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Archive for the ‘Restaurant’ Category

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!

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Here it is. It used to be called Bouillabaisse 126.

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.

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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.

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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

Korhogo 126

126 Union St., Carroll Gardens

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Not so long ago, Prospect Heights was blessed with a new addition to the happy family on Classon Avenue between Park and Prospect. It is called Chavella’s and it is Mexican and we all love it.

A first glance at the menu will tell you that it’s CHEAP. Seriously cheap. And a first taste of the food will tell you that it’s DELICIOUS. Very seriously delicious.

417478001_8b939e9aa6.jpgThe lunch/dinner menu features hugely generous platos like rotisserie chicken or chicken mole (rich and delicious with all that cocoa sauce) with mounds of rice and beans. My favorite, though, is mixing and matching the various tiny special treats they have for $2.50 – like tacos in soft corn tortillas (roasted vegetables with guacamole, chorizo and potatoes with cabbage, black bean with avacado are my go-to’s). The sweet creamy rice pudding is the perfect end to any Chavella’s meal. And so so so much better than any other rice pudding. Ever. (Sorry grandma.)

Check the specials board because if you see the sizzling camarones (shrimpies) up there then get it. It is ridiculously flavorful and fresh and exciting. It comes with whole jalepeno pieces that beg to be eaten with abandon, scooped up with the juices and rice and veggies and shrimps. My only warning, be a little careful. The seeds stay in and lend a LOT of heat. Balance your bites so you can live to enjoy the whole dish.

Recently they’ve added a Sunday brunch with menu items like eggs benedict on mexican toast with guacamole and jalapeno hollandaise. Yes! Their namesake omelette comes with bacon, avacado, queso oaxaca and the good lord only knows what else… the best part is the chorizo hash that comes on the side of that one. Brunches at Chavella’s start off with a complimentary bowl of Mexican sweet breads – they not only get you started on your way to hangover recovery that much more quickly, but for me they provide the security that I will always be able to balance my sweet with my savory! I’m not forced to order a sweet baked breakfast just to sate my sweet-tooth – I can have my sweet breads and eat my eggs too, as it were. Not that I would deter anyone from ordering the sweet breakfasts here. French toast dipped in tres leches (that’s 3 milks for you anglos) will stare tantilizingly at you off the page.

So, in case you guys are having trouble picking up on my subtlety, I am wholeheartedly endorsing Chavella’s for your casual dining, affordable priced, outrageously fresh and delicious Mexican food needs.

Chavella’s
732 Classon Avenue
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

NOTE: No alcohol on the menu so feel free to byob. And they deliver.

Photo from 52 Projects‘ photostream.

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There’s a lot of talk these days (particularly this day) about environmental awareness, specifically about global warming and fuel crises and whatnot. This is not unlike my grade school days, but our big issues were rain forests and endangered species. Drowning in water-bourne pathogens from the floods that will destroy my borough are scarier than pandas, so in a lot of ways, I’m glad these issues are coming up now.

So, in the spirit of celebrating both environmental soundness and my fondness for burritos, I introduce Habana Outpost, “the first solar-powered restaurant and market place in New York!” The restaurant, located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is largely an outdoor patio, festooned with solar panels and picnic tables. In this magically sustainable courtyard space, you’ll find the kitchen/truck in which the food is prepared, a mural depicting energy transfer from the sun to the restaurant (and the surrounding power grid) and happy patrons eating Latin-inspired food and drinking $2.50 beers.

When I visited two Fridays ago, I went with the Veggie Burrito, which quite literally was filled with rice, beans, queso fresco, lettuce, salsa and cactus. Yes, cactus. It was alarmingly similar to sauteed aloe. So, while it was delicious, it was a really, really weird texture. I washed that down with a $2.50 Six Points. The dark one. It was great. And all of those things were consumed on and with biodegradable cornstarch utensils, plates and cups.

Habana Outpost is a truly delightful dining experience, combined with innovative environmentalism. It shows Brooklyn that we can party like we do while being environmentally responsible. Be sure to look into the people-powered smoothie maker and open marketplace on the weekends during the day. Maybe also check out Habana Cafe and Habana To Go in the City.

Habana Outpost
757 Fulton Street
Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

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Zaytoon is a new Middle Eastern restaurant on Vanderbilt and St. Marks. There’s another branch of it on Smith Street that I guess does okay. The Prospect Heights branch is recently opened, and I’d heard good things from a neighborhood friend. But maybe she’s never eaten Middle Eastern food ever before. Ever. Or maybe she has some disease where on her tongue crap tastes like filet mignon. It’s a mystery. Keep reading for an in-depth review of this new potential hot spot!

Okay – in the interest of total disclosure: when we first got there (me, mooseknuckle, and one more friend), the waitress came over and said ‘what can I get you gentlemen?’ In case you don’t know, pizappas is a lady. This waitress didn’t know, so maybe you don’t either. So as I proceed to write this scathing review there is always the possibility that my experience was taint(haha)ed from the very beginning. But whatever. Here goes….

I started out ordering a sampler platter. You know, the middle-easterners, they love their mezze. So I got the Zaytoon Combination Plate with (my choice) yogurt cucumber salad, fatoosh, babaganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and mujaderra.

Yogurt Cukes: these guys were near the best of the bunch, which is not saying much. A watery concoction that would have been an OK sandwich dressing did not hold up on its own. The topping of low grade feta did not help matters.

Fatoosh: In general I am a big fan of fatoosh, a salad featuring sour flavor from lemons and sumac, and toasted pita bread. What I was served didn’t actually seem like fatoosh. I think they might have accidentally substituted Israeli Salad, as it was a slightly soggy pile of cubed cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. No pita bread. So it was either a bad Israeli Salad or a really bad fatoosh.

Babaganoush: This shit tasted sweet! Not sweet like scoring free tickets to a G&R tribute band show. Sweet like the jujubes that are the only candy you have left 2 weeks after Halloween. I don’t know what the shit was wrong with it but it tasted bad and like eggplant candy. Not in a good way. Dudes, check your recipes.

Stuffed Grape Leaves: Passable. They weirdly had like one slightly hard chick pea in each stuffed leaf. wtf?

Mujaderra: When made well, this is a delicious concoction of rice and lentils topped with fried onions. When I passed this shit in the display counter on my way to the bathroom, I knew before I tasted it that I had made a mistake in ordering it from Zaytoon. However, when I asked the waitress to switch it a mere 3 minutes after ordering, she said it was too late. Bummer. No comps even. So when it gets to the table, I found that it was cold! Usually served warm to room temperature, as you may know when rice is cold it gets hard. One bite of hard, cold rice was enough so that I didn’t venture any further into this dish. And there weren’t even any fried onions on top!

So that takes care of my meal. It stank. Mooseknuckle got a shawarma sandwich that was OK. Except for that it was a wrap! Like, a 1995 looking wannabe gym bunnie type of wrap. Like, that fad when they thought that if you put a chicken ceasar salad in a wrap it made it healthy. But anyway. He liked it medium. In my opinion the meat was a little overdone.

Friend #2 got kibbe that were ginormous! Like the size of nerf footballs. So if you’re into portions, go for that one. The flavor was too heavy on the cinnamon and the texture was too mushy in the middle but it was at least recognizable as kibbe. Of the three dishes ordered, it was the best.

The bread is delicious, but extra breads come 50 cents a pop. Their little way of keeping Atkins’ dream alive. And no matter how delicious freshly baked pita bread is, it loses a bit of its luster when dipped in babaganoush that tastes like an eggplant had a baby with a sugar cube and then stepped on it. Then ate it and puked it back up. Then died and its body decomposed with the puke. Then a cat ate the decomposed puke body and shat it out on your plate and drizzled it with olive oil.

So, screw you Zaytoon. I hate you. I’m never going to eat at you again. PEACE!

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Review: Superfine

When I first got to Superfine (126 Front St. in DUMBO), the friends I was meeting weren’t there yet. Peeking through the glass doors I saw a place that looked like how Cosi’s original designers probably wished for it to look – exposed brick, sprawling couches, multi-leveled seating, interesting hanging lamps, attractive well-dressed clientele. Since there were no mini-smores ovens to make me feel at home, I opted to wait across the street in the bookstore.

When my friends got there, we got a table right near the swank orange-felted pool table, overlooking the swank sunken bar.

Wordlessly, a waitress came over and propped up a big menu board next to our table. On the recommendation of one of my dining-mates, I got the pork chops with carmelized onion mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini. My friends got spaghettini, pizza, and pizza, respectively. Prices were in the 12-18 range for most entrees and sizable appetizers.

When it came time to order drinks, I wasn’t super impressed. The only mildly interesting beer selections they had (unless you are especially into Bass, Harp, Guiness, Yuengling, etc.) were Circus Boy and Coney Island Lager. The Lager was good and cold and crisp, though, and no offense to anyone, but more delicious than Brooklyn Lager. This seems like the kind of place that might have a good mixed drink specialty, but after a hard day of blogging I wanted a brewskie and didn’t ask… but if you find out about one, let me know!

Anyway, though I was enjoying my lovely company, the food took forever to come. And it wasn’t until we were sitting there for like 40 minutes that someone was like, can we get some bread? Because apparently they give that stuff complimentarily. To be fair, we had an off-duty waitress sitting with us so maybe our server was confused about what was and wasn’t going to happen at our table… but the bread was crusty and tasted like it was from a good bakery, and the greenish olive oil that accompanied it was ripely excellent.

So, into my second beer the dinner arrives. I like pork chops, and whenever I go to al di la I never get them, even though my boyfriend does and they taste like heaven and I always want them. So I thought I’d preempt that issue by getting them here.

The first bite was that little medallion just inside the curve of the bone (sorry if I’m making any veggies out there nauseous, but precision is important!) and it was tender and delicious. The rest of the chop was, unfortunately, a bit tougher. The outside was grilled and charred nicely, but the pressure I had to exert on the serrated knife they’d given me meant that the meat was way too tough, the knife too dull, or both. The mashed potatoes tasted good. But not spectacular. The onions had gotten held up somewhere along their way to carmelized, and were lending a respectable initial flavor, but unfortunately not the full sweet, nutty goodness I knew they could offer. The zucchini was pretty good, as it is a delicious vegetable, though the heat could have been higher to increase the char-to-firmzucchiniflesh-factor.

I know that on the whole this sounds negative, but it was a very pleasant night with a great atmosphere and people raving about their dishes… since it’s that sickly change-of-season time I didn’t try anything else, but word of mouth has it that the pizzas and burgers are excellent. This is a good place to relax the evening away – the staff never rushed us and were generous on the drinks.

I’d give it another go, because a nighttime walk through DUMBO’s cobblestone streets, overlooking the water, can be a great dessert to even a less-than-stellar meal.

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This past weekend I spent my Saturday evening in the Financial District at a bar called The Patriot. The Patriot is a large two story dive bar located on Chambers and Church St. Upon walking into The Pat, you’re met with the typical All-American pub garnish: flags, wood tables, jukebox, etc. Nothing too surprising. However, once you walk up the stairs onto the second floor you realize this is no ordinary bar as your eyes cannot help but be immediately drawn to the…wait for it…six bras hanging off the light fixtures. Now, I’m not saying getting six women to give up their unmentionables isn’t an accomplishment in itself, but I’m assuming the brassieres were most likely tossed up to the ceiling on separate occasions. Meaning, at one point there must have only been a single C or B-cup hanging off a light bulb. Therefore, you’d think after spotting the second or third isolated bra, the owner might have felt compelled to buy some more simply to provide a little balance. Bra balance. I mean, you can get like, five for $10 at Filene’s Basement. No one said ceiling lingerie needed to be nice, just trashy.

Along with the questionable undergarment decor, there’s something to be said about The Patriot’s jukebox, and how it sucks. I think it held about 40 cds, all of which were country. But that’s to be expected. But what’s not to be so expected is that only five or six songs actually get played. I’m not sure if it was the jukebox itself or the people paying for the songs that decided to run “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Sweet Home Alabama” in rotation, but either way, they should know that those songs, if heard more than once in an hour setting, will cause someone to go on a blog and whine about it.

And to my friends who are reading this right now (hi, guys), I know you’re probably saying to yourself, “But flung bras and ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ were both featured in your favorite Adam Garcia film, ‘Coyote Ugly.’ How can this not be your favorite place on earth outside of the $5.50 DVD bin at Wal-Mart?” My answer to this question is: I do not know. It’s a mystery to me as well.

But I must say, though The Patriot has its faults, it has some good points too. Well, really just one: $6 pbr and $9 bud pitchers. This means everyone can buy their own pitcher of beer and take swigs right out of them, like when people used to use those head-sized coffee cups. And last time I checked, people who get incredibly drunk off of cheap beer are really pleasant, especially when they’re frat boys who end the night with some pool cue dry humping.

Suggested Beer Glass

So in conclusion, while I wouldn’t give The Patriot my highest rating, I wouldn’t give it my lowest either. Overall I’d give it 1 1/2 Bubble Yums (out of a pack of five).

PS. Just so you know, this place would work well for any hipster looking to hang out somewhere that would give them the “ironic” bar cred.

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Just a quick note on Faan, a pan-Asian restaurant on Smith Street. It’s an adorable place with a semi-outdoor seating area, decorated with plants, lanterns and other things dangling from its glass ceiling. Walking by, it looks welcoming and pretty, just like you would want from a pan-Asian restaurant on Smith Street. And while the food was mediocre, the waitstaff surly, and the Silk Panties (a beverage) incredibly strong, there was something special about this place: It featured brazen Brooklyn love on its beer menu.

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