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Posts from the ‘Fort Greene’ Category

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: Locals Only

I'll admit I kind of liked complaining about Carroll
Gardens (and I did so with gusto–there's a grocer/sandwichery that called me
out on citing them three times–Google alerts, clearly–in my blanket
overhype condemnation). But as they say, love it or leave it, and so I did. There's nothing worse than whiners who don't take action.

And I can be honest and say that there's not a lot going
on over here in my far northeastern corner of Clinton Hill (and technically none of what follows is in Clinton Hill–you don't really need to hear about the perfunctory sashimi and Caribbean snacks and melon cocktails I've encountered). But at least there are no
illusions. A majority of the restaurants on Court and Smith streets were/are mediocre,
and despite perfectly good meals at Buttermilk Channel and Frankies, I see no
need to wait over an hour for a bowl of pasta or fried chicken anywhere.

So that said, my standards aren't as stringent in
these parts. It's like in high school where there was a class called Reading
and the students did nothing but read books on couches amidst a bunch of potted plants because
they had bad grades and were underachievers. Ok, my standards aren't that low;
I'm just saying there are different measures of success.

Dictated by the
neighborhood made up of  Pratt students, old-timers, public housing
inhabitants, and yes, the errant brownstone dweller (I don't think the Hasids play any role)  the dining options tend to
be inexpensive and un-ambitious. The new busineseses all seem to be burger joints or wifi cafes, which don't mean much to me. The Wallace, which is more upscale, is already using Scoutmob and was recently on Blackboard Eats, which aren't typically good signs even though I've been known to use both. I assume Lulu & Po is still going strong (I need to revisit) and I haven't heard a peep about Prospect since it opened.

(I was going to say that the white bougie
family influx hasn't hit hard yet, but just a few hours ago a preschooler sat
down on the barstool next to me and then her Scandinavian-accented father asked
her if she wanted to have her birthday party at "the new house" or in
France. He then told her Bono was "a nice guy" after she failed to
pay proper attention to the song playing that I didn't recognize. "I like it," she said.
"You're not even listening!" he replied, but softly, not snappily
because he was foreign.)

Brooklyn bird trio

Brooklyn Bird Opened a few weeks ago to zero bloggy
fanfare, this diner-styled restaurant that feels more suited to takeout is nothing special (I do feel bad that no one ever seems to be in there) but it's a block away
and they serve food until 4am. They are advertising beer and wine coming soon. Plus, they've created a lesser-known-regional-fare trifecta with their upstate New York spiedie (nearby Speedy Romeo and
Brooklyn Koalache Co. round out the mini-trend with St. Louis pizza and Czech
by way of Texas, koalaches). I just tried a grilled cheese (cheddar and gruyere) sandwich with bacon and truffle oil. Of course, it didn't really need the truffle oil. I may be inclined to try the ghost pepper hot wings and that chicken spiedie some late night soon.

Dough doughnuts

Dough It's only a block from the nearest subway
station, but it's still a solid 12-minute walk from my apartment, so it's on
the fringes of what I'd consider "my neighborhood." It's not like
Dough is a secret; they made a name for themselves at the Brooklyn Flea. But
even for someone who rarely eats doughnuts,  I can say unequivocally that it's the best
$2.25 you'll spend for something of the raised yeast variety. (It took me three
months to finally walk over there, and the main reason I did was to break the
twenty dollar bill I had on me to tip the Fresh Direct driver who was arriving
in less than an hour. Mildly related and good to know: the 99-cent store on the
ground floor of my building–yes, I live in the same structure as a discount
store and it rules–advertises an atm that distributes $10s, but I only wanted
to tip $5.) Tart frostings are kind of their thing. I'd had a hibiscus doughnut
before, and the passionfruit is in a similar vein. What sets it apart are the
cocoa nibs that give it a bitter crunch. The dulce de leche with slivered
almonds is more full-on sweet and makes you want to go back to sleep after
eating it. That is not a criticism.

Scratchbread chai sticky bun

SCRATCHbread Another five minutes southeast from
Dough and unquestionably in Bed-Stuy (I'm a newcomer and I already know that
Classon is the cutoff despite brokers pushing Bedford as the dividing line). I didn't
fully get that Scratchbread is doing crazy things until I actually ate a few
baked goods. The sticky buns may look innocent, but there are a million things
happening. I'm still not completely sure what. The bread itself is
wheat-y and vaguely wholesome, and then the caramel isn't particularly sweet but
burnt and spicy–both hot spicy and cardamom-spiced–and there are more of those cocoa nibs. I kind of just wanted sweet
caramel and pecans. If you're going to go this direction, though, I bet you
could do a cool caramel with fish sauce.

Scratchbread bread custard

I also picked up a loaf of the bread custard,
but it wasn't the seasonal loaf I'd seen mentioned elsewhere. I do think the
guts were soft from roasted squash, but instead of rosemary there was sage and
there was no trace of prosciutto. Instead, two cheese-filled red peppers had
been stuffed into the bread like little Crater Lakes, almost treading into
foreign Pizza Hut territory. It was a Christmas Eve hit, of course.

Lola quad

Lola f.k.a. Chez Lola. I guess the former bistro and
Myrtle Ave. pioneer is now calling itself a gastropub? The revamp entails new
cocktails (too sweet, though it was my own fault for ordering the Brooklyn Beauregard,
essentially a whiskey sour with Jim Beam Honey Tea Bourbon and St. Germain) and
a move towards American cuisine, meaning Canada, US and Mexico. The menu sort of
reads like a Kitchen Nightmares overhaul: pared down, nearly foolproof to
prepare, a bit of repetition, but overall inoffensive. Canada is represented by
a duck poutine, which is a glorious drunk food (I wasn't drunk, though). The fries, cheese curds and confit
could've use a little more gravy it was decided. I love a thin crust tarte flambee and their goat cheese, onion and bacon version was ok. A salad of smoked chicken, apples and cashews wasn't really more than just that. They
do serve late for the area, until 2am, and nothing is over $20 (most is under
$15) so there is an appeal if you want something other than pizza or Chinese  in
the immediate vicinity. And I think they still do a $15 all-you-can-eat mussels
deal on Thursdays, so there's that. They're also on Scoutmob, by the way.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Shrimp Heads, Downtown Ramen, Bitters-Free Manhattans

Allswell trio

Allswell. Being open till 11pm is not late night dining, not
in NYC anyway, and it's always bothered me, especially on weeknights when maybe
you want to go out to eat at 10:45pm and the pickings are beyond slim.  Allswell serves real food until 3am, not
whole menu, but it's something.  These
hyper-crispy head-on shrimp in a Meyer lemon sauce and duck rillettes were
pre-midnight, normal menu items. The burger, fat and meaty (with cheddar and
bacon, both add-ons) and perfectly pink inside, can be had any time. The fries
were an abomination, though, if you hate wet and oily thick-cut fries like I
do. Steak fries are the bane of my existence. That's the worst part about pub
burgers, which this appears to be emulating.  Bring a friend who likes fat, mushy fries (they
exist!) and let them go wild.

Ganso trio

Ganso. With ramen I often give the same disclaimer I use
with barbecue: I'm neither a fanatic or expert. Obviously, I like both and have
opinions, but I can't speak to what a broth's correct flavor should be or the
specific pH of mineral water needed to produce the ultimate noodles. Frankly, I
just like that there is a ramen shop in that odd pocket of downtown Brooklyn
near the IHOP. The short rib buns weren't anything remarkable, and a little
mesclun-y (I did not try the short rib ramen pictured, but love the idea that
each broth receives a different noodle, subtle and thoughtful) but the spicy
miso ramen with thinly sliced pork belly, Chinese broccoli and a soft-boiled,
soy-infused egg was winsome, if not a little gut-busting (I always find that
Asian noodle soups of this size put me into a coma). I will be even more happy
about Ganso being there when it becomes cold enough to better appreciate the
ramen's warming and filling properties.

Mayflower. A miniscule moderately new bar affiliated with neighboring
Aita, a corner Italian restaurant I may never visit because I rarely eat
Italian food (unless you count pizza). Some might call it a speakeasy (signage
was recently added). Jonathan Ames was there on a date, at least I think so, I
don't like staring at people. The bartenders (who can get overwhelmed when at
capacity) are weird about bitters: on one visit none were used in a Manhattan,
on the other I was asked whether or not I wanted them used. Would it
be too hyperbolic to say that a Manhattan without bitters is not a Manhattan? Still like the place.

Along with Prospect, it's one of two new upscale restaurants to open
on Fulton Street. I figured I should try one of them, and the main reason The
Wallace won out because it was slightly less expensive (entrees in the low $20s
vs. high $20s–now that I live in new shiny condo, no complaints, I'm going
broke buying things like shades for ten-foot-high windows). There's nothing
radical going on, food-wise or with the decor (one might get the impression
this was another tin ceilings, Edison bulb joint, but the interior is oddly
generic like it could've been a suburban Italian restaurant in a previous
life–ok, it was Caribbean) just solid, well-seasoned New American dishes with French
foundations like crispy pork belly on a bed of lentils with braised greens, the
latter an unexpected slight Southern twist, and tilefish with a potato gratin and
beurre blanc tinged with saffron. Manhattans are on the cocktail list and bitters are used, no question.

Il Porto. When I was assigned to review this Italian/pizza
place for
after it opened a few years ago, I thought it was in the
middle of nowhere. I guess it still is, though now that I live down the street and
that the scary-seeming (not just to me) Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge has been
gutted and looks like any generic storefront for sale, the block seems less
isolated and off-putting. With that said, it's not a destination unless you're
already in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. The wood-fired pizza is pretty good
(arugula, prosciutto and parmesan is popular) though the floury, barely charred
and nearly flaky crust that I happen to like probably isn't the pinnacle of
Neapolitan pie-making.

Lulu and Po

Homespun and tiny with intergenerational groups (making sure skeptical parents see the neighborhood's
charms?) breastfeeders, small plates, Vampire Weekend tempered by Marvin Gaye, no reservations, no credit cards, Lulu
and Po is pretty much a New Brooklyn stereotype, and a sweet place, nonetheless.

Lulu and po bone marrow tacos

Maybe you've read about the bone marrow tacos? I
suspect more than few have since the vertically chopped bones with three soft
tortillas and a thatch of parsley-caper salad sat on nearly every table. They're
kind of a mess since tortillas don't absorb the fat like toasted bread does,
but I love the idea. And the accompanying house-made Sriracha was right on,
more tart, less sweet than the commercial version. I could totally see spicy
Yucatecan pickled red onions working with this too.

Lulu and po green bean salad

The wax beans in the wax and green bean dish had
been 86'd (I'm directly quoting from the chalkboard that listed that evening's
depleted items: a pork loin and said wax beans) which was ok. They were served
cold and tossed with  generous hunks of
feta and jalapenos for a little non-Mediterranean intrigue.

Lulu and po fried anchovies

The lightly breaded and fried anchovies were like a
Spanish bar snack (I've never had this exact thing in Spain, I'm just saying they could fit in) meaty, not greasy in the least and perked up with a
Sriracha-spiked tartar sauce.

Lulu and po iron pressed chicken

Smaller plates dominate, but the "iron" pressed
chicken, with its nicely crisped skin, is a medium plate heavy on brown tones and still more than
sharable. It made me remember the less purist, but slightly more
attention-grabbing sweet tea-brined chicken recently eaten at St. Anselm and
now I want to try brining a Thanksgiving turkey in sweet tea.

Despite the full house on an early Saturday evening,
the service was always pleasant, never rushed. Frankly, I was surprised to have
a dish comped as thanks for accommodating a weirdo seat that was in everyone's
way. That counts for something.

Lulu and Po will more or less be in my neighborhood,
ten blocks east on Myrtle, as of tomorrow. I probably won't rely on it as a
show-off if my parents ever come to visit because roomy seating and individual
entrees are more their thing (they might like sit-down Chinese-Spanish Sapolo,
however) but I would definitely give it another go.

Lulu and Po * 154 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Der Schwarze Kölner

I wouldn’t say that I favor beer halls over other drinking establishments, so it was odd that I ended up at semi-isolated Hungarian, Draft Barn, Friday evening and at Der Schwarze Kölner two nights later.

Fort Greene’s German contribution isn’t a true beer garden—there are smattering of outdoor folding tables and chairs facing Fulton Street—and food isn’t really the point, but the bar was just right for a Fourth of July stop, post-BAM.

No, I didn’t mess around with fireworks or barbecues this year. Instead, I witnessed my first Nathan’s hotdog eating contest in person, then sobered up with some bleak Americana while watching Winter’s Bone.

The dark (and extra echoey) room was the perfect setting to test out my new point-and-shoot, an uncharacteristic impulse buy. My old-ish PowerShot SD800 died last week and I could make do like the rest of the world who now seems to rely solely on iPhones for photos, but the quality doesn’t cut it (plus, I don’t have an iPhone). I’m not always in the mood for cramming an SLR in my purse, but still want to take casual photos on occasion. Things like pretzels and sausage that can only be so pretty.

And clearly, I still have some way to go in mastering this new camera. These are not glamour shots. (By contrast, the first time I ever used my SLR in the wild at Hill Country, my photos turned out well despite not knowing what I was doing—amusingly, one of these test shots was recently used in an Ozersky post).

Der schwarze kölner weisswurst

True confession: I hate hotdogs. My patriotic eating duty went unfulfilled at Nathan’s. That doesn’t mean I dislike sausages, though. Weisswurst are more delicate and I kind of like their albino appearance. And no one can argue with a soft pretzel.

Der schwarze kölner obazda

Obazda was completely new to me. The cheese spread, a sharp blend of cream cheese, butter, brie, beer and caraway, is like Bavarian pimento cheese, in a way. The radishes and dark Spaten Optimator added an additional layer of welcome bitterness to the dip.

Der Schwarze Kölner * 710 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY

Smoke Joint

I'll admit to being fascinated by the smoked vs. deep-fried throw down over on Grub Street. For me, there’s no question. Fried anything beats all (in fact, just two nights ago there was an impromptu canned biscuit frying session that erupted in my kitchen). I’ll dabble in the smokier side every now and then but I’m not passionate about barbecue. Though after seeing Little Children (admittedly, a more conventionally satisfying film than Old Joy, the last one I saw. I can’t resist those movies about nothing, especially when they’re steeped in northwest-ness) at BAM, it seemed silly not to check out nearly new Smoke Joint up the block.

Smokejoint For once, our timing was right. There was only one other table occupied and the order counter was free and clear. Of course, after we grabbed a four-seater and our food arrived, the fairly small space became completely swarmed and guilt set in for occupying a large table with two unused chairs (but then I force myself into inconsiderate, oblivious NYC mode and all is well). The circumstances did cause me to eat faster than usual. At prime dining times, I can see the set up definitely lending itself to take out.

It probably wasn’t the wisest to order two pork dishes but it happened. We tried the ribs and the hacked pork. The loose meat came with coleslaw and an assortment of pickles. The bones stood alone. I didn’t have a problem with either, though the ribs had a slight edge over the shredded meat, which leaned towards dry. Or maybe that was just the relentlessness of pure unadulterated flesh that got to me. I had to intersperse bites with the cabbage and cukes to stay sharp. We rounded out the meat with fries and corn on the cob, both chile spiced.

For the record, they serve Blue Point Toasted Ale in bottles and it tasted nothing like the problem pint at Sheep Station. (I have no qualms about Sheep Station, if it were walking distance, I’d pop in every now and then, but I was amused by this line in last week’s New York Times review, “Make sure the tap lines at the bar are clean!” Ahem.)

Smoke Joint * 87 South Elliott Pl., Brooklyn, NY 

Thomas Beisel

Nothing like a little post-Brokeback Austrian meal. The Rockies…The Alps…whatever. I, like most New Yorkers, probably don't eat much German or Austrian food. Mainly because it's few and far between (and yes, I know the two cuisines aren't the same). Here, German tends to be outerborough and kitschy while Austrian leans toward pricy and gilt.

After a BAM matinee it became a toss up between Thomas Beisel and Junior's. Since I've been to the latter countless times TB's seemed in need of trying. It was a good choice, as it was early evening and not terribly crowded. We got a two-seater that temporarily (it was soon filled by a young couple who appeared to be on a first or second date and the guy went on about his firsthand knowledge of Austrian beers and the girl, who appeared to be Russian, filled him in on all her bouts with mental illness and eating disorders. Just so you know, now when she wants cake, she eats it and it's ok) had an empty table next to it with more than six inches of space.

We both started with a hearty gruyere-topped onion soup because that's hard to resist when it's icy outside. With a large glass of Hefeweizen, that would've been a meal in itself, but I wanted to sample the entrees. I went classic and ordered pork cheeks with sauerkraut and dumplings, which was even better than I'd expected. I thought the knoedel would be airy and boring, but they were dense, chewy and carmelized, if that's possible. I suspect the main ingredient was potato. They weren't little and round, but large, thick, flat ovals. James ordered a nutty special of halibut with scallions and ginger. I would've steered clear of Asian touches, but he seemed to like it, even though the fish was oddly matched with potatoes and sweet-sour red cabbage.

For some reason the restaurant strikes me as an older person's haunt, as if the flavors are more suited to a middle aged palate. Strange assessment, I know. Maybe I'm equating Thomas Beisel's clientele with the typical BAM-goer, which isn't unreasonable.

Thomas Beisel * 25 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY