Last week my friend in Greenpoint, Sherri, suggested we check out Five Leaves and say hi to our mutual pal who was one of the chefs. Strangely, just minutes before her email I received one from him mentioning that he’d already moved onto another job. I don’t think it had even been three weeks. (For some reason I equate hasty throwing in of the towels with west coasters, which both he and I are. I’ve always had the same compulsion. Even after getting my master’s degree in 2004 and trying to be serious, I’ve managed to breeze through four jobs.) No matter, the new restaurant was still in need of a visit and as the only New Yorker who seems to enjoy riding the G train, it was a journey I didn’t mind.
At 7pm it was still early enough to have a choice of three open tables. Being of the wobbly chairs wedged inches from your neighbor school of style, we picked one of the single two-seaters in the front near the takeout window. Honestly, it didn’t matter; it’s a tiny place. We were still in the line of traffic and next to the bar. I’ve never been to Moto, but Sherri remarked that they looked similar right down to their triangular shapes. That was astute since the same person designed both interiors.
We started with ricotta flavored with thyme and honey (at least I thought it was honey–the sticky substance looks more like marmalade in the photo) and topped with a few fig wedges. The fresh crumbly cheese paired well with the sweet raisin-studded bread. I think the smaller plates might be where they excel.
It looks like the Five Leaves burger is a classic Australian rendition (though I recently read somewhere that this peculiar item is actually a New Zealand invention). I hadn’t heard of the beets, pineapple and fried egg combo until Sheep Station opened in Park Slope a while ago, and now it seems like these burgers have been creeping up throughout the city. It’s the beets that are the strange component, I think. I declined a bite so I’m not sure how this version was.
My frisee was heavily dressed but not off-puttingly oily. The unusually meaty lardons were the highlight of my meal. I know it would be grotesque to eat even a small bowl of cubed pork belly as a meal (well, I guess that's what lechon is but there's nothing remotely Australian about it) but really the egg and lettuce were nearly superfluous. I also ordered a side of truffle fries, which were a little on the underbrowned and soggy side. I do love starch, salt, and I guess the occasional drizzle of truffle oil, so it didn’t faze me much.
The overall consensus was that the food was average, and so too the service—at least by Williamsburg standards (yes, I realize this is just over the Greenpoint border, but it’s still on Bedford Ave.). You may wait eons for food, you might never get what you ordered and that phantom item will most likely show up on your bill anyway. It was hard to tell if the crowd that amassed outside during our hour-and-a-half there was due to sheer popularity or lackadaisical pacing inside.
Sherri described this service type as typically Brooklyn, but I think the cute and well-intentioned yet negligent staff is more uniquely Williamsburg and environs. I wouldn’t incriminate the entire borough. But no one who lives in 11211 seems to care, so no harm is really done. And if you happen to be one of those laid back types who live nearby, it’s worth a stop in for drinks and snacks but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the place for a serious meal.
Five Leaves * 18 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY