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Posts from the ‘French’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French-ish, All-American, Mexican Mash-Ups

mimi trio

Mimi The mark of a good restaurant is one where you leave feeling better than when you arrived (despite young men good-naturedly but firmly asking you to move down six inches so their lady can have more room even though you’re already arm-to-arm with the older-but-not-old man waiting for his lady on your right, being there first [the first customer period to avoid this situation because you know your limits], the isosceles triangle napkin placed by a server establishing your plot of land at the bar). That’s not a lot to ask, though it’s scarcer than it seems. Mimi succeeds. The sliced madai in brown butter with lemon curd and dried seaweed was like candy, or more accurately, caramel corn, fish caramel corn, which sounds dubious but is brightened by the citrus and amazing with nice bread and butter. I would go back and have this as a bar snack with sparkling wine in a second.  Don’t play around with it too much or else the sauce will start to cool and congeal. Peppery calves liver, rare and steak-like, is served with boudin noir-stuffed eggplant, studded with golden raisins, and also blended sweet with savory well, potent and energizing in the same way as the crudo without being heavy, matchingwith a glass of equally bold French red wine that I vowed to remember without taking a photo  and promptly forgot (comped, I realized later, which occasionally is a benefit–at least at a certain type of casual-polished place–of dining on your own) Even approaching fullness, I was never bored.

emmy squared duo

Emmy Squared I forget if this is supposed to be Detroit-inspired or Detroit-style pizza (which I did try last year for the first time in a very different setting i.e. one that doesn’t threaten a $25/per person fee for no-shows because you just show up and eat pizza). The slices are square, the crust thick but not Chicago deep, with crisp edges and plenty of cheese. I will take any excuse to eat Hawaiian variations in an acceptable manner. Here, that would be ham and spiced pineapple on the Lou-Wow. I’m also a sucker for pretzel buns, which hold together Le Big Matt Burger, the formerly semi-secret double-pattied, white american cheese, and sambal-spiked mayonnaise monster that’s now formally on the menu. Split a burger and pizza if possible. Both are good but you’ll probably leave feeling more or less the same as when you entered. 

mission cantina trio

Mission Cantina is as good a spot as any to unintentionally stumble into on a weeknight. The whole operation from service to menu feels haphazard, and that’s not a criticism (though I almost ordered a drink special because it was green until I parsed that it contained  Midori, god no, which the server thought was cucumber liqueur). It’s a perfect place to knock back micheladas and marvel at more fried chicken than would seem imaginable for $26. That would be masa-crusted, spicy, honey-drizzled, and tarted-up with pickles and pickled jalapeños in a vaguely Southern/South of the Border/Korean way. Like pretzel rolls and Hawaiian pizza, I will always order crab rangoon if I see it. There was an undercurrent of what I thought was curry powder in these fried wontons, which you have to be in the mood for, and then the next day while sweating on a walk home it hit me that the abrasive seasoning was likely Old Bay, with celery salt being the offender.  Limey, lightly funky mussel tostadas, chosen instead of a side vegetable that was practically insisted upon, were more guacamole than anything.

 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French Schmaltz, Thai Soup, Mexican Sandwiches

sauvage quad

Sauvage is one of those curiosities where you remember looks more than taste even if your photos don’t convey it. And by you, it’s quite possible I mean just me. Light and airy. Windows open to the street. (My first thought was just because everyone speaks French and Spanish on Bedford Avenue, doesn’t mean we’re in Europe. Some of us enjoy A/C.) Where high-waisted jeans in pale washes and Keds look pretty. (Or maybe that’s just how everyone under 30 looks now–the young women working at Pye Boat Noodle, below, had a similar aesthetic plus straw hats encircled by a fat black ribbon). Service was gracious (even though I was given a time-limit on my table for arriving early but reservation-less). How could this pretty (and those coasters) crushed ice cocktail topped with purple petals not be delicious? Ok, with Macvin du Jura, Aveze gentian, and pear, it was, and hard spirit-free refreshing. This delicate quality was also present in the food to lesser effect. Sunchokes with green garlic, sunflower sprouts, and ‘nduja vinaigrette managed to make something with an oily, spicy component neither luscious nor hot and more like the crunchy tubers they were. Pike with so-called mountain vegetables (morels, asparagus, mystery green), and sour beer sabayon was chosen because it was described as the heartier of the two seafood dishes (oh, there was also a fish special that our server seemed very disappointed we didn’t go for), a word I would use more for the pot au feu chicken with skin schmaltz toast, despite chicken fat on bread translating as, yes, delicate. Maybe I’m just losing interest in full meals. I would totally return for cocktails and snacks at the bar if anyone suggested it (though I’m not sure they would).

cemitas el tigre tinga

Cemitas el Tigre I’m kind of jealous that Sunnyside and Woodside gets modern restaurants like Dawa’s and this former Smorgasburg sanwichery now with seats, subway tiles, wood arranged into chevron patterns, and a bar with bottles of Negro Modelo and gose on tap. Jackson Heights never changes no matter how much people who don’t live here seem to think it’s gentrifying. Rent and co-op prices continue creeping-up, and it’s still impenetrably pollo a la brasa, momos, and sports bars. What’s the difference between a Mexican cemita and one meant for a broader clientele? About $1, papalo, and a seeded roll. The thing is, I didn’t really miss that traditional herb’s almost menthol obtrusiveness on this chicken tinga sandwich, hollowed-out roll stuffed with avocado, saucey chipotles, and Oaxacan string cheese. I’m half-ashamed to admit that I pulled 60% of the herb off the last cemita I had a few months ago from El Rico Tinto Bakery. (This might all be moot because Cemitas El Tigre’s menu claims to use papalo and sesame seed rolls. Maybe sometimes they do?)

pye boat noodles

Pye Boat Noodle Ok, it might seem lame to bemoan the loss of nam tok soup a.k.a. boat noodles when there’s a restaurant with the dish in its name a few neighborhoods over. I’m not intrepid as I used to be. Luckily, I had an afternoon to take advantage of the quiet backyard and happy hour beer special in that murky zone between lunch and dinner. (I’ll have to double-check and see if I was charged lunch or dinner prices on the soup–there’s a dollar difference.) A condiment caddy is always a good sign, the cracklings were a nice touch, and the soup itself was rich, complex, just a little livery, yet still buoyant enough for the steamy weather. Astoria, which I’m slowly getting to know, is a small town because the same loud millennial who was making fun of his 40something aunt for getting breast implants the first time I went to Mar’s, also showed up here and I recognized his attention-getting voice before even looking up from my bowl of noodles. Eerily, while typing this District Saigon liked a bunch of my Instagram photos (maybe you should follow me–I’m friendly) which reminded me that’s where I had intended to go this particular afternoon, but it’s one of those closed between lunch and dinner places.

olive garden spaghetti pie

Olive Garden You might think you want pasta formed into a pie (and there are plenty of reputable examples online that I’m not going to link to) but you probably don’t need Olive Garden’s new spaghetti novelty, either Alfredo’d-up with chicken or with tomato sauce and meatballs. No one needs that level of pasta density, unless we’re discussing kugel. Then again, the ramen burger was a runaway hit. I wouldn’t eat that either.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Birds, Blood, Chile Oil

paet rio nam tok soup

Paet Rio take two. I didn’t do a very good job of selling someone who wanted Japanese noodles for lunch and isn’t into Thai food because he thinks it’s all sweetness and coconut milk. I said no pad thai because I’m controlling, then eased up and didn’t provide enough guidance and he ended up ordering rad na, which is the weirdest, blandest, gravy-drenched Chinese-Thai noodle dish that I’m convinced only means something to people who grew up with it. So much so that I passed on a photo. I went looking for a nam tok soup replacement post-Plant Love House (Pata Paplean succeeds, but that’s not a weekday affair) and received an ok rendition. It was a little wan when I was seeking something more powerful and dank.

ivan ramen trio

Ivan Ramen came through on the Japanese noodle front, though accidentally, while weaving from the East Village to Chinatown, not all that hungry after green tea bun at Panya and afternoon beers and a shot at 7B.  The spicy broth slicked with chile oil was softened by finely minced pork and a yolky egg fluffed into an almost-scramble. The tangle of noodles light and springy. I wouldn’t consider $22 a bargain lunch special but with a can of Japanese beer and a chosen side (cucumber pickles in my case) it’s as good a way as any to spend a leisurely afternoon.

le coq rico trio

Le Coq Rico is where you’d expect a prix-fixe lunch to be $38 (though I had a $27 deal because I’m a grandma, see above). The Parisian import is all about aged birds of many breeds, some more than $100 a pop. This particular week, and maybe always, the featured non-whole chicken was a 110-day aged Brune Landaise, roasted with riesling and other aromatics, ideal for the dark meat types (I’ll never understand white meat-lovers), plated simply with jus and a side salad, but not necessarily revelatory. It’s chicken. I’d need to taste more varieties in quick succession to better suss out this particular breed’s attributes. First course was chicken livers with another salad. There is a lot of liver lurking under those leaves, plus some unexpected smears of hummus for added creaminess and richness. That île flottante, though (baked Alaska is next on my list of classics). The meringue mound surrounded a crème anglaise moat and slivered toasted almonds was the breakout star. It was practically a sext when I sent a pic of myself cradling the dish–and now, I’ve firmly entered middle-aged Better than Sex Cake (Better than Robert Redford Cake, if you’re even more aged) territory. Wow. 

duck soup

And speaking of poultry offal, the shop with a three duck logo and name I can’t recall because I don’t think it was in English, is where to go in the New World Mall food court if you want a bowl of mild, cloudy broth full of clear bean thread noodles and bobbing slices of fried crueller and hidden cubes of duck blood, gizzards, and other, livery bits instead of the more popular hand-shaved noodle soups. It lacks the luxuriousness of fatty roast duck and the herbs to read as medicinal. I’d say the soup is restorative. When in doubt, add chile oil. It’s Probably good for a hangover.

white bear wontons

White Bear is hardly an unknown. All non-Chinese order the 12 for $5.50 #6, and I’m not one to buck that wontons with chile oil trend.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Italian, American, French

don antonio's pizza

Don Antonio I was vaguely aware of this Neapolitan pizza place’s existence in midtown west but not enough for it ever to jar me into doing something about it. I mean, it’s not a secret. Guy Fieri is boldly featured in its Facebook cover photo, despite being neither a diner, drive-in, nor dive. It attracts a theater crowd mixed with tourists and looks a little hairier than it is in reality, if you don’t have a reservation. I was just feeling super pizza-deprived in my neighborhood and and wanted a really good crust and beyond basic toppings walkable from my office. This was it. The Macellaio is all kinds of meaty with sausage, prosciutto, salami, and sliced porchetta strategically placed. No one will stop you from getting a white pie teeming with arugula either. Would return.

Eastlands initially gave me 1 Knickerbocker vibes, which who even remembers that and it was a solid two years ago which may as well be two decades in Bushwick time. All I mean is a restaurant with good intentions that everyone is probably going to treat as a bar…because it looks like a bar. I only had snacks, so no serious judgments on the menu, which looks fairly ambitious (er, though now I can’t cite a single item from memory and appears to have zero presence online). Here, short rib sliders and pumpkin fritters with dip somewhere between a pesto and chimichurri.

Le Garage, on the other hand, feels fully formed out of the gate. Honestly, being French, short menu or not, in a burger and pizza (yes, some good burgers and pizzas) neighborhood doesn’t hurt. The mother and daughter team helps too. There are salmon rillettes, escargot come in confited potatoes, leeks are cooked down in that great silky way, dressed with vinaigrette and garnished with fried capers and egg whites, and cheese, of course.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Los Angeles

disneyland bread bowlIf there’s one thing you need to know about dining in and around L.A.–or my version of it–it’s that there are freaking bread bowls at Disneyland and eating one (stuffed with Chinese chicken salad, no less) was not even my own idea.  (You might also need to know that bread bowls have been my biggest summer 2015 obsession along with taco salad and that I wish I could get on board with pizza bagels but have no nostalgia to summon.) I would say that I could now die happy except that’s never true. There’s always another thrill to seek, another high to reach, and until you hit the next peak it’s all ennui and dissatisfaction with life. All I’ve done during my past two days back is eat pizza and bacon, egg, cheese sandwiches and lay on the couch, dreading the start of my work week.

gjusta duo

I didn’t even peek at the boardwalk because I hate beaches and the NYC-level heat and humidity was dispiriting and the sun still managed to give me scoop neck tan lines just from walking 20 minutes back-and-forth from my parked rental car, but I did hit up Venice on the day Gjusta was declared the second-hottest restaurant in the country by Bon Appetit. So hot that Jake Gyllenhaal was sitting at the next table in the back patio with some young, sporty ladies with ponytails and discussing dieting, which supposedly he doesn’t get, but of course he does.  (I was even asked if I was the actress in Fresno, which I later deduced meant Aubrey Plaza who I’m like twice as old and large as but at least it was a compliment and not an insult.) Sadly, there were no more much touted baklava croissants. I did try a smoked fish sandwich, which you can customize a zillion ways by fish type, schmear, bread, and toppings. This is classic cold-smoked lox with scallion labneh, the works (tomato, pickled onions, sprouts) on a seeded rye bialy. The perfect size really even if the salmon gets a little lost in all of the accouterments. Plus, minted limeade. There are also smoked meats, tons of baked goods, salads, shrubs, and nut oils that all manage to read as healthy, despite not being particularly so, and served in a washed-out, spacious beachy version of woody Brooklyn rusticism that equals L.A. Charming, for sure, but a destination? I don’t know. 

sapp coffee house special beef boat noodles

Sapp Coffee Shop. Sure, we’ve got boat noodles in NYC, and walkable from my apartment even. It’s just what I woke up wanting one morning. (I do regret not having time to make it to Luv2eat Thai Bistro for a wider-ranging Thai meal.) This little restaurant in a strip mall is known for its #3 among other soups, a beefy hodgepodge of meatballs, liver (the dominant flavor) tendon, demure strips and big fat gelatinous chunks that I love, and tripe in a tangy, lightly sweet broth tinged with blood. Oh, and chicharron just because. There’s a lot going on and it totally works. My request for spicy wasn’t taken seriously but I won’t hold that against Sapp. That’s what condiments are for.

animal quad

I didn’t want to O.D. on Shook/Dotolo restaurants but I had a free night and Animal was just five blocks from my Airbnb rental and walking can feel like a novelty in L.A. (and I’m not ashamed to admit that I completely fell back in love with driving after 17 years of car-less-ness). Also, the boat noodles breakfast clearly didn’t scratch my itch for offal. The hamachi tostada with fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut and avocado looked a little overwhelming and one-note but ended up being a total surprise with each bite being a little different and completely balanced, just acidic enough, buttery, with hits of an anisey basil. If I knew this was coming out first, though, I probably would’ve ordered a fuller bodied wine than the rose I started with. The crisp, bacon-like pigs ears with a housemade Sriracha, lime and egg, played with a similar rich and tart, vaguely Asian profile. Veal brains were totally different, light and paired with vadouvan, apricot puree and carrots that had an unexpected  candied, gingersnap flavor that matched really well with the Chenin Blanc I was given a nice pour of. I rarely order dessert alone but wasn’t ready to call it quits, so there were yellow peaches, mochi, brown butter ice cream, and chartreuse that also made perfect sense with the remaining sips of wine.  Music side note: Missing Person’s “Walking in L.A.” was almost too perfect but it was “Age of Consent,” the New Order song that always induces the most feeling of all feelings (I’ve taken to playing it twice in a row on my morning commute as a distraction from the 7 train’s occasional too-muchness) that certainly caused me to bump up my tip as it came on while mulling over the bill.

shabu shabu house duo

Shabu Shabu House. In a sense, this style of Japanese set menu cook-your-own meat is the antithesis of Chinese hot pot. There are no choices to be made beyond medium or large (this is a medium). Everyone gets thinly sliced ribeye and the same plate of cabbage, tofu, noodles, carrots, enoki mushrooms, and seaweed served with ponzu, sesame sauce, and a garlic paste with the world’s tiniest metal serving spoon tucked into the container. It’s simple and it’s great. This small shop in Little Tokyo, where I’m pretty sure there is always a wait, also holds claim as the first shabu shabu restaurant in the US circa 1991, which seems slightly incredible but I’ll believe it. I’m also partial to the cook wearing shades indoors.

b.s. taqueria lengua tacos

 

B.S. Taqueria I’m sure is great but I initially missed lunch because it closes between 2:30pm and 5:30pm and when I finally made it downtown at the right time, realized the hyped clam and lardo and bologna tacos are only served at dinner. Then the parking garage I used to see the Los Angeles Public Library exhibit “To Live and Dine in LA,” which was meant to be $1 for the first hour, ended up costing me $45, an error that still has not been sorted out, so these lengua tacos are tainted in my mind.

mariscos 4 vientos tostada mixta

The age-old complaint with solo dining is the inability to try as many things as one would like (without throwing food away or throwing it up) so I missed the tacos dorados with shrimp, served at both Mariscos 4 Vientos and Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights. Instead, I just had a mixta seafood tostada, a big pile of lime-kissed shrimp, octopus, crab, and avocado, at the former (sit-down restaurant, not the stand). These are not highly spiced like the red and green aguachile tostadas–you must add your own salsa as needed. 

LP kriss kross

E.P. & L.P. I can never keep which is the restaurant and which is the roof lounge straight. I just had drinks and snacks at the bar (L.P. fwiw). The wings and fried seafood bits were nothing special but pre-batched cocktails like the Kriss Kross (gin, kaffir lime cordial, cardamom bitters, Indian tonic boba pearls) were fun but not unsophisticated–and more importantly, tasty. For being a Saturday night (though early) the crowd was surprisingly mixed and if I were doing a Middle Ages post, there would be plenty of 40+ fodder, weird fodder wearing expensive loafers and velvet blazers and their age-appropriate lady-friends. I didn’t do a lot of L. A. cocktail cruising (partially because I was hanging out a lot with a non-drinker) so I have no idea if this is norm or not.

in-n-out double double

In-N-Out. You just have to. I did even after being admonished for not trying home-grown Tommy’s (I don’t like chili!) and even if I’m being honest and admit that Shake Shack (coming to L.A. in 2016) has a slight edge meat-wise. It’s about the melted cheese and oozy condiments melding together between slightly sweet buns. A total fast food sucker punch. I slightly regret not getting animal-style fries, but couldn’t justify the extra 1,ooo+ calories.

petit trois collage

Ok, and a dinner at Petit Trois, also on Bon Appetit’s hot list (#3), where no reservations worked in my favor. (I wanted Trois Mec but could only turn up tables for 2, 4 and 6 via its competitive online ticketing system, which made me feel discriminated against as a solo diner and wonder if the same no odd numbers thing that worked against me at Alinea was occurring.) The cocktails were great: Soleil Fumé read well on paper (mezcal, lime, grapefruit, Aperol) and translated beautifully both visually and by taste with its tougher-than-it-looked bitter, smoky flavors. It turns out, that the snackier plates are where the tiny restaurant excels (it also didn’t help that I’d eaten a Double Double just a few hours prior). The escargot, with their retractable metal holders, digging implements and floury french bread perfect for soaking up the parsley-flecked garlic butter, were spot-on while the confit fried chicken with an acidic frisee salad and overwhelmingly peppery steak au poivre weren’t all that exciting. And maybe that’s the point? Bistro classics, tiny tweaks, simply done? The chocolate mousse, on the house, was deep, rich and a welcome over-the-top meal-ender that signaled the end of my last supper. Goodbye, L.A.

Oh yeah, there was Sizzler, but Sizzler is too big to be contained in a “barely blogged” post.

 

Shovel Time: Gabriel Kreuther

threeshovelSometimes the fancy, leisurely lunch is the right move even when your celebratory self thinks only a wine-paired, tasting menu marathon will do. The $52 two-course prix fixe might not be the city’s ultimate bargain (Jean-Georges is still $48) but it’s a great value (and even better if near your office for optimal hooky-playing–a practical factor of mine despite the impracticality of such a mid-day meal).

The new, spacious restaurant in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park is crisp and modern, from the long lean silverware evoking Vienna Seccession-era design to the wall patterned with black and white cranes storks (Alsace’s emblem, I’ve been informed)  wings spread, mid-strut. All details and service read luxurious rather than fussy.

gabriel kreuther oneThe bread game is strong. A savory kugelhopf appears first with chive fromage blanc, then amuses: a melon gelée with what I want to say was sea urchin and not just because of the shape of the tiny vessel, and pea puree fortified with goat cheese, sandwiched between black crackers, the first of two items incorporating ash to dramatic effect.

Summer does not have to be all rosés and whites. A request for a light red by the glass resulted in Domaine de la Pinte 2011, a hazy, almost amber Poulsard, both brightly fruity and serious.

gabriel kreuther twoIt’s easy to be drawn to the more obvious charms of langostine tartar or a foie gras terrine instead of anything featuring sauerkraut prominently, but go with your gut because fermented cabbage paired with caviar is a perfect high-low combination. The sturgeon and sauerkraut tart (not to be confused with the tarte flambées served in the lounge), an import from The Modern, is presented covered in perky, glass cloche swirling with applewood smoke. The overall flavor, particularly from the mousseline, is saline and almost crab-like. Bamboo ash, more for looks than flavor, also appears in a string of rolls that I kept expecting to taste like poppyseed.

Super fatty and luscious Mangalitsa pork collar is paired a little unusually with morcilla and not illogically with apricot and fennel, creating an overall effect that read Asian almost as if infused with star anise and dried tangerine peel. Cheeks, hidden in the back, had the texture of a more delicate corned beef. Paired with a generously poured Alsatian Pinot Noir (Zusslin 2010) that was more about dried fruit and smoke than juiciness.

gabriel kreuther coconut hazelnut pocky, mignardises

Dessert is available for $16, but wasn’t totally necessary. One benefit of solo dining is that the treats aren’t always scaled down for one. Did I really need five candies (cantaloupe and mint, lime…and who remembers?) plus two twigs of coconut-hazelnut “Pocky?” No, and not the glass of kirschwasser either. Needs are not the hallmark of the fancy lunch, though.

Gabriel Kruether * 41 W. 42nd St. New York, NY 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Frites, Fried Artichokes, General Tso Fried Chicken

antoniono's 6

Antonioni’s Gato was nuts, so too Le Philopsophe. I just wanted to sit at a bar and have some drinks and snacks. Antonioni’s, a short walk away, was suggested–and don’t kill me, but I had no idea what it was because if I ever see anything written about a new restaurant with an Italian-ish name, I skim past it because it’s just not my thing. We all have our biases. I might compare Antonioni’s kitschy mid-century Italian-American theme to Parm, but I’ve never eaten there and am only interested in the pastel, layered ice cream cake.

The restaurant turned out to be fun, bustling yet just chill enough to grab seats at the bar with no maneuvering or hovering. The much-Instagrammed orange jungle animal wallpaper set the right tone. You can start with a stiff brown drink like the Ace High (Laird’s Applejack Brandy, Cocchi di Torino, Luxardo Maraschino, Fernet Branca, Gran Classico, Scrappy’s orange bitters) and end with an intense amaro made from rhubarb that tastes not unpleasingly like burnt tires. The fried artichokes were all hearts, no leaves, making them more like the steak fries of the fried artichoke world. Just a warning. Some people love steak fries. Eggplant rolatini is something I would never order myself, but the eggplant had a smoky quality and crispy edges that kept it from being all about the tomato sauce and melted cheese. The pizza crust could be described as biscuit-y, which I don’t mind. Most people–a mix of older locals, industry types, and families with young children–were eating pasta anyway.

Chez Jef is the cutesy French pop-up that’s acting as a placeholder before the now-dead Bowery Diner turns into something else, presumably. The core menu is short. Just get the steak frites, even if you feel pressure to branch out and try something pseudo-healthy like the salmon with sunchokes so there aren’t two plates of the same thing on the table. The salmon’s boring; the steak isn’t. Plus, you get a metal gravy boat of béarnaise. And a whole jar of cornichons and a pair of tongs to play with if you order charcuterie. The oblong radishes and slices of crusty bread served with a thick slab of butter the size of a Kraft single topped with crunchy sea salt is also a nice freebie.

applebee's black & blue burgerApplebee’s Astoria may have created a new arts district, but there’s still a Pizzeria Uno and Applebee’s in its midst. Order some $1 happy hour oysters and a Mary Pickford (silver rum, maraschino, grenadine, pineapple juice) at the Astor Room, watch a non-blockbuster movie like Grand Budapest Hotel (now gone) at the Kaufman Astoria Cinemas because it will be nearly empty, and then cancel it all out with a Bourbon Black & Bleu burger and a Sam Adams at Applebee’s. The bar is the only thing bustling after 9pm in the immediate vicinity.

Martha Definitely go for the general tso fried chicken (this is also done at Sweet Chick on a waffle, by the way). I was also happy to see that in addition the now requisite brussels sprouts and fish sauce dish, there was a spin on Thai eggplant, spicy, and tossed with basil and bits of hard-boiled eggs that’s almost too much for two. I was less happy about my order being lost and seeing skillet after skillet being diverted elsewhere, but they were super transparent about the mix-up, apologetic and comped a round of drinks, which was all thoughtful. I’m not so paranoid or self-absorbed to think these sorts of snafus are personal (think how many times I order my food, get it, eat it, no biggie) but it seems to be a not uncommon Brooklyn restaurant thing.  Even more confusing was that I subtweeted this issue and Karloff, where I’ve never eaten in my life, responded.

 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: 11211

Le Comptoir It seems like just yesterday I moved to
Clinton Hill, but that was five months ago. Now it’s winter and I’m living in
Williamsburg where there is easily ten times the number of restaurants and I may as well be a grandma. That’s
one reason why Le Comptoir seemed like an odd choice to be name-checked in the
new rental’s glowing ad copy.
I wouldn’t consider the bistro notable enough to
convince anyone to move nearby and only went because I wasn’t in the mood for a
long Saturday night wait after a day of moving and it was empty (while Walter
Foods next door was at capacity) at first, then filled with drinkers up front.
I think they live on their all-you-can-drink weekend brunch. Service was
predictably wonky and my Sazerac, which I only ordered because it was listed,
was served iced like the Manhattans in Southeast Asia. My steak tartare with
salad was fine, if not generously portioned for $11. A fallback, not a first
choice.

Briskettown breakfast tacos

BrisketTown I’ve still not experienced the primetime
bbq (nor the just introduced lunch sandwiches) but during the day they serve
the brisket–and you should get the brisket–in Austin-style breakfast tacos.
The floppy flour tortillas make the creation feel more like an open-faced
burrito. Despite tales of lines for dinner and running out before closing time,
there was not another soul inside for the morning shift. Though the pulled pork
and brisket look similar (I did not try the vegetable, the third offering) each
had its own unique garnish: a slightly bitter cabbage for the pork and pickled
red onions for the smoked beef. The latter, blended with scrambled eggs and
chile sauce had the edge. I have never been to Texas so I can’t speak to any
authenticity–bacon or chorizo are the favored meats there–but the breakfast
tacos have been given thumbs up by more than one Austin transplant.

Forcella Part of the 2011 montanara pizza craze that
apparently has died down. And once again, we were the only diners on a
weeknight (not a good trend). I like the concept–it’s not as if they’re going
full-Scottish and battering and deep-frying the whole pizza–but it failed to
deliver. The whole center was sog, defeating the whole purpose of the fry. I
would’ve rather had a langos.

Maision premiere happy hour

 Maison Premiere A wild exception to the
everyplace is empty experience. Arriving at 4:05pm for the 4pm-7pm $1 oyster
happy hour was no prevention against waiting until 6pm until an iced tray of oysters
appeared in front of me. Whether or not this was the result of a
three-day-weekend Monday (I hope to god) or a normal Monday, I can’t say. And
the seating procedure was arcane, to boot. The initial 20-minute quote turned
out to be just to enter the restaurant, which was already at capacity, and not
for any guarantee of bar seating where you can order food (seats with ledges in
the bar are drinks-only). Said prime bar seating is a free for all and
predatory. If you wait another hour or so one of the real sit-down tables will
eventually become available. Logistics aside, a buck an oyster is a good deal,
and 18 varieties means you can get an education (I knew I liked Malpeques but
the super briny new-to-me Beausoleil and Totten Island oysters were the best)
even if it’s unlikely that I would return anytime soon (or could unless I snuck
off work early). The non-raw bar food is ambitious. Loup de mer crudo was
precious in size, though brightly flavored with grapefruit and marcona almonds
for a little richness. And I was not expecting a cloche and tableside saucing
with the langoustine and sweetbreads, especially not as the large group of
young men at the next table were doing their best impression of Dave Chapelle channeling
Rick James by shrieking “I’m rich bitch.”


Omg tacoOMG Taco
Technically 11206 (and no, this isn’t Bushwick) there is not probably any reason to eat
here other than being very drunk and/or needing food on the same block as the
Montrose L station.With that said, the bistec taco (pictured) could’ve been worse.

Taco Chulo There is not a strong argument to eat
here either, though I have done so many times. It is useful for large groups
with varying levels of interest in food–and there’s no harm in a margarita and
queso-drenched  nachos every now and
then.

Three Letters

When I heard “70’s French Truck Stop,” my first
thought was Restaurant Madrid, a ramshackle diner along the route between Quebec City and Montreal with monster trucks and
dinosaurs in the parking lot, even though that's French-Canadian, not French French. My second thought was "that's
likely bullshit," though to be fair they did temper their vision with "vaguely." (I had similar thoughts when The Third Man
was described endlessly as inspired by the Loos Bar, a description I
wouldn't have questioned if I hadn't just been in Vienna and knew better. I
also see I'm not alone in my grumbling.)

I still wanted to see what Three Letters was about,
if only because Clinton Hill is a little new restaurant-deprived. I was not
alone in my curiosity. At 7pm on a Saturday there was already a half-hour wait
and by the time I was seated it was getting a little traumatic (many of the same people
were still waiting for tables by the time we vacated). Buzz, they have it.

Meanwhile, The Wallace, just a ways down Fulton is
always empty and now a daily deal staple (couples on both sides of my table,
British, deeper-middle-aged and not impressed with Three Letters, and the two younger men who liked
things fine, mentioned this dichotomy, one to me intentionally, the other overheard) which makes me feel bad because the food at the Wallace is
solid and the newlyweds who run it seem earnest. It's just not a cool place.

Perhaps its the bar with a good number of seats and lots
of inexpensive snacks, including everyone's must-have: pickles, as we're now
all living in a "fried pickle environment." (About those pickles–I
got into an elevator conversation with coworker I've never really spoken with
before and it turns out she lives nearby, had gone on opening night and took issue
with what was described as fried pickles on the menu being fried pickled
vegetables, not pickled cucumbers, i.e. how the average American thinks of
pickles, and got condescended to by the bartender when asking about it.) The
prices don't hurt; the most expensive thing on the menu is $18 and bottles of
wine topped out at $45.

Three letters venison rissoles

Rissoles are like savory turnovers, and stuffed with
venison are not wildly dissimilar in concept to Do or Dine's fawntons. Served
with a smoked cherry jam, the $4 hors d'œuvre is one of those aforementioned
bites that could be fun to nibble at the bar.

The smaller dishes had more appeal on paper, though
I didn't get to fully test out this theory. Moules poutine, mussels, fries and
gravy, came from the kitchen in a steady stream, landing on what appeared to be
every table but ours (yet still made it onto the check–we were scolded for not
saying anything about not receiving it sooner). So, not all French French,
after all.

Three letters chicken st. james

I never order the roast chicken, but thought I'd
test out a basic, here called Chicken St. James and accompanied by grilled
broccoli and a potato gratin, described as pommes alene. I got nervous when
warned that it was "cooked to order" and would take 20 minutes, since
I would expect everything to be cooked to order. I remembered why I don't order
roast chicken unless it's pollo a la brasa: it's really boring.

The food, overall, is just ok. I'd rather eat at a
French truck stop in France, but I wouldn't discourage anyone in the vicinity
from stopping by (it's really a neighborhood restaurant, not the destination it
was being treated as). I would go back if someone suggested it. I don't know that they will. The service
could use a little softening around the edges, despite the allowances I can
make for a super-slammed opening weekend.

Three Letters * 930 Fulton St., Brookyn, NY

 

Crêpes du Nord

I don’t make a habit out of eating two crepes for lunch, but if a near-stranger with a gift card for a restaurant across the street from my office offers to share their bounty, I don’t say no. I’m up for food blog blind dates.

Crepes du nord proscuitto crepe
I enjoyed a buckwheat crepe similar to what they serve at Bar Breton. The grains add heft to the soft pancakes and make the meal feel healthy even though it’s filling. I feel the same way about soba; even though I prefer udon the brown pleasingly gritty noodles just seem more angelic nutritionally. Mine was served open-faced, filled with ricotta and topped with a handful of arugula and slices of prosciutto. Though a few dollars more than I normally allow myself for lunch (this one was $11 but many are $8-$9) a savory crepe could make a nice sandwich alternative and certainly beats a BMT (yes, I’ve been known to frequent the Subway, a few storefronts down the street).

Crepes du nord chicken crepe
You know this is the country herb chicken because they put a few meaty clues on top.

Crepes du nord cloudberry crepe
Since I was double-creping it, I went simple with a triangular (these are not buckwheat, as you can probably see) pancake drizzled with a cloudberry syrup and a dollop of cream. Lingonberries, cloudberries, gooseberries…all foreign and indiscernible to me. Of course, I can tell a raspberry from a blackberry from a blueberry by taste, but cloudberries in this form? I could only describe the flavor as sweet with the smallest amount of tartness.

A sweet crepe filled with chocolate, probably Nutella, was the first thing I ever ate in France so I always associate the folded-like-a-napkin treats strongly with the cuisine (never mind that Crêpes du Nord is billed as French-Scandinavian). And that sounds far more pretentious than intended.

Whenever someone mentions going to France as a kid, it shifts my opinion of them, and not always for the better. Tony Bourdain, who I’m lukewarm on anyway, loses me when he drops childhood visits to France into his shows. I’m currently reading Rob Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran and I was like “what?!” when I hit the chapter where his family takes a road trip across Europe. It’s hard to paint yourself as an awkward teen with crappy jobs when you get to go to France, Italy and Spain for the summer. And sure, European Vacation was about rubes abroad, but in reality with only about 30% percent of Americans owning passports, traveling to France with kids is not only a luxury, it’s a rarity. I can only think, “Wow, you had a charmed childhood and wealthy, open-minded parents.” I feel the same about where-to-take-the-parents round-ups that suggest Daniel and Minetta Tavern. Sorry, you're getting Totonno's and East Buffet.

I did stay with a family in Nerac, France, so-called melon (the only food I won’t eat) capital of the world in July 1989. I couldn’t swing a full year or even a semester abroad, but I was serious about saving up for my month and got my first job, bussing tables for $3.35 an hour at Hunan Garden, on the same strip as Skate World and Donut Barn. Even though I ended up being kind of bored and miserable in the countryside (I wanted the romance of Paris, duh) and ultimately getting parental financial assistance (which I’m still surprised happened) the 31-day-trip was one of the wisest things I did in the ‘80s. And despite numerous trips to Asia and other parts of Europe I’ve never returned to France and currently have no inclination to (right now, I’m toying with San Sebastian or Lima) because I hate idealized Cartier-Bresson/Amelie stereotypes. The Japanese have learned not to idealize (seriously, you have to read about “Paris Syndrome”) and so should we all.

As to Crepes du Nord, I would return if I could sneak out of the office for a late lunch and take advantage of their two-for-one 4-7pm happy hour. Drinking during the work day is a luxury I’ve managed to resist so far, but 2011 may be the year I cave. There’s nothing uncivilized about an occasional midday glass (or two) or wine, right? Oh dear, now I’m starting to sound French or something.

Crêpes du Nord * 17 S. William St., New York, NY