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Posts from the ‘Brooklyn Heights’ Category

La Mancha

La Mancha’s the weirdest place. It almost feels hidden in plain sight or at least ignored, not innovative enough to ride the Spanish new wave and lacking the history and rundown charm of the West Village holdouts. The food is straightforward, hearty, a bit stodgy and not inexpensive (though portions are generous). I felt kind of bad for not returning in over three years, though I never have such guilt over avoiding also nearby Smith Street restaurants.

And after having lackluster dining experiences the past two Saturdays, I was determined to have a pleasant evening this weekend and thankfully succeeded (three glasses of Tempranillo might’ve helped--I did notice my photos becoming progressively blurry, a final interior shot was completely unfocused and useless). James is the one who declared Ghenet and Kimchi Hana to be busts and insisted on making 9pm reservations this time, despite my protests that this was strange and unnecessary.

The room couldn’t possibly be teeming and it wasn’t. Maybe 40% full, there was a family with small children, one couple, one solo diner, a few groups and then a foursome who stomped in loudly and a woman in their party proceeded to fall out of her chair. Were they drunk? Or at least that’s what I thought until I realized it had collapsed beneath her, which normally might be funny but somehow wasn’t especially when I noticed how wobbly mine was too.

Pickled vegetables, like giardiniera (I just like that word because it’s so close to giardia) but probably escabeche to be properly Spanish.

Green salad with an aioli dressing comes with entrees. This touch, as well as the warm bread with little foil-topped plastic packets of butter is what make the meal seem fusty. These are trademarks I associate with an older audience, requisites that are expected of a sit down restaurant dinner.

Picada, a tapas sampling worked out well because ordering three individual items would’ve been too much to spend and eat. Jamon Serrano, nicely fatty around the edges and not paper thin either. I’m reminded of how salty and boring prosciutto is when compared to meaty, substantial Serrano. I’m honestly not sure what makes a ham prosciutto or Serrano and if it’s related to the pig or the processing (I’ve fantasized about curing my own ham, and it looks like a fellow Brooklynite recently did just that). Triangles of manchego, green olives and sautéed garlicky chorizo rounded out the plate.

I just wasn’t swayed by any of the meat-centric entrees, which revolved around veal, chicken or steak. They might be good but descriptions involving wine, garlic and olive oil (yes Spanish, staples) just seemed kind of blah and continental. We went the obvious route with paella Valenciana.

It was a fair enough rendition, the grains of rice neither mushy nor overly firm, with plenty of chorizo, clams and octopus. I always worry about dry chicken (when I’m eating it, not all the time) and yes, the hunks of breast meat had a little too much life cooked out of them. The serving for two easily could’ve fed a few more if you were sharing other main dishes.

The food isn’t dazzling, but the mood is easygoing and service friendly. It’s resolutely a neighborhood joint and I wouldn’t want to fool anyone into thinking it’s a destination restaurant. But as far as the Henry/Atlantic nexus is concerned, you could do much worse.

I later trotted across the BQE onramp and over to the weirdo side of Carroll Gardens that's only three blocks from my apartment (no, that's not Red Hook) where stroller madness in bars has yet take hold, and for good reason: the hodgepodge area is brimming with old school freaks. While sipping a few pints of Brooklyn Lager at Moonshine, I was fascinated by brothers who had to take turns coming and going due to restraining orders. But most baffling and frightening was the human personification of Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I’ve never heard such a pitch perfect voice, yet with a ponytail attached to the balding noggin.

Thankfully, he wasn’t harassing me because I’m old and attached, but the ladies sitting at the bar next to me got a detailed cooking lesson about how to make a steak (add balsamic vinegar) and mashed potatoes (don’t use a blender). This imagined meal riled up Carl, he got all crazed and spouted, “I want to take a bite out of crime…and you’re crime!” then after a pause, “But not in a sexual way.” Because that would just be wrong. (5/11/08)

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Waterfront Ale House

1/2 I wasn’t going to mention this restaurant from last week because I didn’t have anything remarkable to say, but then I realized that it’s rare that I do so why not. There’s something about the end of the week that makes me uninspired and lazy (which would be today). Rather than vague adventure, I often don’t feel like leaving the neighborhood once I get home and am fine with things like burgers and fries. Waterfront Ale House fits that description, I’d never been, plus they supposedly make great eggnog. Yes, I love eggnog (and fruitcake, as well). And in case you were wondering, it's not on the water, though it's vaguely near the East River.

It’s a packed place, part pub with small tables filling half of the space. There was a wait for seating. By pure happenstance, we got one of the two roomy booths. That never works in my favor so it warmed me a bit. Our timing must’ve been just right because minutes after we were seated and throughout the rest of our meal there was an enormous crowd waiting for seats with antsy folks practically hanging over you or at least salivating over your spot. I didn’t take any photos because it’s like freaking’ Schiller’s or Freeman’s or whatever inexplicably cramped Lower East Side nonsense in there. I just wanted to make sure we were out by 11pm when live jazz was scheduled. Live jazz is rarely a good thing.

My jack cheese burger was so-so, nothing remarkable. The fries were fine. I was more impressed with the large amount of sauces perched on the ledge of our booth. There wasn’t just HP sauce but HP fruity sauce and squeeze curry sauce for chicken (which also worked well with fries), three mustards, a house hot sauce and something strange, peppery and sherry-based from Jamaica but not this brand.

So, if you want to play with sauces and drink a variety of beer, this is your place. If you want to relax and savor a burger or nurse an eggnog, coming back on a weeknight is probably wiser.

Waterfront Ale House * 155 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Atlantic Chip Shop

Everybody was in such as tizzy over the opening of the Atlantic Ave. branch.
Maybe the months and months of opening soon teasing built up hype.  I
don't know why I cared so much, I don't even like battered fried fish
(battered fried candy is another story). But I couldnt pass up the chance to
give it a try since I was seeing a show at Magnetic Field, just a block over
(never mind that I live near walking distance to the Chip Shop anyway).

There's not a lot of seating, but luckily we didnt have to wait too
long, and I didnt mind passing time with a pint at the bar (something the
original location lacks). I ordered the steak and kidney pie with chips like
I've always done at this now chain. I don't know why everyone gets grossed
out by that. I love meat pies, pot pies, I used to eat frozen ones after
school like a little freak. Combined with the beer, its filling fare, for
sure. We were only able to share the treacle pudding, which was warm,
carmelly and good. The fried Atkins bar was an amusing touch. As for the
fish? I really couldnt say.

Atlantic Chip Shop * 129
Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY