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New sizzler

I stopped myself while thinking, “How does this new Sizzler look any different from the old Sizzler?” because I have idea what a contemporary Sizzler even looks like. Do you?

While I have no issue with Applebee’s, Chili’s and their ilk, I stay away from Sizzler because it seems dated and stodgy, a most un-sexy chain. (There’s a Valentine’s idea: sexiest chains. I just got an email from Bonefish Grill announcing the restaurant, normally dinner-only, would be opening at 11:30am Sunday, February 14. To me, Sunday morning says Mother’s Day not Valentine’s Day.)

Malibu chicken My negative Sizzler perception might have something to do with growing up with the restaurant (and liking it, in fact I loved their Malibu Chicken so much that my sister and I would recreate the dish using frozen chicken patties, lunch meat, swiss cheese and powdered hollandaise from a packet when we were in high school) while the newer chains didn’t spring up until I was an adult.

Nation’s Restaurant News has a slideshow of Sizzler’s new “Americana” look . I do suppose watching TV while dining is American, though I’m not sure about the rest of the interior, which is reminiscent of where you’d get your free breakfast at a Holiday Inn Express. I should know; I just stayed in one a few months ago in Oaxaca. Chilaquiles!

Maybe I should survey the Sizzler scene in 2010. I know the only NYC location is in Forest Hills, not so far from the Trader Joe’s that no one ever acknowledges. I’m actually a little surprised to see Malibu Chicken prominently featured on their homepage. I mean, I loved it in 1987 but I never would’ve thought they would still be selling it today. You’d think they’d at least be up to pesto and sun-dried tomatoes by now. I guess you don’t want to mess with a classic.


This time of year in 2007 I was writing ten restaurant reviews a month for Latina, and it didn’t take long before I felt like crying tio if faced with one more plate of beans, yellow rice, plantains or yuca. The gig didn’t even last into the second half of the year, but I still burnt out on nearly everything Latino (Peruvian and Mexican, excepted). I wondered if I’d ever have a craving again.

It took three years. Saturday night and all I could think about was Nuevo Latino fare. And being provincial like most Brooklynites, I didn’t feel like heading into Manhattan (it’s not as if the MTA has been making it easy lately) where Yerba Buena would make a fine choice. Brooklyn has Luz or Bogota Latin Bistro. Both are acceptable not remarkable. Sometimes average is good enough, though.

I chose Luz because I have only been once when it was new (and because the last time I was at Bogota Latin Bistro, I threw up on the sidewalk out front, no fault of the food, maybe the fault of cahaça). Scaffolding nearly obscuring its entire façade, the busy restaurant is a bright spot in a barren patch of Clinton Hill. And it was hopping, only one table open and every bar stool occupied, primarily with date night couples.

Luz baron rojo

Based on casual observation, cocktails outnumber wine orders two to one. I had a Baron Rojo, the blackcurrant, rum, pisco, cranberry juice and aguardiente garnished with star anise was potent yet still sweeter than what I'd typically drink.

Luz crab ceviche

Crab ceviche was light and limey and served traditionally with toasted corn kernels.

Luz ribs

The pork ribs were an odd choice to start with since I had beef ribs for my main. Once again, a bit sweet, and from a cranberry bbq sauce. Cranberries don't strike me as particularly Latino, but here they were again.

Luz short ribs, shrimp pastelito, pickled okra

I chose the short ribs because the description seemed so cold weather appropriate: rijoa chestnut jus, butternut squash and shrimp pastelon and pickled okra. The okra seemed like the oddball component but the rich, fatty meat and shrimp-filled pastry covered in melted cheese desperately needed something crispy and tart. Okra was smart.

Luz isn't really a destination restaurant. It's not really even a travel from Carroll Gardens restaurant. But if it were in my neighborhood, I would pay a visit every now and then.

Previously on Luz.

Luz * 177 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Bon Chon Chicken John St.

If you told me we were going to have two banh mi options when I first starting working way downtown, I might not have believed you. And Korean fried chicken? Not at all. I’m happy for the new Bon Chon, though it's still not clear who the target audience is for this location. There is a counter to order takeout in the back, a row of maybe five tables for four along one wall and a bar opposite them.

It is still more inviting than the strip mall Staten Island Bon Chon, which despite a few stools near the window, is very much a takeout operation. If you were an office worker looking for fried chicken takeout lunch you might be weirded out by the prominent bar (unless you're ok with drinking during the day–I've been tempted many an afternoon). If you wanted the dark, clubbier atmosphere from the Koreatown original, the bright lights and small space would put you off. On a Friday around 6:30pm, the clientele was maybe 65% Asian and mostly young, mixed with a few curiosity-seekers like myself, checking out the new digs before heading home. Residents of nearby dorms also seem like an obvious customer.

Bonchon mixed chicken

No arguments with the chicken. The skin is shiny and shellacked to perfection as ever, the air pocket between the crust and the dark meat revealed after the initial bite. We ordered both hot and garlic soy because I couldn't remember which I liked better. The hot, as it turned out, which isn’t all that fiery.

Bonchon radish & kimchi coleslaw

Kimchi coleslaw was chosen as our side (fries or a roll seemed odd) and came served in a little square dish along with the standard pickled radish. Fresh cabbage shreds, fermented cabbage hunks and a sparing amount of mayonnaise to hold the two together, wasn't exactly cooling but complemented the chicken.

Bonchon calimari

More fried food wasn't wise and breaded calamari rings are in no way special like the chicken. Like the chicken, though, they aren't wildly greasy.  I just didn't want a salad or dumplings and had already tried the pancake before.

Bonchon black & tan

I've not had good past experiences with sake cocktails and love the novelty of pitchers, so yes to beer and no to Asian pear soju. This Guinness/Blue Moon blend was like a giant black and tan—is that normal?

Bon Chon Chicken * 104 John St., New York, NY