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Posts from the ‘Cobble Hill’ Category

Bocca Lupo

Strangely, I don’t feel like I have much of anything to say about Bocca Lupo because it’s solid, reasonable restaurant that needs no comment from me. (If I were to say anything it would only be relevant to me. And that is that whenever I have the urge to go out to eat, I should wait an extra 30 minutes. You know, kind of like that taking one accessory off before leaving the house trick. Unless visiting a restaurant that’s outer outer borough, it’s guaranteed that I will end up waiting half an hour to be seated, and as soon as I sit down half the room clears out. Bocca Lupo 10pm on a Friday=crowded, Bocca Lupo 10:30pm on a Friday=lots of open tables.)

Bocca Lupo’s on Henry St., I live on Henry St. They serve non-marinara drenched Italian food and stay open until 2am on weekends, both good things. You can order little snacks or more substantial dishes–it’s crazy like that. They’ve been open for almost exactly one year and I have no idea why it took me this long to pay a visit.

Unfortunately, thanks to three glasses of random Sangiovese, and their lack of an online menu, I can’t even cobble together basic details of what I ordered.

Why do I only remember the mortadella?

Once again, I only remember one specific: the gorgonzola. The unknown soft cheese was my favorite and the candied pecans were a nice touch. 


Sweet peas don’t seem very October but whatever. The green puree was topped with prosciutto. The brown mass on the other bread slices was sausage draped with mild chiles. 

Bocca Lupo * 391 Henry St., Brooklyn, NY


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


Not counting vacations (because I force myself to wake up earlier) I probably only eat breakfast or brunch out like three times a year. But I hadn’t/haven’t gone grocery shopping in over two weeks so the food situation had become dire (sort of, there are two freezers full of things like chicken breasts, pork dumplings, lime and curry leaves, duck fat, Italian sausage, morcilla [I ate that last night with chickpeas, dried cranberries, pinenuts, garlic, parsley and lots of olive oil—so good I’ll eat some more tonight] two whole chickens and short ribs, and a shelf brimming with forgotten dry goods like cherry jam, Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate, Indonesian krupuk, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, Moose Munch, Iams cat food, four varieties of wild rice, weirdo South American grains and dried corn that never ever get used, rendang in a box, low fat coconut milk, canned turnip greens, decaf Starbucks coffee and way way more) enough to warrant dressing before noon and fighting the Sunday brunching brigade.

I tried to come up with nearby options that might be unpopular yet still tasty. Irish breakfast at the recently revamped Ceol came to mind (as evidenced by my morcilla bender, I’m all about blood sausage). This was the original plan but on our detour to Rite Aid for cold medicine we passed Mancora and were intrigued by the sandwich board advertising a $8.95 brunch with beverage. Peruvian for breakfast seemed about as safe from crowds as Irish, so we gave it a go.
The place was practically empty, save for the Hispanic dudes getting an early start on New Year’s Eve at the bar. Eventually, your classic white guy with his Asian gal came in (all restaurants in gentrified Brooklyn neighborhoods must have at least one such couple) so we didn’t feel so lonely.

Where a Mexican place would give out pre-meal chips and salsa, here you get fried plantain chips with a creamy, lightly spiced orange and green dip. We both ordered egg dishes that came with lukewarm, sweet purple rice studded with plantain chunks. It wasn’t bad and I’m a sucker for food in unusual colors (I can see it grossing out people though. I was recently so dismayed to see all these freaks bothered by this emerald green macaroon that I left a pro-green cookie comment and I rarely get involved in these petty matters, and now it looks like all comments have been deleted). I don’t think the rice is naturally purple, despite the fact that purple potatoes and corn do grow in Peru. Maybe it was made with chica morada? I once made purple rice using grape juice, so who knows.

James had a steak and egg thing that came atop English muffins but wasn’t eggs benedict. Mine was more benedict-like but instead of muffins I received eggs sitting on silver dollar sized quesadillas filled with spinach and cheese and drizzled with a chile hollandaise. It was actually kind of creative, more than I’d previously given Mancora credit for.

The food reminded me of the type of fare a chef would come up with (not so much Gordon Ramsey on his Kitchen Nightmares, which appears to be casting in NYC this very second) on Restaurant Makeover to shake up an eatery in a rut and attract new clientele. With a so-so but strong bloody mary (or mimosa or sangria) included in the price, the brunch is a pretty good deal. (12/31/06)

Bottled chicha morada photo from Slashfood.

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Cube 63

It recently occurred to me that I never ever eat sushi for dinner. Yeah, I pick up deli (technically Sushi-Tei [they advertise this link, but this particular restaurant is nowhere to be seen on the website] which is no Café Zaiya or Yagura. I’m still mourning both after six months in my not-so-new-anymore job neighborhood) sushi a couple times a week for lunch, but that’s not like real. I know, purists get all grossed out by fast food sushi, but those midtown you pick, they toss, salads make me want to hurl. And fast food sushi is cheaper than a lot of midtown mediocrity.

Cube_63_sushi I picked neighborhood Cube 63 for no reason in particular. I think Osaka is the local higher end fave and clearly Hana Sushi is just plain popular. While Cube 63 was nearly empty around 7:30 on a Saturday, Hana, one block over was stuffed to the gills. I would say that those diners must’ve known something we didn’t if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t trust the judgment of most people in Cobble Hill.

We were fairly restrained in ordering. I picked spicy tuna rolls, spider rolls and yellowtail sushi. James asked for scallop sashimi and the 63 roll (spicy tuna, avocado, lobster salad). Yeah, a bit tuna heavy. All in all it was an acceptable dinner, but there was something flat and perfunctory about the experience. Of course it was more enjoyable than deli sushi, which isn’t saying much.

Cube 63 * Court St., Brooklyn, NY

Little Bistro

*LB has been replaced by a not-so-promising looking place called Vivir. (1/06)

Famous last words, "it had better not be one of those barbecue sauce restaurants." Oh, but it was. It's starting to get strange, the Bococa (oh yes, I did) affinity for barbecue sauce. (Or possibly more accurately, James's penchant for ordering items drenched in it.)Realistically, the incidents over the past few years have been few and far between, all things considered, but they tend to stand out because they occurred when we first moved into the neighborhood and were figuring out the dining scene. We had bbq sauce trauma at Pier 116 and Village 247, both addresses-in-the-names joints have since faded away. Perhaps rampant bbq saucing is the mark of a restaurant in demise.

I wish I could remember the exact name and description of our appetizer. It was something along the lines of barbecued shrimp summer rolls. I'll admit, barbecue is right in there, but we assumed by context this meant grilled. Wouldn't that make more sense? But no, the Vietnamese style rolls came with a little patch of mache, a pool of creamed corn…and drizzles of barbecue sauce. Good lord. After that, there would be no way to convince James to ever give another Cobble Hill restaurant a chance.

That rough patch was only exacerbated by the excruciating amount of time it took to present our entrees.  I'm not one to fuss, but it probably would've irritated an average diner. And it wasn't matter of things being backed up, they clearly messed up our order. We were nearly neck and neck with the table next to us and they received, ate and finished their main dishes before we even saw ours. I suspect there was a problem with the veal special. We're opposite, James often goes for the special and I avoid them.

I was mildly amused that when the panko crusted veal finally arrived it was served with "Japanese Worcestershire sauce," which is like one step away from sweet barbecue sauce. one might imagine would be sweet. It wasn't James's night.

To be fair, I quite liked my entrée, which was a plate of sliced duck, massaman curry sauce, two moo shu duck style pancakes, and two sweet potato fritters. A small pile of baby vegetables in the middle consisted of carrots, pattypan squash and green and wax beans.

It's easy to asses the neighborhood's vibe and restaurant's clientele, from the caveats the waiter gave with practically all orders. "The duck is cooked medium, so it's a little pink in the middle. Is that ok?" Yes, that's fine. The shrimp rolls, "That comes with coleslaw, is that alright?" Ok, not a problem. Both female components of the couples who sat on my right (yes, two seatings occurred during our unintended lengthy meal) ordered the salmon with "Japanese spiced cream sauce," and both asked, "Is it spicy?" The waiter robotically replied, "We can put the sauce on the side." South Brooklyn is infested with fussiness.

Little Bistro * 158 Court St., Brooklyn, NY


1/2 There are moments made for mish mash. And those moments tend to involve alcohol impaired judgment. Pacifico, it turns out, is great for what it is: drunk food. Unfortunately, it almost became puke food after swilling mint juleps and bourbon slushes for five hours straight. Despite the burgoo and derby pie consumed earlier, I still needed a little padding of the stomach lining.

Beer and a carnitas quesadilla did more harm than good. The cheese and grease backfired and I was only able to eat one of my four stuffed tortilla wedges. It wasn't half bad, I just wasn't primed for eating. But I was happy the next day to have hefty leftovers as hangover food.

Pacifico * 269  Pacific St., Brooklyn, NY

Yemen Cafe

In the nearly two years I've lived vaguely near Atlantic Avenue, Waterfalls is the only Middle Eastern restaurant I've visited. I fear that whole strip is going to be gentrified into oblivion within a couple of years, so I'd better start branching out while I can. Yemeni cuisine is one that I could stand to learn a little bit more about.

I took the opportunity during the first flakes of the blizzard. After seeing Cache at that odd Brooklyn Heights Theater on Henry Street, Yemen Cafe was a short (albeit wet) walk down the street (and home, 15 blocks south of that). As I'd suspected might be the case, I was the only female in the sparse, spacious room that was maybe a quarter full. I think that's why I tend to be wary of many of these restaurants: the lack of women. Am I breaking a rule by wanting to try new and delicious food?

Many of the items on offer were highly tasty and not quite like things I've had before. The pita was large, pizza-sized and comes on a platter. It had definitely come straight from an oven, warm with charred, bubbly edges. I didn't order any appetizers because I assumed the entrees were meal enough, which they were. However, the foul madamas and the Yemeni fateh, bread with honey and butter, grabbed my attention. Maybe on another visit.

James had a lamb fateh. I gather fateh means things served atop torn pieces of bread. The gravy soaks into the flaps of starch and creates a chewy flavor combination. I had the house salta, which comes in two parts. I think the salta is the stew, which is laced with potatoes, carrots and zucchini and comes most interestingly topped with a white herby foam called houlbah. I'd never seen such a thing, at the same it's time ancient and avant-garde. You mix the strong flavored swirl into the liquid. I couldn't put my finger on what the bitter component was, but later I deduced that it was fenugreek. A roasty browned, juicy lamb shank comes on a separate plate (you can also get chicken). A lot of picking and dipping is involved.

The foam came as a surprise, and so did the hot sauce they bring on a small saucer. I swear it's a dead ringer for salsa. We were joking that there was a jar of Pace in the kitchen. The components were there: tomato, onion, jalapeno, but lighter on the tomato on higher on the heat. Not chunky, but a puree. This is what I enjoyed about Yemen Cafe, unexpected tid bits like the Yemeni salsa, foamy toppings and pita strewn stews.

Yemen Cafe * 176 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY


So, I've finally deduced that it takes me about six months to actually try a new restaurant. Well-intentioned or not, I never seem to get to all the places on my list, even when they're walking distance from my apartment. And in NYC, nobody cares about a restaurant after six months.

I recall good things being said about Taku when it opened this summer. I don't know if they've kept things up at the same caliber, but I was unexpectedly under whelmed. James flat out didn't like food, which surprised me since he's never extremely passionate about anything, let alone cuisine.

My sashimi trio included…um, I can't even say for sure because it wasn't explained well and I'm not a raw fish whiz, I think uni and two different white fleshed fish varieties, along with a couple different seaweed salad tufts. It was fresh and just toothsome enough to remind me that I should eat Japanese food more often.

James ordered the wings, which I was interested in too. The sambal coating and cucumber cream dip sounded like a fun riff on Buffalo wings. They were presented prettily on a long ceramic plate and wrapped with a thin leaf. Unfortunately, the meat wasn't fully cooked, once you bit off the saucy exterior, the flesh was raw. It's a good thing neither of us are panicky about avian flu, or more realistically salmonella. I guess we should've said something, but it didn't feel worth the bother. There was a weird dispiriting vibe in the room, despite the surface soothing tones and music. Nothing overt, but the service managed to feel spacey and clunky, like I didn't want to do anything to further interactions or conversations. So, we kept mum on the sashimi wings.

I enjoyed my Taku ramen, which was ideal for a pork fanatic like myself. The tonkatsu broth was laden with thin slices of Berkshire pork and a nice substantial piece of rasher style bacon. The weird thing is that I expected more flavor, the broth was oddly flat and even the tiniest bit bitter. I think my taste buds could be tainted by my almost daily bowl of cheap Yagura chicken udon. I'm sure the stuff is teeming with salt and msg, but it's insanely savory and addictive. Maybe it's dashi derived vs. pork bone broth? No expert in Japanese soups, I'd always imagined pork broth to be the stronger flavored of the two.

James envied my ramen and loathed his scallops so much that he actually went home and ate a bowl of instant tom yam noodles. I thought his entre looked fine, though I became scared to taste it when he began insisting it was laced with mayonnaise. I wouldn't be surprised, Japanese are a tad mayo crazy, but the emulsified condiment wasn't listed as an ingredient. I only recall apple puree (as a bed for the seared sesame crusted scallops), celery root (a few scattered slices) and holy basil (in the form of lightly drizzled oil) as components. The celery root did appear to be coated in a white creamy sauce. I don't think the quality was poor, it just wasn't what he had had in mind.

Despite being offered a new job mere hours before this meal, we couldn't agree on whether this was a celebratory dinner or not. I said no at the end because it didn't go well and I wasn't feeling elated like I should've been. James said yes, since it ended up being more than we'd (ok, he'd) normally spend on food for a casual weeknight ($81). I don't care what he says, it didn't count–I'm getting another dinner.

Taku * 116 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY


1/2 Funny, there was a story in todays NY Times about WWF (I know its WWE now, but it just doesnt look right) style wrestling Cholitas in Bolivia. Cholita, one of Cobble Hills Peruvian restaurants, wasn't as amusing, I'm afraid.

On a sickeningly steamy Saturday I decided try either Mancora or Cholita since I'd never been to either and Peruvian sounded like a random good idea. We opted for the latter, primarily because it was less crowded. In fact, the entire dining room was empty. I would normally take that as a bad sign if it werent for the full-to-capacity back patio, which we wanted nothing to do with. Maybe were freaks for sitting alone in air conditioned comfort, but humidity combined with a slew of strollers and the new mommies accompanying them, is the antithesis of a an enjoyable evening.

Even being the only diners in the room (at least temporarily), we still had trouble with our scatterbrained bed-headed waiter. They were out of Jamess original choice, something involving lamb, so he went for a basic hanger steak with chimichurri, medium rare. It ended up rarer than rare. I went for the paella, which I'm not the biggest fan of in the first place, it was a spur of the moment urge. But their bizarro addition of a frozen vegetable combo (lima beans, green beans and corn–isnt that succotash? I have a severe hatred of those mixed vegetable packs. The only time I tolerated them was way back in 91 when I got my first apt. and the only place that did Chinese delivery [which wasn't even in my S.E. Portland neighborhood, but downtown] had this sweet greasy pork stir fry that was full of frozen corn, machine cubed carrots and green beans that I'd frequently order even though I was well aware that it was so not Chinese) in the rice and seafood fray certainly didnt help change my opinion of the dish. Do they even eat paella in Peru?

It wasn't a heinous experience by any means. The Pisco sours were nice, the fried pork appetizer wasn't half bad, but I'm in no hurry to return. It's not like I'm in an early '90s Oregonian culinary wasteland; now choices abound. I think Cholitas back garden is the draw, much the same way nearby Pacificos open air seating trumps their cuisine. For me, al fresco atmosphere doesnt hold enough sway.

Cholita * 139 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY


People always lump Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill together. Perhaps its the
blur of homogonous residents (the minor exception being the freaky front
yard, social club, right leaning, elderly Italian contingent, whom I happen
to share a neck of the woods with). But even only being one subway stop
south of Bergen, I'm still out of that more bustling loop. To me, Gravy
popped up out of nowhere, I had no inking. But it's kind of hard to ignore
(and dislike) a giant neon gravy boat. Gravy is now the cornerstone
(literally), connecting Pacifico to La Rosa in some labyrinth-like near
gimmick. I don't have issues with the whole Alan Harding empire, La Rosa
pizza tastes good to me, Schnack is fun and cheap. Pacifico supposedly
sucks, and thats why I've shied away.

Gravy falls into the affordable and light hearted camp. No new ground is
broken with the updated diner concept, but thats okay (it certainly beats
the hurl inducing Sonnys). The interior is bizarrely vast, even by Brooklyn
standards. A Friday night table for two was no problem.

Unfortunately, the operation wasn't completely up to snuff yet. Not all
menu items were available, for instance the vegetable muffaletta I'd wanted.
After striking out, I changed my second choice Monte Cristo to the more
routine Rueben just to preempt any additional disappointment. It was a
perfectly respectable rendition, skewered with toothpicks bearing a black
and green olive. The fries, sprinkled with shredded parsley, were also nice.

The entrees include what you might expect: chicken fried steak, meatloaf
and macaroni and cheese, which every table of white guy/Asian girl duos (to
be fair, there was one table with the reverse ethic combo, but they were
both wearing flip flops so my initial positive impression was soured) in the
room seemed to have a plate of.

Mac and cheese is one of those gross comfort foods that I don't get, but
everyone seems to love (I also dislike hotdogs, so maybe somethings wrong
with me). Noodles and cheese just don't thrill me, but perhaps thats not the
point. I noticed a lot of faces being made, complaining and picking at food
by the women, which was kind of baffling. But the men werent much better,
the gentleman next to us didnt know what chicken fried steak was, and he
didnt even touch his vegetables, which appeared to be fresh picked and
decent looking not frozen.

The desserts, however, were not freshly made as I'd been hoping. The
adequate choices, which included Reeses cheesecake and apple pie, came boxed
and ready to slice. I know because the woman prepping them with sliced
strawberries and whipped cream was stationed mere feet from us.

When I originally heard that Gravys stayed open until 2am I got excited
because there's nowhere for late night dining in the neighborhood. I was
super thwarted on a recent Sunday when I wanted dessert after 10pm and we
walked blocks and blocks of urban ghost town. I had visions of eating
homemade lemon meringue pie in the middle of the night, but it looks like my
sugar fix might more along the lines of a defrosted cheesecake slice.

Gravy * 102 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY