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1/2 *Unsurprisingly, Carniceria has bit the dust. (10/1/07)

Carniceria_facadeA few months ago, probably in February, I mistakenly attempted to try Novo, Alex Garcia’s first comeback restaurant. I’m not sure that it was supposed to be open to the public, it was a total freak scene. The kitchen was closed, looked like it has been out of commission for some time and covered with a curtain. The bartender could barely manage a mojito, even though it was her suggestion. Boxes were piled up in the bathroom and the only patrons seemed to be friends of the staff. Sketchy. It reminded me of that Asbury Park Howard Johnson's that time forgot. Apparently, it's now an "upsacale, yet unpretencious lounge."

Carniceria_seafood_empanadaSo, I was surprised to hear that the chef had reappeared in my neighborhood and at cursed former Porchetta, no less. No, the irony of troubled chef choices hasn’t been lost on some, but Cobble Hill could stand some sort of excitement (maybe they can get that raw food perv in the kitchen after this incarnation sours). It was worth a visit and I was glad to hear the owner admit that the area didn’t need another Italian restaurant. I’m all for any new place that’s not Thai, Italian or French bistro.

Carniceria_dining_room Even though I intended to, I never ate at Porchetta so I can’t speak to décor changes. I had seen photos of that faux taxidermy deer head and it looks like they’ve swapped it for white antler-esque wall sconces. The brown vinyl tablecloths feel new (and hot on the legs) and maybe the iridescent wall paper. I suspect there hasn’t been a major cosmetic overhaul, though.

Carniceria_scallops_oxtail_polentaThe service was slightly buggy, one server was very informed and had an accent that James insisted was fake (I strongly doubt that but it was bit Montalban-esque) and the other was a little twitchy and unsure. But the food seemed fairly confident for only being open a weekend. They weren’t set up to make tamales yet and didn’t have the lobster for multi-seafood dishes. Everything else was go.

Carcineria_entrana_3 Despite the heat not putting me in much of a carnivorous mood, at least one cut of grass fed beef needed to be sampled. I tried the skirt steak. I’m not sure if my mind made me taste unusual flavors because I knew my length of beef wasn’t a corn product, but it truly tasted super beefy, ever so slightly gamey. As a sauce, I preferred the chimichurri to the red chile relish that also came as a condiment. The grilled onions were side enough, though cauliflower, potatoes, chard and sweet potatoes described in more enticing terms were available as an add-on.

Carniceria_datilesI can never resist a bacon-wrapped date in any fashion. Here they’re stuffed with Cabrales and an almond and served atop a vinegary endive slaw. James ordered both appetizer and entrée specials, a seafood empanada and polenta topped with scallops and oxtail. We couldn’t find fault with anything we sampled.

I’ll be curious to see how Carniceria shapes up and if the neighborhood takes to it. The Argentine/Spanish menu does seem promising.

Carniceria * 241 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY

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