02/25/15 9:54am
02/25/2015 9:54 AM |
Photo by Jane Bruce

162 5th Ave., Park Slope


When Charles Phan first opened San Francisco’s Slanted Door in 1995, his goal was to expose the city to the sweet-sour-salty-spicy wonders of Vietnamese food, popularizing dishes like clay pot catfish and shaking beef by making them with quality, California-approved ingredients, such as farm-grown vegetables, Niman Ranch meat, and Dungeness crab. His mission proved wildly successful: Not only did he increase local interest in Vietnamese fare tenfold, but he made Slanted Door one of the most iconic, consistently profitable restaurants in the United States.


02/11/15 8:46am
02/11/2015 8:46 AM |
Photo by Jane Bruce

Colandrea New Corner
7201 8th Avenue, Dyker Heights


Colandrea New Corner is a poster child for restaurant longevity. Family-owned and -operated for over 78 years now, the Dyker Heights stalwart is generally counted amongst Brooklyn’s seminal red sauce palaces, all of which are apparently oblivious to, or just entirely disinterested in, changing times or trends. Of course, hip, nostalgia-plumbing establishments like Carbone would have you believe that red sauce is having a moment, waitstaff donning their maroon tuxedo jackets with a wink and a nod, in order to charge $54 for veal marsala and $15 for broccoli rabe. But why pay such a premium for playacting in Greenwich Village, when you can have the real thing for a song in southwest Brooklyn? (more…)

01/28/15 1:49pm
01/28/2015 1:49 PM |
Photo by Jane Bruce

Hook & Cleaver
68 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint


As opposed to monied, meat-loving Manhattan, and with the noted exception of the 125-year-old Peter Luger (currently holding the title of Brooklyn’s longest running restaurant), our borough actually doesn’t have much in the way of traditional, old-school steakhouses. Which is precisely what’s made the recent Greenpoint launch of Hook & Cleaver, an ode to 18th century, boys-only “beefsteak clubs,” seem so refreshingly novel—especially since it was opened by a woman (frequent food TV cheftestant, Diane DiMeo). So while we always wish the best for any new restaurant, we admit we found ourselves actively rooting for this particular concept to succeed, and why it came as a rather rude shock—the forgivable foibles inherent at any neophyte eatery notwithstanding—when our actual dining experience went so actively, so entirely wrong. (more…)

01/14/15 9:30am
01/14/2015 9:30 AM |
Photo by Jane Bruce


The Finch
212 Greene Avenue, Clinton Hill


Imagine this: It’s a Friday night and you make plans to go out to dinner with your one or two (not five to eight) close friends, preferably at a time when normal, working people generally elect to eat (not 5:30 or 10:30 pm). So, you pick up the phone and you call that much-talked about new restaurant located on the ground floor of a 120-year-old Brooklyn brownstone. You know, the one opened by that Roberta’s alum. You’re successfully able to make a reservation. End scene. Sounds impossible, right? Like a high-flying fantasy? Turns out, The Finch makes this kind of specific-to-Brooklyn dream come true. 


01/05/15 9:25am
01/05/2015 9:25 AM |
Photo by Melissa Hom


No. 5, 160 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg


$75 can seem an awfully steep price to pay for a meal comprised almost entirely of vegetables; especially if you shop, as we often do, at Chinese supermarkets and are used to spending $2.49 for a bundle of oyster mushrooms and 99 cents for three pounds of bok choy. But when’s the last time you patterned your produce aisle stash into translucent strands of celery tagliatelle or buoyant orbs of burdock arancini slicked with nutty miso?

12/17/14 9:20am
12/17/2014 9:20 AM |
Photos by Jane Bruce


1. French Louie

It may have taken six years for Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell to piggyback on the success of their American-French brasserie, Buttermilk Channel, but the Gallic-American French Louie in Boerum Hill was well worth the wait. While the interiors marry Brooklyn’s reclaimed wood aesthetic with the brass and mirrored flourishes that positively scream Parisian bistro, Angulo’s rustic yet refined dishes are just as informed by the French enclaves of North America (i.e., Louisiana and Quebec), as they are by Provençal or Nice.
320 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill


12/03/14 5:00am
12/03/2014 5:00 AM |
Photo by Jane Bruce


Hunger Pang
1021 Church Avenue, Prospect Park South


It’s pretty exciting when restaurants open in neighborhoods like Prospect Park South, which, in high contrast to Williamsburg, retains a rather spare selection of options (there’s a pretty decent pizza spot, Wheated, along with the well-liked Am Thai Bistro), but that’s about it. New eateries are generally met with a wave of good will from residents anxious to see an uptick in local dining alternatives, but for the rest of us they inevitably beg the question: Are these trailblazing newcomers notable simply because they exist, or truly worthy of mention outside the neighborhood?

Hunger Pang certainly gets a lot right on paper. Chef/owner Medwin Pang (get it?) is a lifelong resident of the area, who’s amassed quite an impressive culinary resume, working under luminaries such as David Burke, Masaharu Morimoto, and Jean Louis Palladin. And he’s turned his first solo venture, a casual, modern Asian restaurant, into a true family affair, keeping watch over the woks in the kitchen while his wife hosts or tends bar, and his brother handles tables up front.
All definite pluses, when you’re looking to make headway in a close-knit neighborhood such
as this.

Only open for a month so far, Pang is committed to working out the kinks, holding off on launching a website, or officially posting a hard and fast menu. Currently, he’s playing around with six small bites, two rice dishes, three noodles, three mains, and two veg; a Buddha’s Delight and a side of greens with chili garlic butter sauce (meat-free diners have begged Pang to up his vegetarian offerings, which he certainly should, and undoubtedly will). Overall, there are just enough choices to keep things interesting for customers, but limited enough for Pang to ultimately master.

He hasn’t quite gotten there yet. A recent meal proved a real mixed bag, with under-seasoned HP Rolls utterly indistinguishable from cheap Chinese takeout egg rolls, despite the promise of persimmon dipping sauce. We’ve never met a bao we didn’t like, and the version at Hungry Pang is solid, sporting fluffy, chewy mantou made in house. But when it comes to fillings, red-rimmed hunks of pork belly are the only way to go; don’t bother with the grayish wads of chicken confit. We wish the Birds Nest, a tight tumble of fried noodles topped with shrimp, chicken and pork, was plated in a shallower vessel, or at least delivered with instructions by our server; we’d already had one two many bone dry mouthfuls before we discovered the sweet slick of chicken and vegetable “jus” hiding out at the bottom of the bowl. But the one seeming outlier on the menu—a Black Angus Hanger Steak and Miso Butter Fries with negligible Asian influences—seemed to be the centerpiece of everyone’s table and for good reason; the perfectly seared, scarlet hunks of medium rare meat were tender enough to be plucked up with a chopsticks and eaten without a knife, and the skinny, miso-basted fries perfectly underscored the mineral, umami bomb of the beef.

Provided Pang can raise his game on other areas of the menu, it might just be a pan-Asian steak frites well worth traveling for.

11/05/14 4:00am
11/05/2014 4:00 AM |

Forrest Point
970 Flushing Avenue


As many new establishments in Bushwick are intended to be, the bar and restaurant Forrest Point is painfully cool. Located on a triangle-shaped parcel along a desolate stretch of Flushing Avenue, the space hums with activity of the young, good-looking, and buzzed. It’s all the work of Mark Trzupek, Darin Rubell, and chef David Rotter, who came over from the nearby eatery 983 Bushwick’s Living Room. These guys know their audience, and smartly deliver strong drinks and a fun menu in a location that draws you right in.

Forrest Point’s sprawling outdoor patio, decked with twinkling lights, is prominently on display along Flushing Avenue, and it’s the place to be if the weather permits. Inside, scruffy bartenders will take your order after throwing back a shot of whiskey, but the space is anything but a dive. Welldecorated, with exposed ceilings, it’s a less gritty, more refined version of Bushwick. The drink and food menu reflects that, too. There’s a long, impressive list of cocktails that pack a punch. The milk punch (my waitress recommended the “Fancy Pants” version) is a slightly milky, mostly light concoction with a flavor profile that defies exact description. My recommendation: Don’t miss it.

The menu goes way beyond bar food, although the somewhat haphazard mix of dishes and flavor profiles suits the bar-like setting. There’s a medley of Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, and American flavors. In short, something for everyone. The crispy cauliflower, deeply marinated in Sriracha and yogurt and lightened with parsley and lemon, had notes of Chinese influences. So did the porchetta sandwich, which was sweetened with caramelized onions, fig, and apricot relish. As for a Mediterranean option, be sure to try the shawarma-style flatbread. It’s grilled pita packed with chicken, Israeli salad, olives, and tzatziki sauce. Not the easiest thing to eat, but you’ll happily stuff it in your mouth anyway. An order of the tempura rock shrimp lettuce wraps got lost somewhere in the bustle of the bar, but when it finally came, it did not disappoint. Perfectly-cooked shrimp and pickled veggies nestled into a delicate piece of Bibb lettuce? Yes, please.

A word of warning: At 10 pm, that awesome outdoor patio closes up. Our waitress closed our tab without inquiring about dessert, and the bar, completely packed on a Thursday night, offered no open tables. My dining companion and I missed out on the cast-iron s’mores, which I had been dreaming of throughout the meal. Sure, it was a disappointment, but a few drinks in on a full stomach and under twinkling lights, it’s hard to stay mad at this Bushwick newcomer.

10/22/14 4:00am
10/22/2014 4:00 AM |

King’s Clam Bar
622 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights

Despite the unending list of restaurants and bars opening in Prospect and Crown Heights, the neighborhood retains a few sleepy spots, like the stretch of Washington Avenue just south of Atlantic Avenue, where there are plenty of apartments but a dearth of restaurants, bars, or cafes. So it was welcome news when King’s Clam Bar quietly opened at 622 Washington Avenue, between Pacific and Dean streets. A few restaurants have called the space home in the not-so-distant past, including Ortine, a French café, and Atlantic Co., which served booze and pizza. Is this under-the-radar location cursed? Let’s hope not, because I hope King’s sticks around.

As the name would suggest, this restaurant specializes in seafood. Chef Bill Seleno is giving off the vibe of an East Coast seafood shack, where you can mark your order on paper menus and food comes in paper containers. There’s a raw bar, a selection of sandwich rolls, sautéed and baked fish, and, finally, soups, salads, sides, and slaws. The server will recommended that you order a side condiment with your baked fish, and options are as creative as ginger cilantro, garlic dill, and jalapeño tartar.

The fish, to put it simply, is good. It all tastes fresh, which made dishes like the shrimp cocktail and lobster roll shine in their simplicity. The sautéed mussels sat in a pool of sauce that I can only describe as heavenly—black garlic, burnt rosemary, and double cream, oh my. The boiled clams came bathed in something simpler, and lighter, with a sprig of thyme. None of the fish dishes needed the extra ginger cilantro sauce ordered. The big disappointment of the night was the majorly stale baguette bread, which came with the mussels and clams. With sauces this good, give us something solid to soak it up with!

A side of the clam dip didn’t look like much, in its paper container brimming with chips, but it was the perfect seafood guilty pleasure. (If you’re like me and have a weakness for creamy, fattening dips mixed with salty chips, just go ahead and order it.) The potato salad with bacon and egg was solid but nothing special; it would have stood out with a more significant portion of bacon.

After so much goodness from the sea, an apple crisp dessert fell way short. It wasn’t warm, wasn’t served with ice cream, and tasted a few days old. King’s Clam Bar: Stick steadfast and true to fish. In that respect, you know what you’re doing.

10/08/14 4:00am
10/08/2014 4:00 AM |

2 Duck Goose
400 4th Avenue, Gowanus

Fourth Avenue, as it runs through Park Slope and Gowanus, isn’t known for its bustling restaurant scene—rather, this stretch of new housing developments is criticized for its lack thereof. That’s why 2 Duck Goose, located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 6th Street, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Chinese takeout this is not: 2 Duck Goose specializes in “Classic Cantonese with a twist,” according to its website. It’s the brainchild of Kay Ch’ien and chef Ben Pope, who both grew up in Hong Kong and missed the food from their youth. The goal was to bring NYC a better option for Cantonese cuisine. They definitely succeeded in unexpected flavor combinations, modern additions to old-school Cantonese, and generally a fun meal to be had.

The restaurant interior is sparsely and modernly decorated, almost echoing those shiny glass developments that loom outside. Dinner starts with a small dish of candied walnuts, salty, sweet, and crunchy in all the right ways. The menu offers two dinner specials—a roast duck feast, offered to parties of 4 to 5 for $120, and “char siu” roast pork served three different ways. Regular entrées include paper bag fish, Cantonese borscht stew, and stir-fried smoked tofu. There’s also a selection of “bites and apps,” from which I selected a dish of silken tofu. “Silken” is the right word, as the tofu gracefully falls apart as you tear at it with chopsticks; it sits in a soy sauce broth with hints of fish and ginger. The plate was massive for an appetizer, and my dining companion and I barely made a dent before the entrées came out.

Don’t leave 2 Duck Goose without trying one of the “char siu” roast pork dishes. The chef takes a seasonal, modern, and classic take on the dish. The seasonal dish includes rotating ingredients and the modern dish incorporates apple, a beet and ginger purée, and pickled fennel. The modern dish, with crispy slices of pork in a brilliantly bright pink purée, is phenomenal. The fresh, sweet beet purée uniquely compliments the fattiness of the pork; I could not get enough. Another highlight was the paper bag fish, a branzino that, yes, is served in a paper bag. Tearing open the bag to find a steaming fish, tomatoes, and mushrooms felt like a foodie’s Christmas. The duck fried rice fell a little flat after those two bold dishes; it is served traditionally with carrots, peas, eggs, and scallions. The next day, it tasted like a classic Chinese leftover dish.

The meal ended with a small bowl of black sticky rice pudding. The black rice was thick with coconut milk and accompanied by toasted sesame seeds and coconut flakes. This final dish seemed to summarize the meal—traditional elements done well, with enough creative notes to leave you surprised, satisfied, and eager for more.