Desert Grub 

Miriam  29 Court St, Cobble Hill, 718-522-2220
Price range: $35-$50  Rating: 3 L's

Park Slope's Israeli-fusion mainstay Miriam has opened a second branch on Court Street, adding an upscale option to Cobble Hill. We were seated at a comfortable booth in the narrow room, whose Israeli stained-glass fixtures painted the ceiling with geometric shapes.

We began with a fruity, complex Merlot-Malbec blend ($26) from the affordable list. My friend started humbly, wanting to see how such an ambitious kitchen approaches Hummus ($8). It was served as a trio: straight hummus with chopped onion; whole chickpeas and mushrooms; and a bowl of hot peppers. The chickpeas were devoid of salt or acid, and sat dead on the tastebuds. The same can't be said for the homemade pita, whose fluffy texture reflected the love that went into it. I went another route, ordering a seared Foie Gras Special ($11) resting on puff-pastry hearts cloaked in poached pear and a tooth-aching sauce. With a mere dab of sauce and no pear, the three large hunks of foie gras, though underseasoned, were awesome (and cheap) — one of New York's best values in engorged duck liver.

For an entrée, my companion was in the mood for Scallops ($18), but didn't want the accompanying grapefruit salad, and exchanged fennel puree for cauliflower. The chef visited our table to figure out exactly what he could do for her in one of the more gracious moves I have seen on this job. I hope they don't lose that personal touch once their first week is over. Though the shellfish was fresh and medium rare, and the cauliflower puree sweet and luscious, the gastrique on the menu may have made this a stellar dish, but, alas, it was in the grapefruit salad.
My Short Ribs ($19) looked great, crusty and melting, paired with kugel — a sweet noodle pudding — but, like everything else, they were underseasoned and anemic. It's as if the kitchen ran out of salt, so the flavors, no matter how fine the ingredients, became muddy and indistinct.

For dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Volcano ($6) and the Knafe ($6). The volcano was the same molten cake you have been able to get at any restaurant in the country since 1995 — decadent and delicious. The knafe, on the other hand, was unique (in my experience) and much more exciting. It's a sort of johnnycake of shredded phyllo filled with goat cheese and marscapone, topped with a gritty scoop of potent pistachio ice cream.

Miriam presents an intriguing menu, shows great promise, and makes for a fun night out (made all the more special with gratis glasses of bubbly muscat), but the kitchen needs to learn the most simple lesson of all: season everything.

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