Posts Tagged With: Brooklyn eats

Avlee – My Big Fat Greek Dinner

avlee-branzinoGreek food has become all Greek to me over the years.  I used to frequent the Greek kitchens of Hell’s Kitchen like Uncle Nick’s and the aptly named The Greek Kitchen for many years.  But a combination of newer, more exciting neighborhood offerings, along with their inability to cook meats to the proper temperature consistently, contributed to an abrupt stop.  Then there was Elia in Bay Ridge, a family favorite for years, that generally delivered, albeit with a heftier cost and a bigger Mediterranean emphasis.  And since we go to Europe more often than Astoria, there’s a better chance for us to eat octopus in Santorini than Queens.  Avlee Greek Kitchen, a little dinette in Carroll Gardens felt like a taste of Astoria in Brooklyn

It starts and ends with the boss.  As with any household I suppose.  I just finished all my chores for today, and I’m given the green light to watch first week of Football and write to you fine folks about Avlee.  Multi-tasking.  Well I still have to take out the garbage and take out the dishes from the dishwasher but its too soon for that.  Thankfully I havent quite graduated from putting the dishes inside the dishwasher.  Apparently I’m doing it all wrongavlee

Andrew Poulos who runs the show at Avlee was practically born with a spatula inside a Greek kitchen.  Andrew grew up in Bay Ridge where the closest thing to Greek food in the 70’s, and 80’s was the Greek Diner.  I know because I was there as well for much of that, visiting the same Greek diners.  Nowadays we just call them diners.  Andrew spent much of his youth in Brooklyn Heights in his father’s restaurant.  One thing that separates people like Andrew from the more famous chefs out there who went to culinary schools and worked in the trendiest kitchens, is a lifetime of experience in how to connect to the customer.  You can tell much from talking to him, and you can tell even more from talking to his relaxed and happy staff.

The comfortable room is small and simply decorated, with the open kitchen spreading on one side.  The menu reads like a typical Greek eatery with all the usual suspects.  Except that in this case everything is prepared with special care and the absolute best ingredients they can get.  Avlee after all, means “Garden”, and much of the ingredients come from Andrew’s own garden.  Avlee doesnt have a freezer.avlee-apps

We started with the classic spreads.  A trio of Tzatziki, Hummus, and Tirokafteri (feta, bell peppers, jalapeno, cayenne) which stole the show with its wonderful front-end heat.  The Greek chunky hummus made me momentarily forget that I belong to creamy camp (sounds like a summer camp for fat kids).  We liked the Tiropita, like mini flaky “bourekases” filled with feta and eggs.  One of my favorite Mediterranean staples is stuff (figs, olives, dates) wrapped with cured meats, and here the figs stuffed with feta and wrapped with prosciutto delivered an enticing sweet and savory combination.  The prosciutto gave it a nice oomph.

avlee-octopusThe octopus should tell you everything you need to know about this place.  Instead of dressing it with heavy dose of romesco, chorizo, greens and/or potatoes as so many do, what you got here is the bare bones in its purest form.  A gorgeously thick tentacle, perfectly tenderized and charred with a light dressing of olive oil, capers, and mustard seeds.  Fresh as if hours before it was swimming near the coast of Portugal minding its own business.  One of the better Octopuses as of late (bested more popular spots like Aurora a few days prior).  Click on the picture for the full affect.

No complaints about the main course either.  A whole grilled Branzini I couldnt cook better myself (I try and try).  It was accompanied by two sides not pictured.  A Kale and Chickpeas salad which I liked more than Mrs Z.  And Gigande, those tender large beans baked with onion and tomato, tasted like a distant dry cousin of the sickest borscht on the planet.  Finished off with a a fine Baklava.  I’m not Baklava’s biggest fan even though I love everything nuts and honey but this one was satisfying.

In full disclosure, the circumstances of this review are different than my regular posts.  I was invited to Avlee by Andrew for a comped meal in exchange for a review.  As I mentioned back via email, a review would follow only if the meal is good and worthwhile to write about, as I seldom write negative reviews.  Thankfully, any unpleasantness was easily avoided after a very enjoyable meal.  Everything I wrote is true, including my chores.

Avlee Greek Kitchen
349 Smith St (2nd/Carroll), Brooklyn

avlee-figs avlee-wine

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

Brighton Beach For Meshugenahs

Kashkar lagmanPost Sandy Brighton Beach is not only alive and well but kicking some serious foodie tuches these days.  Tuches (pronounced Tooches with a jewish Chhh), if you are scoring at home (or if you are alone) means rear-end in Yiddish.  Its one of a few Yiddish words you need to know when visiting predominantly Russian speaking Brighton Beach.  E.G.  “$3 for this Mondalech?  You can kiss my Tuches”.  Anyway, there’s all sorts of deliciousness waiting your way in good ol’ BB.  And as you will see here only a portion of it is actually Russian.

KalinkaOne can actually argue (me included) that the best food in Brighton Beach is not really Russian at all.  An argument I wouldn’t make with the Dominoes players on the boardwalk or on Ocean Parkway.  But if you must, here’s another word you need to know:  “Gavno”.  As in “Their Strogonoff looked like my Yozhik’s Gavno!”.  In addition to Russian, you can get some tasty Georgian, Turkish, Uzbek, and even Mexican food in Brighton.  BTW, to demonstrate how predominantly Russian this neighborhood is, just hang around in any grocery store and hear Mexican workers argue converse with Russian Babushkas in Russian.  It can be quite hysterical when you witness it for the first time.  Babushka asks a question in Russian, you think OMG this is too funny, but when the answer is in perfect Russian you feel like the joke is on you.

Yes, one can survive without knowing the language here I suppose.  Well not for too long at least.  Dont be surprised if someone approaches you in a restaurant or a store speaking to you in Russian.  But no worries, Ziggy is here to help.  First step to enhance your experience, do it Ruskie style:  Empty a bottle of water, fill it with vodka, and put inside your jacket/bag.  It will be handy later on.  So lets go for a ride, shall we…

Vintage2Vintage Foods – Lets start with my favorite store located on Brighton Beach Ave (Between Brighton 2nd/ Brighton 3rd) .  This is a Mediterranean specialty food store that needs to be explored thoroughly.  You can find not only every nut known to man but every nut known to man covered in some sort of chocolate (ok, a little exaggeration with the last part).  In fact it started as a simple Nut and dried food store but now expanded into something so much more.  You got a plethora of various Russian chocolates – I usually get some sort of mix (rule of thumb:  Anything with a picture of a squirrel or a camel is normally good).  I also get some of the exposed giant dark chocolate bars used for cooking.  I use it for eating!  The Halva is very good, as well Turkish breads, coffee and so much.

Vintage 3 Vintage

Brighton PierogiPierogi Window – Right to the left of Vintage Foods (when looking at it).  This is the national snack.  A large fried dumplings usually filled with savory meat (my favorite), potatoes (possibly with peas), or sauerkraut.  For normally around a buck and half this can be pretty filling and satisfying.  You can wash down the national snack with the national drink, Kvass, a malt beverage that for the most part quite frankly doesnt taste that great.  If you can get your hands on Israeli Black Beer (non alcoholic) sold in various markets/delis, its a much better alternative.

Pierogi window

Oceanview Cafe – Right across the street from Vintage on the corner of Brighton 2nd is this little cafe serving all your classic Russian dishes.  Here you can sample good Borscht, Kharcho (lamb, rice soup I prefer over Borscht), and its a good place in particular for Pelmeni.  If you dont feel like experiencing the scene at Glechik (more on that later) and want more of a quick and relaxed meal, this is a nice alternative.

Glechik - PelmeniA word on Pelmeni:  Essentially the Russian Ravioli.  Mike Tyson’s favorite Russian food as its related to the Italian Orecchiette by name alone.  Both names mean something along the line of “Little Ears”, though the Pelmeni origin isn’t Russian.  Different Pelmeni kinds include chicken, veal, mystery meat, or my favorite the Siberian which is a mix of ground meats like beef, pork, or veal and spices.  Most people enjoy them with sour cream which will be served in some places (otherwise ask).  But my preference is with black pepper and white vinegar which you can askKashkar - Manti for if its not on the table already.  You also have the Pelmeni’s uglier but pretty on the inside cousin, the  Ukranian Varenyky, flatter, may be filled with different stuff as well but for the most part Varenyky referred to the ones stuffed with potatoes (correct me if I’m wrong Varenyky aficionado).  Another cousin is the Manti, aka “Pelmeni Gone Wild” found in the various Uzbek spots in the area.  More on Manti later

Kashkar CafeKashkar Café –  Remember when I talked about Manti 🙄  If I have to pick one place to visit in Brighton, I think this might be it.  This is the place where you get your Uyghur fix ladies and gents.  Closer to Asian food than Russian overall, the flavors here are little bigger and more coplex.  Try the homemade Lagman noodles in the form of a soup or a dish called Geiro (top picture).  Here you can also sample those Manti, and the Uzbek Plov (rice Pilaf), along with some of juiciest and cheapest chicken and lamb kebabs.  Tremendous stuff here folks.  There’s a similar place on Brighton 4th with a Korean twist where the name translates to something along the lines of “Cafe At Your Mother’s-in-Law”.  The name is a big reason why I never set foot there, but I’ve read its pretty good.  I will spare you the historic details of the Korean Uzbek connection.  I recommend this thing called Google.

Georgian Bread Adjaruli

Georgian Bread – Or Tone Café as its now called since it expanded.  Those love boats are just something else, baguettes on crack.  People flock here mostly for the bread, and the patient ones stick around for the Oasis of the Seas, the Adjaruli Khatchapuri, a mammoth boat with Farmer’s Cheese and egg.  This is very shareable of course.  And if you are staying take advantage of some other goodies like the terrific Lobio, a red bean salad, with ground walnut, pomegranate and spices.  This is on Neptune Ave which is a couple of blocks north from the main hub Brighton Beach blvd.  But the mini schlep is a worthy one.

Café Gletchik – A Brighton institution/Pelmeni legend.  Right off the main blvd on Coney Island Ave.  This is where you can have your complete traditional Russian meal in a lively setting.  Wash it down with a Kompot, the Russian fruit punch.  This is where your water bottle can become handy.  Below is an example on the type of meal you can enjoy here (note: Pelmeni, a must here, is already pictured above)…

Herring with potatoes

Herring with potatoes

Borscht

Borscht

Glechik  - Varenyky

Potato Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Cherry Varenyky

Homemade Napolean.  Perhaps the best I ever had

Homemade Napolean.  Absolute must!

Schnitzel with Egg

Schnitzel with Egg. More like a big fat chicken cutlet

Brighton lotteryLa Brioche 2Bakery La Brioche Cafe – This is one of the premier dessert spots on Brighton Beach blvd and Brighton 13th.  Last time I brought my baking obsessed sister in law who required to be dragged out of there with police escort.  Things turned a little ugly when she had a Borat Cheese moment where she went down the aisle and asked the clerk what each item was, until the clerk finally gave in and said “This is cheese Ok?, its Cheese!”.  I kid you not!  And there was no cheese there.

Anywhere on the Boardwalk.  Cant get any more people watching than this.  Between good ol’ Tatiana and its neighbors (or is it down to one neighbor now) you have your pick.  And dont forget to buy Russian seeds on the far left corner (Brighton 4th) of the boardwalk.  I’m pretty sure its illegal to walk on the Boardwalk without holding a bag of seeds but I may be wrong.Brighton Boardwalk

So let me ask you now tourists.  Will you come to South Brooklyn next time to eat a hot dog (Nathan’s) as instructed by your guidebook, or visit the neighborhood next door.

Other than food there’s plenty to do and see in Brighton Beach.  You can visit stores like Kalinka (corner of Brighton 4th) for your souvenir needs.  Or check out the latest Babooshka fashion trends on the Boardwalk.  In the warmer months don’t be surprised to see street performers entertaining Russian children, and if you are really lucky, drunk Parakeets cursing in Russian.

Kalinka Matrioshka

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Kashkar Cafe – Your Uyghur Fix

Kashkar Cafe - Geiro Lagman

***Update 11/28/13 **** Went back for some more deliciousness.  Had the same dishes and more (pictures at the bottom)

Before you Google Uyghur and read this post, I want you to do something for me.  You must!  Go to your kitchen cabinet and take out the cumin.  Now open the cumin and let it sit by the monitor.  That’s all.  Continue reading.

Blink and you will miss this little café on busy Brighton Beach avenue in “Little Odessa”, Brooklyn .  Nestled among Russian pharmacies, groceries, nightclubs and more Russian Pharmacies is this Uzbekh gem.  Yes, Russians do love their pharmacies.  They come to hang out, pick up their newspapers, their prescriptions, and the free roll of Bounty they were promised for switching from the pharmacy 2 doors down.

Once you are inside it looks like any other small Russian café with various Uzbekh decorations.  This is Uyghur cuisine.  The Uyghur is an ethnic group primarily living in Central Asia and and China.  And boy can they cook!

In this fun, picture filled menu I went for some Lagman items and Kebabs.  Lagman is like Lamian, Chinese noodles.  They are long, thick and spectacular.Kashkar Cafe - Lagman Soup

Started with the fantastic Lagman soup.  Like a nice cross between Russian “Kharcho” and Ramen.  Lamb, veggies, and plenty of those thick, airy Lagman noodles.

The Geiro Lagman (top picture) was even better and one of the best dishes I’ve had in the past 12 months.  I knew it will be good as soon as it arrived.  Lets see if you can see the same thing…  click on the picture on top and stare at it for a few seconds.  Do you smell the cumin??  It tasted as great it looks, with plenty of cumin and garlic, and got the same noodles and tender lamb as the soup,  Great dish!

Kashkar Cafe - Kebabs

The lamb and chicken kebabs were some of the juiciest and tastiest I ever had. No sauce needed here.  They sell them by the skewer here – about $3 per.  And the crispy  garlicky potatoes were such a beautiful compliment.

This cozy, family owned Uzbekh/Uyghur delivers big time flavors.  No visa required.  Check it out next time you visit Brighton Beach.

Kashkar - Plov Kashkar - Manti Kashkar Cafe

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

Dekalb Market and Bushwick munching – Can I pay for this free pizza??

Ever since the Hummus Whisperer was a little boy, he wanted 2 things.  Getting a fish pedicure by authentic Garra Rufa, and eating authentic Napoli style Pizza at Roberta’s.  Now that he accomplished the former, he wouldnt shut up about Roberta’s.  Every month or so he would go “oh, you know what I would like to try?”  and I would answer “Yes I know Roberta’s.  You mentioned it a few days ago”.  Time has come to fulfill a little boy’s dream…

The super popular Roberta’s happen to host the annual Bushwick block party yesterday.  As soon as we entered we saw a huge line for free Roberta’s pies and I really hate lines unless food is involved.  Sometimes I see a line and I just get on it and ask questions later.  “DMV?  oh look at the time, I’ll come back some other time”.  But we decided to come back later and check out some of the other vendors first in an area I can best describe as the graffiti and tattoo capital of the world .

Started with a familiar face, Furn Shawarma.  I’m not big into Chicken Shawarmas as I prefer meat but this was pretty darn good.  Perhaps even better than Mamouns in the village.  This was a nice piece of art.  Yogurt marinated, beautifully spiced goodness with various veggies and a nice sauce.  First and best thing I ate all day.  Then I took it easy with some healthy Ethiopian from Bunna Cafe.  Tried the Gomen, steamed kale with other veggies and spices, Yellow split pea salad, and the more satisfying split red lentils with spicy barbere.  But the best part may be the spongy, smooth, flat Injera bread they serve with it.  Finally I had a chance to try the touted Arancini (rice balls) from the Arancini Bros.  Tried the Ragu and the Norma.  Nicely done!  Could have used a bit more of the non-rice goodies inside, a bit of a tease, but tasty nonetheless.  I think I got spoiled by the Jambalaya rice balls of Staten Island’s Bayou.

Then we finally decided to get our free pizzas and fufill a dream.  Got on line, stood for a few minutes until we were told its past 2 pm so no more free pizzas but we could go to the bar area and pay for our pizzas which I did.  But with all the chaos with the people on line continuing to snag all the free pies, they said it may take a while to get ours so I just got my money back.  Hey I’m trying to pay for this free stuff and I still cant get it!!  And after we realized that waiting for a table inside Roberta’s will require an hour wait, reality struck. Sorry man, we are not getting Roberta’s today!!

Moving on to the Dekalb Market.  A market in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown Brooklyn with stores peeping out of shipping containers.  Just in time for some Brazilian band performing with all kinds of technical issues including some weird Depeche Mode rendition.   After surveying the impressive food array with the little appetite I had left I started with some grilled Filipino Longanisa sausage from Maharlika.  Very sweet sausage, almost like sweet potatoe but tasty nonetheless especially once you add some of their spicy vinegar.  Comes with nice aromatic garlic rice.   Before that I tried the Korean Taco from Oaxaca.  Feh! dry, probably seating there for a while meat swimming in red sauce.  The clunker of the day.  The HW meanwhile was busy drowning his sorrows with a double dose of Centruy frozen yogurt.  Time to head back to our families.

As the HW put a reminder on his iphone for the next Bushwick block party, I noticed a tear.  A tear made of hummus!

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

Williamsburg – Aurora

(Visited April 2012)

Quicky post to fill in some spots in Brooklyn with another terrific find in the ‘burg.  I may be the only Meshugenah (thats crazy for the yidish challenged) in Staten Island to take his family all that way to Williamsburg for a 3 course meal. 

Started with some tasty apps.  Nice flatbread, juicy homemade sausage.  Grilled octopus wasnt one of the best I’ve had but good nonetheless – could have used a bit more…what you cal it.. flavor.  Pastas were surprisingly the weakest link here. Garganelli with pork Ragu was good but surprisingly didnt have the look and texture of authentic Garganelli that I’m accustomed to.  It had more of a Pappardelle look.  The manager than explained that although they make their own pastas they dont quite have the same  machines like in Italy to make real Garganelli.  Pasta special with crab was on the greasy side.  I love grease!  Wild boar with Polenta was excellent and so was the fish special (fluke if I remember correctly).  Desserts were the highlight especially the Panna Cotta which transported me back to Venice (no joke here – it was a Ratatouille moment).  In short its a solid 4 out of 5.  I would like to come back and give some of the other pastas a chance like the good sounding Pappardelle Di Castagne.  Check it out folks

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.