626 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.
The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mousse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.
DeKalb Market Hall
445 Albee Square West • Brooklyn, NY 11201
The brand new DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn just augmented your dining choices by a factor of forty. In the basement of the same building that houses the new Alamo Drafthouse, Target, and Trader Joes, you can find a host of flavory pickin’s, including, but certainly not limited to, the first outpost of Katz’s Delicatessen, and Brooklyn favorites Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue and Wilma Jean.
Now, I haven’t tried everything, and that will be a fun little experiment, but I can vouch for the excellent pork jowl and fried chicken buns from Bunsmith. I would go back for those alone. Certainly a lot cheaper than a $21 sandwich at Katz!
The carne asada arepas from Arepa Lady are a meal unto themselves, so next time I won’t also order the chorizo. And maybe finishing with scoops of both zesty lemon sorbet and malted milk ball ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery may have been over doing it.
Another plus in the Brooklyn column, fo shizzle.
749 Metropolitan Avenue • Brooklyn, NY 11211
Excellent spot for crafty cocktails and smallish plates in East Williamsburg.
Quaint bar setup, but concise and well stocked. Dug the Trolley Dodger (Redemption Bourbon, Vermouth Bianco, Cherry Heering, Peychauds) and the super smokey War Horse (Laphroaig single malt, Overholt Rye, lemon, Aperol, Falernum). Bartender let us know that the drink program will change regularly to keep it interesting.
Roasted Bone Marrow with pear and bourbon glaze and toasted baguette may provoke purists, but I found it tasty and perfectly sized for two people to share without feeling overly stuffed afterwards. Same for the Little King Burger, covered in caramelized onion and tomato jam so you won’t confuse it with the multitudes of burgers on every street in this town. Solid fries, too.
Menu also includes Beef Carpaccio, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Chili Glazed Chicken Wings, Cheese and Salumi Plates, and more. I intend to know it well. Across the street from the L train, and a stones throw from the G – this is my new go-to spot before shows at Brooklyn Steel, for sure.
– Little King, a new bar and gastropub, is now open in Williamsburg – Free Williamsburg
– The Making of Little King- Tumblr
– Metropolitan Minibar Little King Reigns Supreme Over Graham L-Stop – Greenpointers
– Little King Bar – Design Sponge
Chef Rob Newton has opened a few solid Brooklyn eateries including Nightingale Nine and Wilma Jean, two spots I totally dig. Black Walnut, the new restaurant in the Hilton Hotel on Schermerhorn, seemed like a great opportunity to expand the brand, but a little out of character. Turns out Newton brings a similar sensibility to the space along with a few hidden charms.
“Like his other restaurants, there’s a minimalism on display that lets the flavors do the talking.”
At Wilma Jean you’re gonna get some good fried chicken. At Nightingale Nine, some competent Vietnamese. Here, catering to not just the restaurant itself, but also to room service, Newton balances on that fine line between pushing the envelope and playing it safe. Thankfully, he hits the sweet spot.
Whether Black Walnut is considered a financial success remains to be seen. The hood is still showing signs of adolescent gentrification. There are cranes aplenty, with new apartments and establishments popping up for blocks around. Is it enough to keep this spot afloat? I sure hope so. For starters, get some signage out front. Had I not been tuned into social media, or sites like Grubstreet and Eater, I would have never known about it.
So, off the bat, the cocktails were super delicious. Always a good sign. We had a couple of Wilma Jeans (rittenhouse rye, koval honey liqueur, fennel, lemon, bitters ) and more than a few magically smokey Dopplegangers (nuestra soledad san luis del rio mezcal, cynar, brennavin aquavit).
We started with some smaller plates, the high-point of which was a surprising chicken liver mousse with caramelized cocoa nibs, pickles, and perfectly grilled bread. The flavors really shined through. It was bright and creamy and now I want it again.
The flatbread with roasted mushrooms, kabocha squash, mint, and parsley was also good, but maybe could have been crispier. A little bit. But the flavors were spot on and there was a lightness to it you don’t normally get from flatbread.
We also shared the dry aged burger on a butter toasted house bun with some hearty steak fries. Different enough from the solid burgers at Wilma Jean, with an aged funk that stole the show. The inclusion of pickled okra was a perfect pairing, indicative of the chef’s ability to twist expectations in subtle, thoughtful ways.
The pan roasted fluke, with unctuous chanterelles, parsley root purée, crosnes, and pickled spruce tips was light and tasty, if a wee small. That it left us wanting more is probably a good sign.
I read positive things about the aged Tennessee ham and the grilled shishitos, but we were stuffed by the end of the meal. That Chocolate Pretzel Torte will have to wait until next time.
Definitely another plus on the Brooklyn food scene.
Yes, the answer is yes.
Yes to the Mr. Hyde (rye whiskey, Alder smoke, cherry, Mexican cola, beef jerky), the superb Scallop Ceviche, the Tete De Cochon with lentils and pickled vegetables. Yes, yes, yes.
Yes to the Squid with olives, capers, and spicy tomato.
Yes to the American Trilogy, with Rittenhouse rye, Lairds 100 Applejack, orange bitters, Demerara and one crystal clear iceburg of an icecube.
Yes to the Pork Belly.
Yes to the perfect spot for lovers of small plates and the art of cocktailing. To wide marble bar-tops that hold lots of plates and glasses, your elbows, your phone. Yes to the Brooklynites that check Eater’s Heatmaps as frequently as I do, and to neighborhood folks that just got real lucky.
Is this the new go-to spot pre-anything at Barclays?
Yes, Sweet Polly. Yes.
If there’s one take-away from this review it’s that you should stop reading now and make a reservation at Xixa regardless of any of my criticisms. You’ll be blown away by the same mastery of flavors and texture you’ve come to expect from sister spot Traif just a few doors down. Whether shunning kosher at Traif or embracing Mexican at Xixa, Chef Jason Marcus casts a large shadow over the Williamsburg culinary scene.
Last year while ringing in another new year at Traif I wondered what might be happening at Xixa. This year Kim and I decided to break tradition. I don’t regret it for a second, although, truth be told, New Year’s Eve may not be the best time to truly experience any restaurant.
We had reservations at the bar, which is my usual preference. Our Bartender steered me in the right direction. The Bourbon Tequila with Old Fashioned ice cube was my favorite cocktail of the year. I order another.
“How much you wanna bet they don’t know we’re here for dinner,” Kim says after 40 minutes drinking.
“They gotta know. We gave our name at the door. And we sent them an email with our La Famiglia choice last week.”
We shake on it.
I order another Bourbon Tequila. “And you guys know we’re getting food, right?”
“Oh, no. I thought you were just here for drinks.”
I hand my girl three singles.
After some apologies, the dishes come out quickly. Too quickly. Three right away, with loose explanations made in haste. I like to hear what’s in each dish before I dig in. Managing expectations is all part of service.
We start with the Mexico City style sauteed Edamame with chili and jícama. Was it the best Edamame I’ve ever had? Sho ’nuff!! Should I have eaten it before the subtly flavored Mahi-Mahi? Probably not.
I took a few breaths and dug into the Mahi-Mahi and Guacamole dishes. Delectable, soft and fresh. Peppers, hummus, vegetables, tortillas made of cheese, others made of corn, all competing for the spotlight. “A first world problem,” I thought to myself, dragging an index finger through that fiery Edamame sauce.
“This drink is kicking my ass,” Kim says.
“Good. Me too. Can I get one more of these?”
“This round is on us for making you wait,” Bartender says.
Next up, the Salmon Sopes. I don’t normally dig salmon, but these were delicious. Not sure of the entire composition as they were placed without much of an explanation. At this point they were still trying to catch us up. Delicious anyway, for sure, albiet something of a larger amuse-bouche. I could eat nine of them.
The Foie Gras with Roasted Pineapple, torrejas, costeno honey, chipotle-pineapple reminded us why Jason should be Knighted. Even better than the amazing foie dish at Traif. I lifted the ingredients from their website because, again, I’m not sure that info was conveyed.
“Maybe you should have answered that ad after all,” Kim says, referencing a help-wanted Traif and Xixa placed some months ago for someone to manage both spots. I was THIS close to responding but felt under-qualified.
Half in the bag at this point, I had no idea what spices were in that Grilled Corn, but knew I could sink my teeth into them forever. The Seafood Pozole with lobster and squid was equally delicious, with a side of submersibles like crispy tortilla chips.
When tortillas with dipping sauces and cheese hit the table, I wasn’t sure if it was a stand alone dish or part of the La Famiglia tacos, the main dish of the night. As instructed, we emailed our choice of Confit Short Ribs a week in advance, though we were close to trying the Crispy Goat Neck.
Should I dig into this plate or wait for the short ribs? This stuff seemed like it would go with tacos. So we waited. Then I asked if this went with the La Famiglia and two servers said yes. By now midnight had come and gone and many folks were leaving the place. I think we reminded one other person about the short ribs and they eventually made their way to the table. In retrospect, I think the previous plate may have been stand alone. I hope so, I ate most of it waiting for the short ribs.
Kim and I looked at each other and pretended to type on the bartop, mimicking, as we sometimes do, asshole hipsters complaining on Yelp.
When the confit short ribs finally arrived the heavens cracked open and blessed two foodies at the bar. We cut into the super crispy surface, through an unctuous layer of fat, into succulent beef we then wrapped in soft (beet?) taco shells sprinkled with corn and lime. Of course the sauces provided were worth bottling, like those at Traif. It was the dictionary definition of umami. Halfway through we were full and got the rest to go. It was excellent the next day.
Two desserts followed. Nothing as Earth shattering as some I’ve had on non-holidays at Traif, but sweet and delectable in their own right. A soft and luscious Strawberry Flan was followed by Churros with two dipping sauces, one citrus and the other a sinful dark chocolate. Scrummy.
We paid the bill and lamented that restaurants are not at their best on holidays. Balancing altered menus with large crowds results in sacrifices here and there. Yet, I don’t see myself changing up this tradition, and in particular I can’t wait to get back to Xixa on a boring weeknight when I’m more likely to get the full attention my fat ass desires.
Was it a coincidence that I found myself in a French restaurant the day after the tragedy in Paris? Probably not. I’d been to Paris more than once and every time found it hard to leave. It’s one of those places you visit feeling “I could live here.”
At a small bar upfront locals eagerly noshed and drank as if drawn by Toulouse-Lautrec.
I wasn’t the only person looking to run into the arms of French food that night. What that says about me specifically, I don’t know. I didn’t take up arms to fight the good fight, I took up a fork to feed myself. I’m deeply disgusted and sad that these atrocities are happening all over the world, and yes, especially in the Paris I love so much. What can one ordinary fella do 3,624 miles away? Pas beaucoup.
I did a little research and landed on French Louie.
Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo, masterminds behind local favorite Buttermilk Channel, opened this Boerum Hill eatery in 2014. We didn’t have a reservation, but it was early and they had maybe two tables free.
“This place is packed,” I said to Kim.
“Good sign,” she answered.
The ambiance is authentically Parisian, from high banquettes along the wall to the otherwise understated decor. At a small bar upfront locals eagerly noshed and drank as if drawn by Toulouse-Lautrec.
I wanted a dirty vodka Martini on the rocks but, in an effort to expand, ordered the Chespirito – mezcal, tequila, lime, hibiscus soda and cinnamon. Nicely smoky and not built to knock you on your derrière – even after drinking two quickly. Kim had the Templeton’s Mule – gin, ginger, lime, luxano abano, and soda. Not bad, for a gin drink.
I didn’t take up arms to fight the good fight, I took up a fork to feed myself.
We decide to do some small plates and share one large one – to leave room for dessert. Some beautifully Grilled Octopus with panisse and lemon tahini hit all the right notes and left us wanting more. Same for the excellent Steak Tartare, resplendent with egg yolk, chile oil, and pickled mustard seeds. As a young man I wouldn’t touch octopus or raw steak with a ten foot pole. Now I was about to dive in sans cutlery.
We had to try the Foie Gras Au Poivre with poached pear, spice cake, and sherry vinegar gastric. It was a delicious flavor combo, for sure.
“A little small,” Kim remarked. “Think about how much foie we got at Avant Comptoir in Paris for like five Euros.”
Next up, we shared the Buckewheet Pappardelle with oxtail ragout, beet greens, shallots and horseradish. Nicely cooked pasta with tender oxtail, and only a hint of horseradish, because Kim accidentally ate most of it with her first few bites. As you can tell by the picture below, it’s impossible to take a good picture of a salad in subdued lighting.
“We’d like to send these back,” I joked to the waitress, gesturing to our very empty plates.
“No problem,” she smiled. “I’ll let the chef know.”
We topped the evening off with some serious eye-candy; Profiteroles made with cardamom caramel and pistachio ice-cream. Sweet and creamy are my middle names, but Kim tends to like things a little less obvious. That didn’t stop her from scooping up the caramel with a spoon.
Kim and I headed for the F train, content and not too full, a bit lighter in the wallet, and dreaming of Paris.
“… these chicken wings taste like you need another drink.”
When I heard Pok Pok started taking reservations, I made one immediately. No way I’m hauling my ass to Red Hook just to wait on a long line of unwashed hipsters – even if Chef and owner Andy Ricker opened a whiskey lounge across the street to keep us occupied until a table was ready.
I’d seen the documentary on Ricker and prepared myself for authentic Thai in a purposefully less than fine-dining interior. White table clothes? Nope. Smart move, as many well intentioned restaurants find themselves unexpectedly in the linen business, coordinating laundry, hole repair, folding and counting- which all takes focus away from the food. At Pok Pok, the food, not the ambiance, is center stage.
I have to admit I was excited, and there was no way Pok Pok could live up to what I was expecting, or so I thought.
“We obviously have to get the wings,” Kim says.
Listed on the menu as Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, they’ve been called the best chicken wings in the country by Epicurious. Marinated in garlic, sugar, and fish sauce, deep-fried and covered with spicy roasted chile paste and caramelized garlic. The result is a chicken wing like no other, and one Ricker owes his empire to – though it ain’t particularly Thai.
Like almost everything on the menu, these chicken wings taste like you need another drink.
“That also explains the super spicy nuts they put out on the table,” I say, gulping down my second delicious Tamarind Whiskey Sour.
Kim went for the Mango Alexander, and it knocked her socks off. Mango, vodka, coconut cream and lime. Yes, please.
The corn on the cob is nicely grilled and slathered with salty coconut cream. Squeeze a little lime and these were gone before you could say “how much did that cost?”
The Lap Pet Issan is a chopped duck salad with duck liver and skin, although it was kinda hard to tell what was what. Sometimes you got something on your fork that threatened to burn your tonsils out, if you didn’t already have them removed.
My favorite dish of the night was the Keng Hang Leh, some pork belly and pork shoulder with palm sugar, ginger, tamarind, tumeric, curry powder, and pickled garlic. It had a hunk of fat on it that was, perhaps, as good as slow cooked fat can be. I tried a little with rice, a little with the pork… it made everything better.
The couple next to us was eyeing our choices, making cutesy faces to each other about how many plates we had on the table. So we ate them too and spit out their smart-phones. I think they were Chinese, or at least they tasted Chinese.
While I had a great time and would go back in a second, I did have a complaint or two. Well, not so much a complaint, but an observation. Seems like this type of cuisine is very forgiving. Ostensibly, the chicken wings were fried pretty hard, so the chicken isn’t really juicy. That dish is more about chicken skin and spices. The duck was also well done, which may be authentic, but my local palate digs softer, more medium consistencies – which I think would improve mouthfeel tremendously.
That being said, I’ll be glad to go back to try their mango salad, pork riblets, boar collar, flank steak salad, and even their whole fried fish. And maybe sample some of their other strong cocktails.
With no room for dessert (next time!) we rolled out of there with our doggy bag and fell asleep standing up on the train back home.
“…another plus in the Brooklyn column.“
Having read some Yelps and articles, I had an idea about what I wanted to try. First, I need a drink STAT. This knot in my shoulder isn’t gonna soothe itself. I order the Jaxon’s Punch. At least I think that’s what it was called. I drank them pretty quickly. Kim tried it and gave me the “too sweet” face.
Alex had a non-alcoholic drink that was bright and citrus-y. Jason had a Margarita. I was jealous it came in a rocks glass.
Between small and large plates, there are a lot of choices on the menu. Everything from traditional papaya salad and whole branzino to inventive Vietnamese crepes.
We started with Sriracha Butter Chicken Wings and they were a hit. I think we needed at least another order. The sauce was a bit spicy but my girl painted it on happily.
We should have ordered two Crispy Imperial Rolls, too. Pork, shrimp, glass noodle, wood ear mushrooms – fried hard, son!
These Summer Rolls were a tasty treat, with a slightly spicy peanut sauce. Even if these shrimp look like they’re trapped in The Matrix.
My girl had the Claypot Shrimp – and it wasn’t spicy enough for her. But she likadaspice! Tasted good to me, but I was more than mildly obsessed with my own dish, the Unshaking Beef. Niman Ranch flank steak, pearl onions, scallion, lime-pepper sauce. Mmm. The table dug it, especially those caramelized pearl onions. The lime-pepper sauce gave it just the right amount of Vietnamese funk.
By now these drinks are giving everything in the room a soft haze. I have a great view of the kitchen. Perfectly charred steaks and chops make it hard to consider being a vegetarian. Those poor delicious animals. OK, this has to be my last drink.
Jason had the Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chop, which I now realize I never tried. I could be better at this food critic thing, but it looks good in the picture, no? I could go for one of these right about now. Looks simple and perfect.
Alex got the House Made Banh Canh Noodles – coconut milk, tofu, pickled vegetables, herbs. It was delicious. She let me dip twice. Those noodles were perfect, with a coconut flavor that ran deep.
Lubricated with rum, I don’t even care when a kid at the next table drops a metal school-bus on my girlfriend.
“Can you get that for me?” the mother asks my girl.
“I will cut you and your child,” Kim thinks to herself.
There are two options for dessert. The table agreed on one so I ordered both. “And one more of these,” pointing to my empty glass.
The Coconut-tapioca Pudding with five spiced ginger syrup was subtle and lovely. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chocolate Molten Blue Cheese Lava Cake was complicated. Yet even the skeptical among us were instantly converted – getting that deep chocolate into a bit of blue cheese dragged through salty apricot jam. Savory to sweet something like 60-40. A perfect way to end the night.
Bricolage is certainly another plus in the Brooklyn column. I look forward to getting familiar with their entire menu, including cocktails.