is one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods. It's diverse, hip, convenient and beautiful. Walking the brownstone-lined streets around Fort Greene Park
takes me back to my days in London. Two very different restaurants -Thomas Beisl and Smooch- speak to the diversity that has come to define the neighborhood.Thomas Beisl
Austrian bistro Thomas Beisl is no stranger to good reviews
. Despite that, the warmly-decorated restaurant usually feels relatively quiet. It's conveniently located across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, so maybe people associate it with pre-theater dining.
But, oh it's so much more than that. I have a certain fondness for Thomas Beisl. At about $16.00 the succulent pig cheeks and sauerkraut are enough to divert my trip home on the A train. The menu sports standard Germanic-Austrian fare, like beef goulasch and sauerbraten, with a lightness of touch that can bring you easily back for more. Another stand-out dish is the Wiener schnitzel. The schnitzel, a breaded, thin cut of veal that is pan fried, is so reminiscent of Austria you can close your eyes and pretend you are there. It's served with the traditional salads of cucumber and potato in a light white vinegar dressing. I also love the desserts here with the farmer's cheese strudel with fruit compote being one of my favorites.
The wonderful preparations make this place one of my Fort Greene picks.
(By the way, has anyone else noticed the explosion of German/Austrian watering holes and restaurants throughout the city? For another post.)Smooch
Smooch, an organic and mostly vegan cafe, on the other hand is quite a different story. Attracting trendsters and the stroller set (oddly), Smooch is adeptly squeezed into a triangle of a space. The brick walls are painted white, the furniture is mismatched and the corner has cushions on the floor for patrons to eat Moroccan style.
Because of its fun and funky decor and music, I really want to like this place, but I have to admit it's just not for me. First of all, the service is painfully non-existent. I can usually look past this common problem in New York, but in this case the food isn't worth it. The menu espouses a Chinese philosophy as their inspiration for the food. In my book the only inspiration for food should be the highest-quality ingredients, passion and skill with pots, pans and other kitchen gadgets.
They claimed their Bruce Ketta, aka bruschetta, are out of this world, but at 4 for $10.00 not only were they overpriced but also disappointing. Four slices of whole grain toast, two with a sweet pumpkin puree, one with pickled onions and the last with a walnut spread. I couldn't understand why it took almost 45 minutes for this to arrive? While tasty, they were nowhere near a bruschetta. I'll repeat. None of it was bad, except for the service, but it's just not for me. I'll take a piece of grilled country bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with fruity olive oil and speckled with crunchy sea salt any day over a Bruce Ketta.Thomas Beisl is located at 25 Lafayette Avenue, 718 222 5800 and Smooch is located at 264 Carlton Avenue near Dekalb, 718 624 4075.