole and sour cream. And I still want to return in person despite all this.
Pampas Argentinas If you find yourself hopped up on tiki drinks at End of the Century (and maybe a surreptitious puff on a silent residential street) and aren’t up for Danny Brown Wine Bar next door and it’s too late for a sundae at Eddie’s, Pampas is a fine enough choice for splitting a parrillada for two three ways and still being barraged by meat. It’s also a little pricier and a lot weirder than the better known Argentine/Uruguayan steakhouses of Jackson Heights/Elmhurst/Corona. You’ll get chicken, not intestines, which is more accurate for Forest Hills. You will also hear a lot of ’70s soft rock, some deep cuts even, Gerry Rafferty plus much Steely Dan. White sangria might come wine-free but tasting like rum. Um, I guess none of that is so weird in retrospect. I did accidentally tip over $100 and had to fill out a new slip, then walked two miles and spent nearly two hours getting the four miles home, none of which was Pampas’ fault.