celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cambodian Cuisine Leaving Fort Greene

Giving no reason, one of the best cheap eats in town, Cambodian Cuisine, posted a hand written poster in its window saying thanks and good bye to Fort Greene residents and saying hello to Manhattan. They are moving to 93rd and 3rd Avenue.

We wait with bated breath to see what goes into the space.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Latin Flavor in the Decor, Not the Food at Bogota

I've never had an arepa before. I had read so much about the legendary arepa lady on the Chowhound message boards, so I just had to try these sought-after white cornmeal cakes at Bogota. I opted for the traditional one with butter and white cheese. I'm guessing the arepa at this trendy pan-Latin bistro doesn't even come close to those of the arepa lady and her street cart.

The arepa wasn't even the least of an unsatisfactory dining experience we had at Bogota.

On a rainy Saturday night the place was bustling. While waiting about 30 minutes for our table we ordered a pitcher of mojitos for $28.00. The first sip was delicious and refreshing but it gave way to an overwhelming sweetness. We asked the bartender to put a shot of soda to dilute the sweetness, thus ruining an expensive drink. But we had no choice.

On one side of the restaurant is the bar area with some tables and stools by the window on the other side of the restaurant is the dining room. The atmosphere is infused with a Latin vibe, combining elements of modern design with a certain rawness and decay found in places like Havanna. Bright reds and turquoises contribute.

The food isn't as refined as the prices and the scene imply. One downfall I found is that all main courses are served unimaginatively with an insipid white or yellow rice and beans -- which tasted differently when we ordered more. It is the type of preparation you'd expect at the corner take out and delightfully pay under $10.00 for. But with $16.00 entrees, this self-proclaimed Latin Bistro fell short. One of our favorite items was the fried yuca, somehow airy and lightly fried. Admittedly the ropa vieja, shredded skirt steak in cilantro red wine sauce, was tender and had nice wine and garlic flavor, but the pollo in house specialty arroz con pollo was completely dried out. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was my friend's salad which amounted to a small pile of grocery store mixed greens with a hunk of goat cheese somewhat tactlessly plopped in the middle of the plate -- at $7.00 no less.

After the meal we sprinted through the rain and headed around the corner to the Black Sheep pub, ordered some brew and bopped our heads to the great jukebox.

Bogota Latin Bistro is located at 141 5th Avenue, Park Slope, 718-230-3805.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Village Voice: Close-Up on Red Hook

The Village Voice profiles Red Hook. I second their motion of 360 as a destination in its own right. It's one of my favorite French restaurants in the borough.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One Girl Cookies Revisited

I've written about One Girl Cookies before, but admittedly I didn't have a chance to try any of their cookies. I was just instantly taken with the place.

Last weekend my sister and her husband were visiting, stopping over on their way to Boston where they just moved from Philadelphia. After our brunch at Bar Tabac, we stumbled onto One Girl Cookies again.

With baby blue walls, chocolate brown accents and funky wallpaper, it was love at first site for my sister. If she could have her way, her home would be decorated similarly. One of the owners (the other owner is her husband) explained how their interior designers went for a modern look, but managed to blend the old. They use vintage photos as a marketing technique and for labels.

As we sat there eating our cookies and having yet more coffee, another story of old and new unfolded. A former owner of the building came in with her family. After reading a recent review, she wanted to see what had become of the place. She brought a yellowing photo of the building in the early 1960s. Naturally the current owners scanned it in for future use.

We enjoyed watching the meeting of old and new, as we devoured half-dollar sized chocolate chip cookies, coconut macaroons and unbeatable pumpkin whoopee pies with cream cheese filling.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dean & Deluca - What's the Big Deal?

Leaving Brooklyn for a moment, I would just like to ask, what's the big deal with Dean & Deluca? On a day off from work as I was wondering the streets of Soho I stopped at Dean & Deluca for a cup of coffee. It was terrible. It tasted like the instant Sanka that my grandmother used to drink. The few times I've actually shopped there the prepared foods were average and the produce just not fresh enough. Overrated and overpriced I'd say.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Eating in Two Worlds in Fort Greene: Thomas Beisl, Smooch

Fort Greene 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, 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.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Brooklyn Restaurant Week

Yes. It's been quite awhile since my last post. Needless to say, I've been busy. Busy with my er, real job, busy renovating my house (new windows, painting) and other stuff. But what better way to get back into the swing of things than with Brooklyn Restaurant Week. It runs from April 3-11, 3 courses for $20.06.

My picks would be:

Bar Tabac
Pete's Waterfront Ale House
Maggie Brown
Bouillabaisse 126
Thomas Beisl
Blue Ribbon

Mmm. Where to begin? Click here for the complete list.