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Posts from the ‘Bay Ridge’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: From House to Haus

Peaches hothouse chickenPeaches HotHouse I suspected the hot hothouse chicken would be no lie, but the boyfriend thought they were bullshitting. And he paid the price. The cayenne-induced blast is possibly the hottest thing we've experienced after Sripraphai's Southern Curry. Taking them seriously (because I read up on things ahead of time) I picked the regular hothouse chicken, which weirdly wasn't hot enough, a little sweet and a lot peppery. A middle-ground fried chicken is desperately needed. Also, the restaurant is oddly Shazaam-resistant. It would not work for me or the young man I noticed holding up his phone to no avail. I was able to recognize Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" on my own.

Goat town mexican mondayGoat Town I thought I'd been to Butcher Bay during Lent last year, but after checking my blog (my only tie to reality, it seems) that visit was actually in April 2009. What the fuck? How did I lose two years? Now I've been freaked out all week and afraid I'll die in my sleep one night not realizing I'm completely elderly and decrepit. Butcher Bay is now Goat Town and on so-called Mexican Mondays you can order Tex-Mex things like the oozy Velveeta-ish enchiladas and puffy lengua tacos we had at non-Texan prices.

Schnitzel Haus The Bay Ridge German restaurant was so uncharacteristically bustling on a Friday that the only table was an awkward two-seater nearest to the Donald Trump photograph in front of the guy doing Neil Diamond covers and in line with the door blowing chilly gusts  (it was unusually cold Friday night) every time it opened. And the table we were given upstairs (who knew there was an upstairs?) after asking if we could move was even more awkward–dark and empty minus a staticky radio station filling the dead air and large group speaking a Slavic language–proving that whenever I try fighting my  tendency to never speak up, it doesn't  pay off.  I drank a Spaten Optimator and part of a schnitzel smothered in mushroom gravy and was out of there. Previously on Schnitzel Haus.


Schnitzel Haus

I've come to this place in life where Friday night I want food I don't have to think about, wait 30 minutes in a bar area with one square foot of personal space or make reservations for. Last week it was bone marrow on toast and stout and Gouda fondue at Bar Artisanal (which I did not blog because I'm trying to value my time more in 2010).

Schnitzel haus pork shank

This weekend was kicked off with a pork shank, only made German by its pool of brown gravy and side plate of red-skinned mashed potatoes and sauerkraut tempered by oily nubs of bacon. This is the medium, which will provide a generous dinner, late night snack the next night and a lunch 36-hours later. I have never been witness to the large or extra large. The bone-in meat cudgel will garner stares, of envy or disgust I’m not sure.

Schnitzel haus potato and sauerkraut

All I know is that the skin has been burnished to the consistency of caramelized sugar and that the dark, tender meat and fatty gelatinous folds within are far more exciting than any crème brulee.

Schnitzel haus trump Bay Ridge’s Schnitzel Haus doesn’t have the aged charm or impossible-to-get-to-by-subway allure of the Staten Island or Queens stalwarts, but those old-timers don’t have a pork shank. They also don’t have a photo of Donald Trump prominently featured in the front of the room.

Previously on Schnitzel Haus.

Schnitzel Haus * 7319 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

The Woodburning Pit

  This was the second time in less than a week that I had the lights turned off on me while still eating. Maybe someone’s trying to give me exposure therapy. They say you can overcome phobias by being repeatedly exposed to the scary-to-you experience. I say that’s crap but I’d rather tackle my aversion to talking to strangers on the phone or walking up-and-down staircases without using the handrail before dealing with my fear of being the last diner in a restaurant.

It was partly my own fault because I thought the newish Bay Ridge churrasquiera closed at 11pm not an hour earlier. Then again, I would’ve been done by 10:07 instead of 10:37 if it hadn’t taken 30 minutes to get half a rotisserie chicken. I’m still not sure what the deal was and whether or not running out of food on a Friday night is typical or an aberration. I noticed people waiting for takeout for long stretches of time and another couple who sat down left after being informed they were out of both chicken and ribs.

Portuguese food is scarce in Brooklyn and The Woodburning Pit serves a subset of the cuisine, focusing on grilled meat. They did have caldo verde, but this isn’t a formal place offering sit down dishes made with staples such as bacalhau, clams or sardines. The premise is not dissimilar to a Peruvian pollo a la brasa takeout joint or jerk chicken storefront. The main difference is that this eatery is aiming for a bit more ambiance, providing a handful of wooden tables for dining in, Portuguese beer (Super Bock to name one) and imported metal sconces (at least that’s what the Made in Portugal sticker visible from where I was sitting implied) to liven up the walls. Oh, and that normally you have proteins at the ready, waiting to be chopped up and crammed into aluminum containers.

We initially ordered a rib and chicken combo to share then freaked out that it might not be enough food. I’ve been trying to reign in my gluttony, though trying to be dainty is less attractive when faced with a $3 sharing charge. Obviously that wouldn’t apply to to-go orders, which only reinforced my initial impression that take away is probably preferable here.

Woodburning pit garlic shrimp

To supplement the unknown quantity of food coming our way, we ordered garlic shrimp. These were similar to Spanish gambas but had a touch of vinegar, as did much of the food. I think it comes from a Tabasco-like sauce if not actual Tabasco. I’m glad we did have an appetizer because we were informed our chicken would be another 15 minutes. I was not in a rush so this wasn’t a big deal.

The service, by the way, was pleasant in a mom-and-pop, part of the community, knows the locals kind of way you see in parts of Brooklyn you’d expect like Bay Ridge and still thriving in enclaves like Carroll Gardens despite its increasing new-school nature. They just seemed to have misjudged supply and demand. I’ll make allowances for businesses getting up to speed.

Woodburning pit ribs and chicken

I do think that half a chicken and four ribs supplemented by some of the longest fries I’ve ever seen and a slew of rice was plenty for two. The meat was a little gnarled, at first glance it was hard to tell the pork from the chicken in the pile of burnished brownness, but nothing was dried out. The skin could’ve been crispier, but everything was moist and had a peppery zing.

This would’ve been a perfectly acceptable mid-week meal but I require more oomph from a Friday or Saturday night dinner. Is that weird? The Woodburning Pit would be suitable for takeout or delivery if you happen to live near the Bay Ridge/Sunset Park border.

The Woodburning Pit * 6715 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY


3/4 On my first and last visit to Tanoreen a few years ago, I was underwhelmed. Not majorly, I just had high expectations and I think much of the so-so-ness had to do with poor ordering. I hate to say it, but misguided picks befell me again this weekend.
My main reason for heading to Bay Ridge was to satisfy a craving for Middle Eastern lamb that arose while reading an article on Turkey in this month’s Gourmet (I’m still in denial that there’s no alfresco photo spread). No, Tanoreen isn’t specifically Turkish. If I’m correct the owner is Palestinian and the restaurant’s cuisine borrows from all over the region.
But I knew they would have lamb, and specifically a lamb shank special. I had a precise image of the type of mutton I wanted, though I couldn’t place exactly where I’d had it before. It had to be on the bone, definitely not kabobs, and not a chop either. Nothing dainty.

It was with the appetizers that I went astray. There are tons of choices, both hot and cold and part of the regular menu and specials list. I got a little overwhelmed. Muhammara was an easy choice. I’d made the roasted red pepper walnut dip before but had never actually tasted how it’s supposed to be made. Tanoreen’s version was chunkier and nuttier than mine. I could see this rich, sweet spread as an ‘80s suburban canape layered atop a swath of cream cheese on a Ritz cracker. Who says I’m not classy?
James ordered something (I can’t recall the exact name) described as a pie topped with shankleesh, a Lebanese cheese, off the specials. This seemed ok, too.

Where we tripped up was deciding to share the lamb shank at the last minute (at $24 it’s the most expensive thing on the menu) and instead of getting two full entrees each to try a third appetizer. Normally, I never ask staff for suggestions because I’m a decisive person. Maybe I’m the weird one, but I can never figure out diners who spend five minutes asking their server questions. I should’ve just gone with my instincts and picked the Brussels sprouts or one of the many eggplant preparations. Instead, I asked our waiter what he’d recommend and was offered something called musakhan with chicken and almonds. I was a bit thrown off since it sounded so much like moussaka (which apparently, they also do) but I’m down with nuts and poultry.

The musakhan turned out to be kind of an Arabic pizza. Something about chicken on a pizza seemed kind of California Pizza Kitchen, but the spicing and almonds were very un-chain-like. This appears to be a modern interpretation of traditional dish using chicken, pine nuts and lavash.

This is the appetizer James ordered, also a pizza. Hmm…I didn’t really need to eat two pizzas for dinner, not that they both weren’t good and distinct from each other. I’ll admit that I’m not a Middle Eastern cuisine know-it-all, I rarely ever cook it, and this innocent looking pizza was complex. It took me a while to figure out that the tartness was coming from sumac. The overriding flavor was pungent and floral goat cheese, almost creepy (to me, because I don’t like flowery tasting things) in its funkiness. One notch stronger and the taste might’ve been offputting but it was just enough to encourage another bite to figure the combination out. I’m fairly certain that the brown hue, which makes the topping look like ground meat, was za’atar, a spice blend that includes a lot of everything with thyme and oregano shining through.

Ah, the lamb. If you ignored the accompanying rice and preceding dishes, you could almost picture yourself sitting down to a British Sunday roast, carrots, potatoes, parsley and all. The meat was moist and almost too juicy, a fine specimen but not what I was looking for, no fault of the poor lamb shank. I was thinking of something less saucy, maybe stringier and kind of charred, closer to what I’ve encountered at Yemen Café and A Fan Ti.
This was a strange case of perfectly good food that didn’t satisfy my particular craving. We definitely encountered more interesting items than on our first visit, and perhaps three times will be a charm.

Flaky, not syrupy-sweet baklava taken to go.

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Grand Sichuan House

I’m not sure how I managed end up with spice-less food at Grand Sichuan House. I was having an off night, not them, and ordered strangely. I’ve been here more times than I’ve documented (and wrote a review for and on my last visit enjoyed Chongqing chicken and beef with cumin, both spicy.

This time I fell back on pork with leeks (or garlic chives as I think the menu says) because it’s essentially stir-fried bacon and that’s irresistible. I also ordered the duck with string beans because I was curious. It’s really the same as any Sichuan string bean dish but with a less typical meat. They certainly present it prettily. But I needed a dish that contrasted more with the pork.
We also had eggplant, which is rich and garlicky but not spicy. The vegetable doesn’t have to be fiery but it didn’t help balance anything. One of these days I’ll order the loofah just to see what one of those sponges tastes like before its all dried out.
At least the wontons had heat from the chile oil. I really wanted my usual beef tendons, but the last time I ate those I threw up violently the rest of the day (not as a direct result, but because I was already sick) and strangely, I had been throwing up the night before this visit because James poisoned me with undercooked jerk chicken so I had bad connotations with those tendons. I missed them, though.
I have observed that there seems to be three types of diners (or attempted diners) at GSH: groups of young Chinese, groups of young loud boastful foodies and locals looking for fried rice and chicken wings. They do serve Chinese-American food but it was kind of uncomfortable seeing a Latino guy asking for “beef and fried rice” and angering the counter woman who demanded, “what kind of beef?” Neither were English as a first language and I hate misunderstanding-style traumas even when I’m just a bystander. The guy ended up leaving. There is a typical take-out joint just across the street so I hope he found what he was looking for. (6/13/08)

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Saint Germain

I don’t brunch even in the most brunchy of neighborhoods so finding someplace inoffensive to eat a late breakfast/early lunch in Bay Ridge kind of threw me. No, it didn’t have to be Bay Ridge or nothing but I’d decided to take the exciting task of finding a new kitchen trashcan to Brooklyn’s Century 21. Why not combine such fun with a nearby meal?

We were quoted 45 minutes at Tanoreen, my first choice. And if I’ve learned anything about estimated waits it’s that they always exceed reality (except at chain restaurants where they’re eerily accurate). I got out of there pronto.

We naively crossed the street to check out some nondescript place across the street but had the crap scared out of us by a sea of neighborhood Mother’s Day prix-fixers. Without reservations we were offered a table through two dining rooms, in a tent on a heated patio. That was not going to work either.

After a drive and a walk we ended up at Saint Germain, a cute, well-intentioned café with good enough food and frighteningly scatterbrained service. As long as you’re not in a hurry it’s fine, and with only garbage can finding on my agenda, this was within the realm of acceptability.

This also appeared to be a Mother’s Day hotspot but we weren’t forced into any mandatory set menu. We did opt for the prix fixe, though, which includes eggy things and croque monsieurs, coffee, fresh-squeezed juice (at least I think) and a dessert from the glass case near the door. For $16.95 you might expect a morning eye-opener, but mimosas and the like (I don’t understand mojitos and caiparinhas at Frenchie bistros) were extra, and frankly, a drink was the last thing I needed.


I expected a dainty omelet but this was American in proportions. Really it was more egg than anything and not overstuffed in the least. Thinly sliced ham, melting brie and large tangles of spinach stayed tidy and tucked inside. The combination was pleasant but I regretted not ordering something with hollandaise. Since I never eat breakfast food I like doing it was gusto. The potatoes were surprisingly good and unmealy. In fact, they almost tasted deep-fried they were so crispy.

The post meal dessert seemed to be their calling card; everyone appeared genuinely excited to get up and peek in the case to make their big decision. The rational part of me wasn’t going to partake in that course but after seeing all of the little cakes and pastries I lost my nerve and joined in.


Hopelessly unnatural or not, I love the vivid fake greens used to signify pistachio. The marizipan-like goo’s sweetness was offset by the pears, which were more fruity texture than cloying. I think it was a good use of sugar, carbs and all that.

Olive_garden Because I know you’re wondering, Century 21 was a bust. You have no idea how difficult it is finding a simple Rubbermaid-like foot pedal garbage canister and not one of those $100+ stainless steel ones. Already on a ridiculous goose chase, we ended up at the polar opposite of Carroll Gardens: bizarre planned community Starrett City, home to the borough’s only Bed Bath & Beyond. Oh, and the only Tuscan-style Olive Garden I’ve ever seen in the city (yes, I'm obsessed with America's Tuscan obsession). It was worth the journey for a peep at that stone-clad monstrosity, alone.

Saint Germain * 8303 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Schnitzel Haus

1/2 I’ve never actually eaten a schnitzel at Schnitzel Haus and that’s because the pork shank, a.k.a. schweineshaxe (I can’t believe I’ve been able to use that word twice in a month) is so irresistible. And yes, I’m still doing my part to hype up German food as the new culinary hotness.

Because I was feeling gracious I allowed James to order the pork this time and I branched out with the sauerbraten. This was a dry, boring mistake. While the sauce was tart and meaty and the dumplings were carby fun, the meat was kind of eh. I don’t buy into that death of entrée bullshit but I did get bored after a few bites.

The schweineshaxe was as decadent and crackly as ever, though there was one obvious change from last year’s visit. What used to be the standard size is now listed as a special for twenty-something dollars while the version on the regular menu is a little cheaper, tinier though hardly dainty. I did say that the original shank easily made three servings, so they must’ve wised up.

We tried the smoked trout appetizer, which pretty much tasted like smoked trout. I’m not sure what was in the spread that accompanied it. If I didn’t know better I would say it was cream cheese whipped with horseradish and something sweet like applesauce, though I doubt they actually used applesauce. My only gripe was that you need something starchy with smoked meats (at least I do) and we asked for bread and no one could seem to get around to doing this, despite a breadbasket sitting on everyone else’s tables. Complaining about bread and moderately slow service is very old-lady-ish but I can’t help myself.

On this particular Friday night we were treated to a full band warbling Steely Dan and Jimmy Buffet renditions (more and more it seems that Mr. Buffet is the prime choice for cover bands) and Killepitsch girls (who looked nothing like the model on the brand site) trying to sell promotional shots of herbal liqueur. I was curious, but not $5 curious.

I hear there is a buffet on certain weeknights. You don’t see many, if any, German all-you-can-eat offerings in NYC, and it’s doubtful there’s much demand either. But if unlimited spaetzle and brats are your thing, Bay Ridge is the place to be. (12/12/07)

Keeping it simple with my review

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Slurpees Aren’t Even the Half of It

Since there aren’t many 7-Elevens around the city (no, I never got into that brief urban nostalgia craze when they started opening in Manhattan last year), I forget how crazy and full of amazing innovations they are.  When I lived in Sunset Park for a few years, I had an On the Run, complete with a small parking lot (atypical for Brooklyn) on the next block. It met the minimal requirements for a convenience store, but they didn’t get too wild with the products (except for the Green Mountain blueberry and pumpkin flavored coffees advertised in the gas station).

I popped in the Bay Ridge 7-Eleven this weekend after a patience trying, but ultimately fruitful Century 21 visit (I’ve really been wanting these green sandals with a cork heel, (they're not jade like in the photo but true color crayon green) but $79 seemed completely overpriced. $59 at Century 21 was still more than I thought was fair, but then I remembered that I had a little birthday pocket cash and all was good). It was a bonanza of bizarre edible inventions. I wish I’d had my camera with me because, duh, a picture is worth a thousand words (and my words aren’t even that worthy). If berry and squash coffees were disturbing, 7-Eleven goes one further with a whole machine devoted to making key lime cappuccino. How did that flavor combo even cross someone’s mind?

Despite not even drinking soda, I was very impressed with their beverage station that was promoting a “flavor blast” concept. You could push a button and choose a squirt of additional flavor like cherry, vanilla or lemon to pep up your Coke, Sierra Mist, whatever. I think vanilla root beer would be nice. It reminded me of how at Farrell’s (I don’t think there are many left in the world) you used to be able to order vanilla, cherry or chocolate cokes that had syrup mixed in.

Creme_egg_ice_cream I did purchase a Cadbury Crème Egg ice cream, if you can imagine. The actual icy confection on a cone doesn’t really resemble the illustration on the wrapper, but my photo didn’t turn out (I’m lame and can’t figure out how to make the object in the foreground in focus rather than the other way around). The top portion is kind of small, smaller than a Drumstick. And there really is a yellow fondant fake yolk in the middle of the vanilla ice cream. It was kind of creepy and incredibly sugary and I loved it.

The P'EatZZa Sandwich is "a marriage made only in 7-Eleven heaven." Well, they said it. I’m more fascinated by the spelling and pronunciation (Puh-Eat-Zuh) of the damn thing than the actual item itself.

There’s nothing novel about selling two-packs of hard boiled eggs, but sometimes simplicity gets you too.

7-Eleven * 301 65th St., Brooklyn, NY

86 Noodles

I've been by here a million times. Well, at least every time I've gone to
the Bay Ridge Century 21 (yes, there's a Century 21 in Brooklyn). I've never
had any reason to stop. But on this particular Sunday it fit all
requirements. I needed a whole roast duck for a Thai red curry with pumpkin
I was making and James wanted noodle soup. We planned on hitting Sunset Park
after shopping beautiful 86th Street. On our way back to the car I was
excited by the sight of ducks hanging just inside the door. A quick glance
at the takeout menu promised all sorts of noodle soups (which you could
probably also glean from their name). Most of the customers seemed to be
going the greatest hits route, i.e. sweet and sour, kung pao, but the menu
isnt limited to those choices. A bowl of roast pork and dumpling soup
supplemented by a plate of salt and pepper spare ribs sprinkled with
jalepeno slices (I love that preparation, especially with soft shell crabs)
and a duck to go capped off a chilly pre-Christmas late afternoon better
than I'd anticipated.

86 Noodles * 8602 4th Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Banana Leaf

1/2 I don't really know what to make of this place, but became curious after reading one of those tiny off the menu blurbs in the NY Times about a new Malaysian restaurant in Bay Ridge with a chef who had been at Vong and Mercer Kitchen. The components just seemed odd. And after never hearing a peep about it anywhere in any press or from anyone, it became even more suspect. During my last week living in neighboring Sunset Park, I had to check it out since it wasn't likely I'd be in the area again soon.

It's just south of the BQE, tucked in that little old-timey strip rife with Irish bars. I was amused by the restaurant's subtitle, Malaysian bistro. Highfalutin'? We were the only diners, and it quickly became apparent that their business is made up almost exclusively of take-out orders. And there's the weird dichotomy. The neighborhood seems to view this upwardly mobile, aspiring above hole-in-the-wall Chinese, as a take-out joint. Yet terms like foam and coulis do not appear on most chop suey, fried rice menus. The plates are artfully arranged, carefully garnished, sauces are dabbed and drizzled. Presentation is a big part of their thing, which obviously wouldn't translate in a cardboard container. And the menu's not terribly Malaysian, there was some roti canai, beef rendang, rojak, nasi lemak and the like. But there were also Vietnamese pork chops, Thai noodles and curries, as well as Japanese flourishes. And to be honest, the food was pretty average, but it tasted better to me because they were really trying to do something different.

The desserts were what really gave me a kick. They had a separate dessert menu, implying they take that course seriously. Chendol and bur bur cha cha were present, but I went for the innocent sounding banana parfait, primarily because kueh was listed as an ingredient. I'm crazy obsessed with those gummy colorful layered confections. A triangle of banana cake came positioned on top of three pastel keuh wedges, topped with homemade peanut ice cream and streaked with chocolate sauce. So bizarre, but so satisfying. I'm afraid this place won't make it, it's in a weird spot and I don't know that they're pushing their unique take on classics hard enough for anyone who would be interested to take notice.

Banana Leaf * 6814 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY