I know that it’s been going on for a while now, but last night was my first foray into this year’s Brooklyn Restaurant week. A joyful time, for those of you who do not know, you better recognize. $23 3-course prix fixe meals at some of Bk’s finest eating establishments. And when a place isn’t fancy enough to dole out 3 courses that are worth $23, then they generously offer a 2-for-1 at $23! Amazing.
So, when my lovely auntie invited me out for a French-African meal at Carroll Gardens’ Korhogo 126, of COURSE I said yes!
Since reservations are at a premium during RW, we were relegated to a 6:30 dining spot. Totally fine. After a lovely little sit in the park on Smith and Carroll, we wandered across a BQE overpass (also lovely!) and found the restaurant.
Nicely lacquered wood benches covered with sort of African-looking cushions. Homey-feeling hutch as the wait station, topped with small tribal-looking carved masks and statues. It is no wider than an average brownstone, so at my table against the wall I could see right into the kitchen across the way and see what they were doing. Nice plating, I noted on the way to the bathroom.
Anyway….. what am I here to talk about? Oh right. The food.
One downside of Manhattan’s RW can be that the menus are very small – the fanciest places obviously want to limit the number of things you could get for such a low low price. This menu was nice. I liked it. The least exciting thing on the appetizer menu was a Greek Salad (because of when, you know, the Greeks colonized French-colonized Africa. it was complicated). The most exciting thing (I thought) on the app. list was escargots served in puff pastry with fennel compote. Truth be told, I mostly got it because of the fennel compote – a winter vegetable I love but rarely prepare myself.
When it was served up it was definitely NOT your traditional French escargots! When they are stripped of their shell and butter sauce, it turns out that escargots look sort of like swollen mussels (the kind from the sea, not your bicep), and also taste like a milder, less briny version of mussels. These were prepared in sort of a ratatouille, with richly savory tomatoes. Delicious. Except… I think they got confused somewhere between fennel “compote” and fennel… quartered and steamed. It was nicely steamed, to be sure. Not overcooked, not undercooked… but compote it was not. Whatever.
Auntie got a nice plate of citrus-ey calamari and baby octopusses (ew) I mean octopi. They tasted nice, and were a lovely texture, though she was a little freaked out by the bulbous things that seemed to be baby octopus heads that were still attached to the baby octopus bodies.
On to the main dishes! The seafood menu had 2.5 x more options than the meat or veggie menus so we said – OK! We get the message. And ordered some seafood. Bouillabaise. Again, with the fennel! Bouillabaise with fennel. And I love me some West African peanut stew. So we got that.
The Bouillabaisse base (ha!) was outstanding. SUCH a flavorful broth. And it came with toast points spread with some kind of artichokey aioli – really really delicious. As it should be – the whole restaurant used to be named Bouillabaisse (126). And it came with a variety of seafoods in it. But you know how seafoods all take different amounts of time to cook? And how they’re really easy to overcook? Um, me too. And, Korhogo 126 knows it too. Because while the tilapia was perfectly tender, the mussels and shrimp were straight up overcooked. Maybe that’s why they changed their name. Whatever. Let’s move on to the stew, eh?
Now, when you think of stew, it’s steaming and hearty and generously proportioned, right? Me too. Stew’s made of cheap ingredients so that you can have a lot of it, right? Unless it’s, um, saffron stew, or whatever. Do you think of a scant 3 tablespoons, served with a hearty 1 cup of quinoa? OMG, me neither. We have so much in common, you and I. But on this? We differ from Korhogo 126. Weird.
An example of what google images classifies as “stew.”
That thing I mentioned above? About the scant blah blah, that’s what I was served. It was weird – like in a diet program where they’re like, you can eat your peanut sauce and lose weight too! I wanted to ask the waiter if he thought I was too pudgy or something. Because. The small bowl the “stew” was served in. Was. Not even. HALF FULL. In fact, it was not even HALF EMPTY! That’s right. What’s an optimist (or pessimist) supposed to do when you’re barely at 1/3 full (or 2/3 empty)? I don’t know.
OK, to give credit where it’s due, the stew was tasty. Not a stew, as you or I would classify it, but you know, it tasted peanut-ey. It was about as much peanut dipping sauce as you’d get for a plate of spring rolls at most Thai places. Whatevs. Oh! And in the menu it was “stew with okra.” I love okra in stew! It finds its natural place there, where its gooeyness has an appropriate time and purpose. But uh… steamed on the side of my plate? I’m back at diet camp, where I’ve never been, so how they can do such an effective job evoking it is beyond me.
Ugh. So then they bring over the dessert menus. Which have on them, yes, a list of desserts. But also prices. So I think OK, they didn’t want to print up new dessert menus just for RW. Saving trees! Props to you, Korhogo 126, I think in my head.
But THEN. Then… well, let’s save that for later. (This is called dramatic tension and foreshadowing) My Momi (the name of the dessert I ordered. not my actual, um, mom) was a banana-millet cake that was really nice! A kind of gooey banana bread. Served with a poached pear, vanilla ice cream, and African honey. All that was a little too sweet, but overall pretty nice. But, do you know what they served it on? Right, a plate, smartass. But what was BETWEEN the plate and the other stuff? Looked to me like nothing but chocolate syrup. And tasted to me like Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Now, that stuff is fine and good, but how distinctive is the flavor of Hershey’s!! It was like they were writing a movie about someone writing a song, and the song they came up with was “Like a Rock.” And that wasn’t a pertinent plot point. I wanted to suspend my disbelief, but I just couldn’t.
This girl knows what I’m talking about.
Auntie’s dessert was plated on an intensely sweet strawberry sauce that also tasted commercial – it was some combination of strawberries and ice cream and something else. I guess their take on strawberry shortcake? Not so impressive, and not at all nuanced.
Whatevs. Remember that dramatic tension I mentioned earlier? Can you guess what happened? They CHARGED US for the desserts! Assholes! The whole point of Restaurant Week is that you know, up front, how much you’re paying and how much you’re getting. So I do not appreciate them trying to pull a fast one and make us look like some fucking cheapskates just because they can’t stick to a deal.
Suffice it to say, if I had been paying, I would have put up a stink. Auntie is gracious and a grown-up in many ways that I am not, and we left quietly. But I took a solemn vow that I would write a disparaging review for these jerkstores that dared besmirch the decency and trust of restaurant week. For shame, Korhogo 126, for shame.
Pros: Excellent bouillabaisse broth, charming French waiter
Cons: Bloodsucking lying two-faced trolls, heavy-handed with the Hersheys
126 Union St., Carroll Gardens