It’s Michelin Star season. When gracious winners throw parties to celebrate, while the losers and pretty much everyone else in the industry celebrate its awkwardness. Its the behemoth that everyone enjoys hating. In NYC two, and three stars are distributed with care while single stars are distributed like Halloween candy. My mother turns out has one. Some lose their hard earned stars within a year or two only to find themselves suddenly a lot more affordable (Bib Gourmet) while sporting the exact same menu that earned them the star. Should you look at Michelin for your French, Sushi and the default “New American” menu needs? Maybe. Should you look for it for Italian, Thai, Russian or [Name any other cuisine] needs? Nyet!
You would otherwise miss on places like Ugly Baby, the newest hottie in Carroll Gardens. With elevated neighborhood joints like FOB, Lucali, Frankies Spuntino, Buttermilk Channel and the boozy Other Half Brewing, Carroll Gardens is transforming into a dining and drinking destination. Young professionals, tourists, accountants and even parents of beautiful babies in the nearby Park Slope are noticing the development, and this newest Seinfeld-esque name. Apparently in Thailand its more common to call babies ugly so not to attract the ugly spirit. An important lesson the next time you give a baby a compliment.
Hence at Ugly Baby the name serves as an anti-jinx agent. And if the ugly spirit (lets call it Michelin) cant be fooled by the name, the spices will sure block it. BYOB in this case means Bring Your Own Bounty. We are talking about people all over the place sweating like a hooker on a “$5 Wednesday”. When we asked the friendly waiter what they are planning to do with the entrance when it gets cold, he said “We will just add more spices”. An hour later, all warm and fuzzy, we concluded he was serious.
The dishes here are fittingly ugly as you can see. Just like picking Thai establishments on 9th, the uglier the better. The Duck Salad (Ugly Duckling?) ended any hope of easing you in slowly as they throw you straight into the fire. Complex, addictive heat, unlike any Larb I ever had. The closest thing to a must here. The Chicken Thigh Skewers will make you cry a little more, and cry every time you eat chicken satay at [Name any Thai Restaurant]. More succulence without easing too much on the heat. By this point your tingling mouth is telling you this is as far as as you can get from Pad Thai nation.
The Kha Soi, perhaps the most underrated soup in the world, features welcomed sweetness and restrain, but more pleasant heat nonetheless and outrageously delicious beef shank cubes. At this point you start to wonder which dish you like best. Your hand keeps poking at the ugly duckling, so maybe that’s the one. The Snapper, swimming in ginger & tamarind broth serves as something between a cooling agent and a waste of dish, once you try everything else. This may be the true Ugly Duckling. The final bill at the end answered the “do they have any desserts, like something with sticky rice inside a banana leaf” question. Dessert or not, Ugly Baby is for real and a major Go!
407 Smith St, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens)
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Kha Soi, Chicken Skewers, Duck Salad