Brooklyn

Brooklyn December Tours Almost Sold Out

IMG_9992 (1)This is not a drill, nor a sales pitch.  Just a friendly heads-up.  Last year during the last few months of the year, I answered so many requests starting with the word “Unfortunately” that my smart phone started completing “Unfortunately” every time I started a sentence.  This year its happening much earlier.  I got plenty of availability between now and then, but the month of December is looking mighty busy already, especially with Brooklyn tours.

At the moment, there are a handful of open dates left.  The rest are mostly sold out Brooklyn tours, holidays (Christmas, Festivus…), and some time off.  There are a handful of mostly weekend walking tours (East Village, Hell’s Kitchen) with availability.  I imagine Dyker Heights Xmas lights is one of the culprits for the December tour spike as I get many queries about it.  A late Thanksgiving means a later Dyker Heights season this year.  Meaning I dont expect a full light show during the first week but I’ll know better when December starts.

Anywho, just want to give some readers the benefit.  Any questions or if you want to book a tour, email me at EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com

IMG_9881

Advertisements
Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Casa Vieja – The Anti-Yelp

Casa Vieja - Tingas and TacosSocial Media is a wonderful, powerful thing.  Until its not.  I dont recall how I first learned about Casa Vieja in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  Perhaps I read about it on Chowhound or the excellent Eat The World.  But it was most certainly not via Yelp.  In fact after the first time I took Mrs Z to Casa Vieja and posted about it on Instagram, my friends were curious about taking my culinary spoiled wife to a place ranked so low on Yelp (three stars).  Thats because the type of people that visit Casa Viaja dont review on Yelp.  A whopping 15 reviews for one of the three oldest Mexican in Sunset Park (Tacos Matamoros, Tacos El Bronco are the others).

Like some of the Arab eateries of the neighboring Bay Ridge, and the Chinese neighbors in the East, it helps to know the language in this part of 5th Avenue.  I think I’m getting to the point that its a little too late in the game to tell my regular waitress that I dont really speak Spanish.  I’ve given her many clues, like not speaking a word of Spanish, and even accidentally uttering a Buonasera once or twice in the few attempts we tried.  We are not only the only non-Spanish speakers in this casa, but in the entire block sometimes.  If you measure authenticity by a foreign country like environment, Casa Vieja is as genuine as it gets.

Casa Vieja

Eat The World

However very often “authentic” doesnt translate well due to poor ingredients, execution, or cultural differences.  Sometimes in order to appreciate a dish, it helps to grow up with it.  Thankfully this is not the case here.  Everything I’ve had here so far has been fresh tasting and pleasing to the palate.  Flavors I dont expect in cheap Mexican restaurants.  I usually start with the Tingas these days.  Mini crispy tacos loaded with delicious shredded chicken with chopped tomato, lettuce, crumbled cheese and some tangy aioli.  The corn on the cob is always solid although oddly overpriced.

Tacos, even on 5th ave can sometimes be bland and uninspiring.  Not the case here, at least with the Al Pastor and Chorizo.  The Mole here is superb.  Try it on Enchiladas with steak.  But the one dish I must have every single time, that usually follows me to the car is the excellent Lomo de Puerco Adobado.  Beautifully marinated Pork Loin, with zucchini, corn, and dressed with sauce that got some seriously sneaky heat that even the Szechuan loving neighbors to the east can appreciate.

Casa Vieja
6007 5th Ave (60th), Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Lomo de Puerco Adobado, Tingas, Enchiladas with mole, Tacos

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Krok – A Viable Pok Pok Replacement

Krok - Pad Kra-PraoThis is more of an important public announcement, rather than a full restaurant review.  Pok Pok, as expected by some, ran its course and closed around a year ago.  I never want to see restaurants close, but admittedly, I havent visited Pok Pok in the final year or so.  The fact that it was never open for lunch (weekdays), and other serious Northern Thai joints like Ugly Baby popping up in Brooklyn had something to do with it.  But with Krok, opening up in its place there are reasons to celebrate, and visit.

You might as well call it Krok Krok, as its not awfully different than the previous tenant.  Krok’s menu is street food and Isan leaning, which means BYOB, Bring Your Own Bounty.  While they may tone it down a bit for the white boys, toning it down here still means plenty of nice, bold flavors.  After just one sit down, and a takeout order on another evening, I can tell you that this is some serious strong stuff.  And being within six degrees of Pure Thai Cookhouse helps.  Chef/partner Krit Ploysomboon cooked at Land Thai Kitchen, Pure’s UWS sister.  Another partner owns a Thai restaurant in Queens.

KrokEvery dish I’ve had so far was outstanding.  The Pad Kra-Prao, minced chicken (you can get pork instead), stir fried with garlic, chili and a vibrant basil sauce is especially superb.  Another great chicken dish is the Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, herb marinated and grilled with garlic, lemongrass, pepper, served with spicy sweet & sour and tamarind chili dipping sauces which you may or may not feel the need to use.

The fiery Moo Num Tok leads the grilled entrees column for a reason.  Marinated Pork with herbs, lime and chili.  It’s quite fragrant, and addictive just like the rest of them.  The rice helps spell relief and so is the cabbage and cucumbers combo that comes with some of the dishes.  If you are not getting them, ask.  The lone green curry with chicken I’ve had so far was spot on.  Looking forward to getting more intimate with this menu.

Krok
117 Columbia St (Kane), Columbia Street Waterfront District, Brooklyn
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Pad Kra-Prao, Gai Yang Bu-ri-ram, Moo Num Tok

Krok - Curry

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Sofreh – FOMO Strikes Again in Brooklyn

sofreh - chickenWhen I was very young, like around age one, I was really really handsome.  And I dont mean how all young babies and toddlers are beautiful in a way.  I’m talking stunning beauty, almost girlish like. My nickname in daycare was Kendall.  I had this ravishing hot blonde (I think that’s the correct color name) hair, and I was extremely pleasing to the eye.  So pleasing that my parents were constantly worried of the ‘Ugly Baby‘ jinxing syndrome, where someone out there would successfully give me the evil eye one day.  And sure enough it happened.

We were on a long train ride one day, and I cried hysterically the entire ride.  Well, much of it at least.  A woman then approached my parents and told them that I was obviously under a spell, which my parents already suspected.  There was no way I suppose I was teething, hungry, or suffering from an ache of some sort.  I was obviously cursed!  And the only way to get rid of this curse according to the stranger was to wash my face with a cloth that was soaked in some… urine.  Now, lets skip the part of whose urine it was or supposed to be, and go straight to the disturbing punch line.  It worked!  The fact that it worked that one time meant that I was essentially bathing in urine pretty much my entire baby/toddler life.

sofreh

Eater

Back in the day people blindly followed old rituals the same way we struggle today with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  Back then when people didnt have access to information, they rarely questioned things.  The fear of being wrong, or the consequences of going against the grain were too real.  You just went with the flow, and popular belief.  While FOMO is not nearly as serious, it follows similar human nature traits.  If we are not going to go to this hot new Persian restaurant in Prospect Heights, we are not living life to the fullest.

I am talking about one of the hottest openings last year.  A restaurant that was reviewed by everyone and their mothers (My mom gave it 3 cloths!).  Trying to reserve a table on a weekend these days proving more difficult than building a wall.  We had to resort to a Thursday 6 pm slot.  A new Persian restaurant in NYC offering seemingly well crafted, ultra instagrammable dishes that most New Yorkers never experienced.  Whats not to get excited about.

sofreh - kofteh

First the good news.  The space is chic, smartly decorated, and well lit.  Well, until 7 pm at least, when they decided to dim the lights for some reason.  But you got the sense that they thought of every single detail.  I even thought the bathroom featuring wall to wall vintage Iranian movie posters was pretty cool.  I especially liked the movie featuring Popeye knocking down a beautiful potentially unfaithful woman with his big bat, with Burt Reynolds, her lover coming to the rescue, too late.

Our first bite, the Kofteh was superb!  Beef meatballs with rice and split peas that put most Italian meatballs to shame.  Our second bite, grilled cauliflower was less successful but pleasant enough.  Things were working early on, and life is looking full again.  Unfortunately however, that was the end of the hit list

The “Ash”, a thick Persian herb and noodle stew delivered nice complex flavors the first few spoonfuls, but quickly became too heavy to eat on its own for all three of us.  This was a dish recommended by a few critics, and I wonder how much of it they really ate while trying to sample the various dishes.  It would have worked better with meat, in a soup form or on top of rice (which we got later with the mains) or pasta.  The whole wheat noodles as part of the stew wasnt nearly enough to save the dish.

A similar fate plagued the chicken and fish, two of the menu “classics”.  Interesting first few bites that quickly turned to “how do we salvage this”.  The chicken’s Plum and Saffron sauce with the tart Barberries became too sharp-tasting fairly quickly.  For relief I was picking on just the bird at some point.  But you couldnt do that with the “Catch of the day” striped bass.  “Catch of the day” is a funny concept in NYC, but thats another post/rant for another time.  The sauce was overpowering alright,  but the fish was too bland on its own.  The Persian Ice cream was good, but flavors not much different than at other middle eastern spots.

Looking at the mirror these days, that curse 45 years ago seemed to work.  But at least I’m living life to the fullest.  I’m Glad I tried Sofreh, but its probably a one and done deal for me.

Sofreh
75 St Marks Ave (Brooklyn)
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Kofteh, Cauliflower

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tone Cafe – The Republic of Khachapuri

tone cafe - khinkaliIn the black sea of Uzbek and Ukrainian eateries on Brighton Beach Ave, one can easily forget the avenue two blocks up, Neptune.  Like 10th ave in Hell’s Kitchen, 7th avenue in Sunset Park, these are the forgotten practical blocks.  As a visitor you tend to gravitate towards the hubs.  But when you live in the hood, this is where you fix your chipped tooth, visit your favorite tarot card reader, or get that pastrami sub from the deli guy that knows exactly how you like it.

These blocks often give birth to destination places that cant strictly survive on the people living nearby.  Whether its the elderly in Brighton Beach or the poor students in East Village, these are often not the demographics that can sustain such businesses alone.  The young professionals and actors that dominate Hell’s Kitchen for example call the entire city their neighborhood and rarely stay put.  Such are the challenges for places like Nano, Taboon, Hearth and Tone Cafe on Neptune Ave.

tone cafe - chanakhi

 

Tone Cafe is one of a plethora of Georgian eateries popping up all over the city in the past 5-10 years.  And just about all serve the formidable Adjaruli Khachapuri, a boat shaped bread filled with salty farmers cheese and egg.  The eggier and bigger the boat, the more Instagrammable the dish.  In Williamsburg a Cheese boat theme restaurant opened not too long ago called, you guessed it, Cheeseboat.  But what’s hip and cool in Williamsburg, in Brighton Beach its called Wednesday.

The Cheese boat in Tone is not only a feast for the eyes but a succulent combination of salty, rich, crispy, and gooey.  If you are a bread and cheese lover, you need to add this to the bucket list.  Right after Machu Pichu.  The Khinkali, the mammoth Georgian dumplings is another popular dish here.  But I’m finding them too doughy for my taste these days and would pass in favor of …

The Kharcho – A tart tomato based soup with rice, walnuts, lamb or beef, and spices.  You may not look at Borscht the same way again.  Its something you can find all over Brighton, but Tone’s version is cleaner tasting and pairs very well with winter.  Another popular starter is the red bean Lobio, cooked with herbs and spices, and  usually served with walnuts, and pomegranate.  Georgian food in a “nutshell”:  walnuts, pomegranate, red beans, a lot of meat and bread

Tone Cafe - Georgian Bread

If you are not quite up to the gigantic cheeseboats task, you also got the other Khatchapuris like the Imeruli, which literally translates to “Khatchapuri for whimps” or something like that.  Its a simpler cheese filled soft bread.  Or try the Chanakhi, lamb cubes slowly cooked in clay pot with eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and spices.  Pomegranade can also be found inside their terrific sausages (Kupati) I discovered on a recent visit (about 3 hours ago).  The Kupatis are thick and juicy and can rival with some of the best German franks.  A similar but differently spiced meat is the Kababi which comes wrapped in thin Lavash bread.

Tone Cafe is a little out of the way for most of my readers, but Brighton Beach, one of the most unique areas in NYC, and miles more interesting than neighboring Coney Island should not be overlooked.  Remember kids, we travel to see different, and this is definitely different.  Same applies to the kind of service you’ll encounter at places like Tone Cafe.  You may see a 10% service charge instead of a smile.  You may need to wait 30 minutes for your food for no good reason.  You may need to Google how to refill your own water.  And chances are that you’ll hear this “Hi my name is Randy, I will be your waiter today.  Do you have any allergies today?” is zilch.  Because that part of town has no Randys!

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Space – Big Fish, Bigger Fish

Hot Space FishApologies for the blurry photo.  I start to shake in front of deliciousness.  My posts will be smaller and to the point beginning… well it began actually.  Too much going on in my life at the moment, so I dont have as much time to blog these days.  But this is actually a good, refreshing change that will allow me to write about more places.  More places, more usefulness, less mambo jumbo, same grammar.

Hot Space is a Chinese Restaurant in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park Chinatown.  Its unfortunately not on 8th ave so it may need my help.  The number eight is the Chinese lucky number because in Mandarin eight sounds like the word wealth.  The meaning is one of the main driving forces behind the creation of the now largest Chinatown in NYC.  Popular 90’s rumor was to take the N train to the “Sky Stop” (when the train comes up) and you will find success on 8th avenue.

This makes it easy to incorporate the number into the business name.  Lucky 8, Great 8, mister 8, and the brilliantly named Restaurant on 58th st, are some examples.  Although some of the ones without the number 8 can use some spelling luck like me.  “Wash and Flod Laundromat” – sounds daring and flat out dangerous

This is a one dish post really, but its a doozy.  A big tray of fish.  After the servers take your coats and puts them in a large plastic bag so the coats wont attract any of the smells that come with the dishes (I wish my in-laws would do the same), they explain the menu and how to “build” your big boy tray of fish.  You got your choices of fish – usually Sea Bass, Big Mouth Bass, Buffalo Bass, Idaho Bass, and anything and everything ending in Bass.  You add your choice of veggies, sauce, and spice level and off you wait.

And while you wait you stare at the giant screen for Chinese entertainment while your significant other is not looking. The entire scene matches that of this particular Chinatown.  Like stepping into another country.  It helps when you are the only Caucasians in the entire room.  You also have instructions on the table on how to handle the fish once it arrives, like “wait until it stops flapping before eating”.

The fish then arrives and it’s magnificent.  Its not that different looking than the huge trays you see in Fei Long Market’s food court.  Its understandably costlier – about $70 once you add all the ingredients, and it can easily feed 3.  I ordered the Sea Bass in a medium spiced garlicky sauce and it was the perfect amount of heat on a fish whose flavors just pop.  We also added grilled BBQ squid which was nice and cajuny but not really necessary.

Hot Space Squid

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Gems in Brooklyn

Kashkar lagmanAs the great Manhattan rent squeeze continues, Brooklyn’s dining scene is getting more and more interesting.  Years ago, you would never hear of notable places opening in neighborhoods like Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy, Stuyvesant Heights. or any neighborhood with Stuy in it.  Brooklyn is getting the same media coverage as Manhattan these days.  Couple that with the ethnic food wonderland in the less gentrified areas of Brooklyn.  Here are five very diverse spots I’ve been enjoying lately.  A small sample showcasing what Brooklyn is all about these days.

Hometown BBQ – If I have to pick one destination in Brooklyn, or a reason to leave Manhattan, Hometown is it.  I wasnt sold at first, but boy oh boy I am now.  This is pure, legendary, finger licking stuff.  The brisket is perhaps their pride and joy, but the spare ribs are second to none.  The Italian sausage with smoked provolone and peppers is awesome.  And while other BBQ joints treat chicken like second class citizens, here they marinade it with Oaxacan spices for two days, grill it over wood, and dress it with salsa verde.  The result is a juicy triumph.

Claro – The Gowanus area is not exactly the first neighborhood I think about when it comes to food in Brooklyn, but as I said above, things are changing all over.  Claro is where you go for authentic Oaxacan flavors.  Its small, almost always fully booked, but we manage to get seats at the bar even in the busiest times.  The menu is loaded with essentially enlarged taco-like stuff on dough (pretty sure “stuff on dough” is a foodie term).  Like the toasty Tostada-like Memelas which come either loaded with juicy pork rib or wild mushrooms.  And then you have the sensational Mole Negro, where you’ll be pulling that shortrib in subsequent dreams.Claro Sabina Memela

Kashkar Cafe –  Although the city of “Kashgar” is technically in China, it makes more sense for “Kashkar” to be in Russian Brighton Beach instead of a Chinatown.  I’ve written plenty about this Uyghur/Uzbek before, and I dont include places so out of the way on the Z-List unless I have a very good reason. Off the beaten path takes on a new meaning here, but I do hear more and more people speaking English inside, as its becoming more popular.  Try the Geiro Lagman (hand pulled noodles), Juvova dumplings, any of the kebabs, and Langsai salad along with their bread and you’ll see why its worth the schlep.Kashkar Cafe

Tacos Matamoros – If you think this pick makes this list look suddenly super random, you are correct.  Thats sort of the point.  And even though, there’s a Mexican place already mentioned on the list, they couldnt be more different.  In fact this what really highlights what Brooklyn is all about, and the difference today between the gentrified halves of the borough.  A meal here will cost you about 1/5 of the bill at Claro.  Although on my Brooklyn tour we concentrate on the Chinatown portion of Sunset Park, I’ve been spending some time at Matamoros as of late.  And while the tacos are good and cheap, I prefer just about everything else here, especially the Tamales, and egg dishes (Huevos Rancheros, Huevos con Chorizo)Tacos Matamoros- eggs and chorizo

Werkstatt – I’ve written plenty about this eclectic gem in… ok, I still dont know what neighborhood they are in..  Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, NoDi (North of Ditmas Park which I totally just made up).  It doesnt matter.  It looks, feels and acts like a neighborhood gem, making a lot of area customers happy.  Its technically Austrian/German.  And while you cant go wrong with the fine pretzel, schnitzels, and goulash, there’s really no cuisine the owner/chef cant do.  Thai, Italian, Thai Italian.  I just look at the specials board and pick whatever sounds good.  On a recent visit I had a perfectly cooked Skate with brown butter and capers.

Other random gemsFOB Filipino, Lilia, Nargis Cafe, Popina, Olmsted, Sofreh, Ugly Baby, Hummus Market, Traif, Fei Long Supermarket food court

Werkstatt Pretzel

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miss Ada – Its All in the Name

Miss Ada Labne Mousse

Food is the new high tech.  Israel, the size of New Jersey continues the sabra assault, sending our way talent and cauliflower in a furious rate.  From Nur, to Timna, to the Einat Admony empire, to Miss Ada a newish Israeli in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  Buzzy Israeli joints are opening in a furious rate all over Manhattan and Brooklyn these days.  Good news?  Not entirely.  While I’m loving all these options, I would sub about half of them for a high quality sprawling casual place serving the simple stuff (Shawarma, falafel, Kibeh).  A place like Itzik Hagadol in LA, where I can take my extended family on a whim.  “Pita Off the Corner” in Brooklyn is close to that, but its way too fast-casual and low grade.  With so many high caliber, mid range $75 per person places popping up in Brooklyn the last few years, you just have to wonder.  Is Brooklyn the new Manhattan?

But the plan here was not to start with another anti gentrification rant, but talk about the awesomeness of Miss Ada.  Sometimes I start writing and just go where the wind blows.  But then I close the windows and get back on track.  Now its a gentle draft from the living room setting the stage for a much gentler post.  Miss Ada has been on my radar for about a year now.  Thats what happens when you open in Fort Greene.  I live in NYC, and visit Italy more often than that part of Brooklyn, even though I’m in Brooklyn 3 times a week.

Miss Ada

Miss Ada’s perfume of choice is Amba.  As soon as you enter, you smell this mango condiment engineered primarily for Shawarmas, but here used liberally in many dishes.  A curly Miss Ada looking like a typical Sabra pictured everywhere from the business cards to the menu.  So who exactly is this Miss Ada you may ask?  She’s a decoy!  Its a play on words.  Combine the words together and you have Missada which means restaurant in Hebrew.  This is Tomer Belchman first Missada after stints with Bar Bolonat, Gramercy Tavern and pork legend Maialino.  Ironic somewhat considering three hours prior to the meal, I was eating the best white beans in town at Nick Anderer’s (Maialino, Marta, king of Roman pastas, pizza, and beans) newest Martina, followed by an unexpected dessert: Beans with a spicy pork shoulder ragu, leftover from a sexy bean photo shoot at Martina

The menu is sectioned in a way that makes you order more than you can handle.  Like straight out of restaurant business school.  The whipped Ricotta is silky smooth addictive sweetness.  A little bit of honey and brown butter goes a long way.  Hummus Masabacha is essentially hummus with deconstructed hummus and other goodies.  We took a chance with the chicken liver and caramelized onions which worked and wasnt as oniony as it looked for onion sensitive Mrs Z.  The Short Rib (We ordered the Kofta, but got the rib.  Write it down people ;)) was nicely charred from the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside.  Like a true Sabra!  Came with Amba on the side.

Miss Ada Hummus

Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchoke) are in season, and the soup always gets our attention.  This one is as good as it gets.  Spicy, complex, with pine nuts and crunchy apple bits.  And by law, Israeli places must feature Za’atar spices on the menu or on pitas I believe the law states.  Here you have both, including a well cooked salmon coated with that gentle Za’ataness.  Add Labne, charred shallots and Japanese eggplant and you got a St  Patty’s parade in your belly.  Labne Mousse for dessert is another winner.  While others use Granita to shock and overwhelm, here the Pomegranate Sumac Granita is carefully put on top of the delicate Labne with poached pear bits mixed in.  Nice use of fruits and veggies throughout the menu.

Miss Ada
184 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Whipped Ricotta, Salmon, Sunchoke soup, Labne Mousse

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Traif – Hold the Gefilte

Traif - Foie GrasIn order to understand the name, one first needs to understand the location.  One block over to the south is Hasidic Williamsburg, the most ultra-Jewish neighborhood in a borough loaded with Jewish neighborhoods (around 5).  Once inside Hasidic Williamsburg you are not mistaken where you are.  This is the one place in Brooklyn I’m not comfortable touring with visitors and I declined such requests in the past.  Traif simply means “non-kosher”, a term not really used much even with Jews.  Practically next door is sister restaurant Xixa, the Mexican version of small plate Traif.  Xixa is pronounced Shiksa which means gentile girl, especially one that attracted a Jewish boy.

The Jewish husband cooks in Traif, while the Shiksa in Xixa.  This type of Chuzpah would normally attract a visit from the local Rabi.  Perhaps the logo of the pig with a heart in the middle on the Traif door legally prevents it from happening.  And the Shiksa in the other place complicates things further.  A third venture called Kish Mein Touchess would essentially entice a riot but thats just a rumor (which I’m starting here).  Traif is a pork-centric establishment after-all.  But you get the sense that even if you remove all the porkiness like the bacon around my drink rim Rude Little Pig (meh), this will still be a very good restaurant.

Traif

This is the type of place that expires on me over time.  Its 8 years old, generating nothing but praise and a steady young local crowd.  But at some point, due to the location you move on and forget all about it.  Its easy to get lost in the shuffle in this town that produces at least 20 new good ones every month it seems.  The menu reads Spanish tapas-like, but once you take a closer look, its tapas meets New American.  And while there’s always a risk attached to a tasting menu as such, the $55 chefs tasting at Traif is build to impress.

We started with a glorious welcome, a cup of creamy chickpea soup.   Then came perfectly seared scallops on a bed of mushroom risotto.  The intense mushroom perfume especially elevated those scallops nicely.  Its an odd one to start a tasting menu, but the heck with rules.  Simpler but tasty combinations followed like King Salmon with avocado, and Squash with cheese toasts.  Spicy tuna tartare over eggplant tempura was one of the more memorable early on.  If you are not a fan of Sweetbread, the riff on General Tso’s here may convert you.  Another hit was a gorgeously seared duck sporting a nice outer crisp.Traif - Scallops

Perhaps the most impressive dish of the night however was a seared foie gras with yukon potatoes, bacon, and sunny side up egg.  A tangy sauce and proper spices tying everything together and its Siman Tov ve Mazel Tov in your mouth.  Would love to come back to this.. alone.  On the other hand, the worst dish was the orange ribs.  Its tender!  Thats the only thing I can say about it.  Gnocchi with mushrooms and shaved black truffles – cant go wrong with that.  Finishing, in your face style, with bacon donuts with coffee ice cream beating the weak Panna Cotta.  All in all this is another GO folks!

Traif
229 S 4th (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Rating: 2.5 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Tasting Menu

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Popina – Wacky New Italian in WeCo

Popina Negroni

May 15, 2018 Update:

That chicken!  Its as real as Traveler’s Diarrhea.  I’m not sure I’ve had better Schnitzels in Austria, and I’m not sure I had better Chicken Milanese in Milan.  Its the perfect example of what delicious sweet heat can do to a bird.  Worth braving to WeCo just for this dish.  Well, its not like you have much of a choice here.  This is one of two mains.  The other item on the current menu is the elusive great sounding Porgy which is never there when I’m there.

Popina also makes a killer Negroni.  I think thats the only thing I ever drank here.  The pastas continue to impress.  One of which I had not too long ago was particularly memorable, but for the life of me I cant remember the ingredients (Seriously what kind of blog is this.  Not the serious kind).  But the anchovy Bucatini is still on and its looking like one of the classics, along with the Pappardelle and the chicken.   Considering the Instagram name of chef Chris is AlwaysAnchovy, you know where his loyalties lie.  The small menu redefines small.  It may be the smallest menu in NYC in fact.  May deter some, but as I keep saying over and over, its not the size of the ship…

November 26, 2017 Post:

I suppose I need to explain the title first.  We dont really have an area called WeCo.  Not yet at least.  According to Google Maps the small no man’s land west of the BQE around Columbia street in Brooklyn is called Columbia Street Waterfront District for some reason.  While other Brooklyn neighborhoods nearby like Greenwood and Sunset Park include their waterfront districts, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill decided to neglect it, blaming the construction of the BQE that broke them apart.  And while it didnt work for Clinton (Hell’s Kitchen) much and other neighborhoods, the name change can definitely work here.  So might as well continue with our lazy Real Estate naming conventions and call the area WeCo (West of Cobble Hill).  Other consideration were Pok Pok City, and “That area where Pok Pok is”.  I used the latter to describe the location of Popina to my wife and friends.  No one around here heard of the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

Popina is the anti-Lilia.  Ever wonder why Lilia doesnt have a Michelin star by now?  Its simple.  Inspectors cant buy a reservation.  Ever since my meal there, its been notoriously difficult to get a table of any size.  But while the meal we had at Lilia left us very impressed, the place felt more like a neighborhood joint than one of those destinations you need to wait until midnight to reserve 30 days out.  Popina’s cooking approach and neighborhoody feel reminds me of Lilia in some ways.  But its their dedication to the neighborhood with their no reservation policy that will win the hearts of the local WeCos (See, its catching on already)

Popina Chicken

They dont come much tinier than this.  We sat comfortably by the bar, and by 7:45 or so on a Friday night the place filled up.  By 8, the wait was more than an hour.  Other than one or two bars nearby, there’s not a whole lot to do and drink in WeCo (Industrial funk, Red Hook-like zone).  Chris McDade and James O’brien are the two Maialino and Marta veterans opening their first restaurant.  Being under the guidance of Nick Anderer and co at Maialino can make all the difference in the world, and it showed

This is my kind of menu, a picky eater worst nightmare, and so WeCo!  Small and to the point.  Around 10 items all together, including only 2 secondis (mains).  Starters include terrific Arancini ladened with honey with hints of saffron.  Raw Bay Scallops with soppressata and pistachio the only dish that didnt work for me.  The Bay Scallops were just too large for the rest of the ingredients to catch up and balance that scallopy sweetness.  Maybe some more acid and pink peppercorns can help.

Much has been written about Popina being a mesh-up of Italian and Southern cuisine (McDade grew up in the south and speaks fluent Southern), but I’m just not seeing it.  The menu has all the look and feel of Italian with some subtle southern hints.  You wouldnt know that you are eating in a southern establishment unless someone told you.  And much has been said, for good reason, about the spicy Chicken Milanese that suggests that southern influence.  Its essentially a Schnitzel gone wild.  But for my taste it was the Pappardelle with Ham Hock that really showcases these guys capabilities.  Perfectly cut fresh Pappardelle, slow braised porky goodness, with no tomato to be found.  The kind of dish you may find in the hills of Piemonte.  Chocolate dessert is that proper finish one would expect here.  This is a GO!

Popina
127 Columbia St (Kane), WeCo, Brooklyn
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Arancini, Chicken, Pappardelle, Chocolate dessert

 

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.