Bun-Ker. Bunker. Heaven.

Bun-Ker

It’s the pot of Vietnamese gold at the end of the where-the-hell-are-we-anyway rainbow. Even in its second iteration, it’s off off the beaten track.  Finding it however, is part of its charm and worth any missed turn.

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Thankfully, there is a there…there.

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Pulse quickens…

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Magic time.

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Hi ceilings, tall trees, brightly colored stools, one communal table and a smattering of others. The decor has a Tropic Thunder meets a let’s-all-get-high and have a paintball war motif. On an island. With great music.

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An actual pressed juice bar. This makes for intriguing concoctions, very creative cocktails and there’s a killer wine list too.

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Jimmy Tu and his sous-chef brother Jacky have been around the chef block. Their combined history includes Korilla BBQ truck, Tigerland, a Vietnamese spot shared with sister Judy in the East Village, as well as the ultimate springboard – being one of the original opening chefs at Eleven Madison. And somewhere in between, they shadowed street carts in Vietnam too, studying recipes, and finessing tools of the trade that would become a signature, like a Japanese grill with binchotan charcoal.

They ultimately landed in their own seafood distribution company, Fish and Ship, which unfortunately met its match with Hurricane Sandy. Not to be outdone by the storm, Jimmy and his posse of hip-hop loving skating buddies, dried out the space and created a tiny kaleidoscope of a Vietnamese food shack in Ridgewood, Queens. The rest is beautifully defined Hanoi specialties with the essence of homemade street food history.  The new menu is at least double the offerings of the old place. Plans for house-made food products, skating gear, mushroom growing and more abound. It’s fun, loose, and comfortable but the genuine intent behind the food is never compromised.

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I said a hip, hop, the hippy to the hippy, to the hip hip hop, because Roy don’t stop!

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Bun-Ker Limeade, a heavenly nectar of lime, shiso, coconut sugar and basil seeds. It’s remarkably complex and so refreshing.

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Goi Du Du Char, vegan papaya salad with crispy tofu, red onion, carrot, tomato, peanut, and sesame. It has a boldness you don’t always see in the usual mandolined versions, here it’s more thickly sliced so you can really taste each gratifying component. Get it with the illustrious homemade beef jerky if you prefer meat with your papaya. This dish, like many others, can be made without meat so vegetarians don’t get the short shrift.

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Gorgeous greens, fresh herbs and rice crisps for your charcoal grilled pork skewers.

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Now you be the chef…

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Wet your rice paper and let it soften. Add sauce and condiments.

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You did it. Wrap and eat.

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Ultra fresh summer rolls filled with wild prawns, roast heritage pork, vermicelli, lots of mint, more herbs, and of course… peanut sauce. Playfully chewy and then wham, a mouthful of zesty flavor.

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Com Chien Chay, mushroom fried rice with organic mushrooms, organic egg, garlic chives, tomatoes and cashews is lovely. Plus the hints of bright lemongrass elevate rich bites of meaty mushrooms.

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Vegetarian Banh Xeo with turmeric, turns gold and is stuffed with organic shiitakes and a rad collection of herbs. The carnivore version includes shrimp, bacon, egg, and sprouts. Everything is tucked into a crunchy, crispy, succulent, oh so savory rice flour pastry, yet it’s like a delicate soufflé on the inside.  Hits high on the ethereal meter. A drizzle of Nuoc Cham provides the perfect acidity for the icing on the crepe.

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Grilled Lemongrass Black Angus Short Ribs are strewn with sweet, minty shiso leaves and chopped peanuts across the incredibly tender chunks of meat. Slightly sweet and a little smoky.  A splash of fish sauce and it pretty much melts in your mouth.

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Coconut Braised Berkshire Ribs are just that. Tender, falling off the bone meat, redolent of the coconut broth and young fruit it was simmered in.  Served with tea egg and bitter melon, the salty fragrance of the former and the sharpness of the latter are a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the coconut.

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Tomato Garlic Fried Rice is way more interesting than you might expect. Just get it. It’s subtle, sublime and you’d best like garlic.

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Suon Nuong Xa, Heritage Pork Loin marinates for about 8 hours in a mixture of lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chili peppers, fish sauce, Chinese xo sauce, oil and palm sugar, and then it’s ready to  caramelize on the grill. Dressed with scallion oil and crispy pork skin bits, plus an organic fried egg and what appears to be a simple execution exceeds any pork dishes you previously worshipped. Garlic Rice rounds out the plate. It’s always the quality of ingredients plus imagination here that solidifies the ace level of cooking and taste.

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Sweet satisfaction as your teeth crack the edge of a golden, deep fried, crispy spring roll surprisingly made from a delicate Chinese egg roll wrap.  It’s bursting with sweet lumps of fresh crabmeat, shaved carrots, and toothsome vermicelli. (The Bun in Bun-Ker is a witty play on vermicelli in Vietnamese) Bright, fresh, and snappy, the extras of lettuce, mint, and chili sauce bring it all together.

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Carmelized Wild Mexican Shrimp with ginger, garlic, basil, and sweet fried shallots in a sublime, sticky, rich sauce tasting of molasses and dates taunts my memory daily. We had this without the addition of roasted pork but by all means… Eat them whole with the shell on. It’s where the flavor happens and no peeling means no having to sneak a lick of your fingers at the table.

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Fried Whole Fish in a tamarind chili sauce. I think this one was 4 lbs, there were three of us and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t an ounce remaining. It was sweet, spicy, sour with crisped skin and I could not stop picking through the plate once it was clearly over.

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Coconut Tapioca Pudding, the pleasing nuttiness of coconut milk amplifies the sweet and sour jackfruit, bits of pineapple, palm seeds. Creamy, cold tapioca pearls refresh and soothe body and soul.

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Vietnamese cookies!

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Where’s Waldo? Where’s here? In case you needed to place yourself in the universe, this might help. Ha.

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The neighborhood may be sparse but the sentiments are graffitied for good.

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And because you may just have over ordered, the indulgence shall continue in the morning.

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Bun-Ker is popular. Hard to believe that when they first started, the group rode around on bikes and dropped off menus to drum up business. 70 seats total inside but you can still depend on a wait. Outdoor garden seating in season increases your chances for getting your hands on that crepe sooner than later. At least in this new spot, the cocktail bar, Honey specializing in mead is next door to shorten the wait time.

This is exquisite comfort food. It’s not your Chinatown inexpensive foray into Vietnamese cuisine. It’s carefully considered classic combinations that use the highest quality, well sourced, organic, grass fed, free range, straight from the Icelandic ocean kind of ingredients. The kitchen turns them into deliriously good concentrated flavors. Chefs use a mortar and pestle often, coaxing the smallest, seemingly least important ingredient into giving its utmost. Flavor opens into more flavor.

All roads seemed to have led the Tu’s back to their roots and ultimately doing what their hearts always knew best. They’ve made a huge success of it. And now it’s our success too, because the food is superb, and you’ll always leave here happy.

 

 

Bun-Ker

99 Scott Avenue

East Williamsburg (just bordering Ridgewood, Queens)

718.386.4282

Open Tuesday-Saturday noon to 11pm, Sunday noon-10pm and closed Monday

Mother’s Milk

Madre Mezcaleria

Dinner. Mezcal. Because that’s our wheelhouse these days. But very luxe having it at the new & still evolving mezcal bar – Madre Mezcaleria. The younger sibling to the much venerated El Atoradero next door. Already over fifty selections with many more to come. Plus you sip & savor with your chapulines & orange slices grazed with sal du gusano. In lay person’s terms we’re talking dried grasshoppers & a little ground worm in the orange slice spice. Spare but warm, charming atmosphere, great music a la Mexico and a small list of nice bar snacks with a raw bar to come. If you need to flavor your mezcal further.

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The delightful Fior Silvestre, a sublime combination of mezcal, grapefruit and St Germain. Bet you can’t drink just one.

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Two of the many bottles offered. The one on the right is of the  Mezcal de pechuga (breast in Spanish) variety. These are made when a finished mezcal is again distilled with local fruits, grains, nuts and the surprise of surprises – a raw chicken or turkey breast hung over the still, soaking in the vapors while also adding to the end result of the mezcal’s flavor. My favorite bottle on the left is safe for the vegetarian mezcal fan!

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The aforementioned grasshoppers and spice. Let the sip of mezcal lay on your tongue for a moment, then a nip into the orange slice and a few bits of the ‘hoppers popped in your mouth. Don’t rinse. Just repeat.

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Toothsome, tasty chips with a great guacamole and a rich black bean dip. The food advantage here is that it’s from the awesome hand of chef Denisse Lina Chavez who again reigns supreme next door. She opened this together with partner Noah Arenstein completing their mini Prospect Hts Mexican empire.

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Excellent bites to accompany all that mezcal. Shredded chicken tostadas with chipotle above and tuna tostadas below. The bar is destination worthy on its own but also works for a drink or two while you wait for your table next door.

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An unassuming oasis along the avenue. Streamlined and uncomplicated inside. The bar seats a baker’s dozen and there’s one banquette with table seating in the back.

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There’s also tequila, wine and beer in case someone joining you is not a mezcal aficionado. I have a feeling they’ll spend a little time here though and experience a sea change.

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Tiles brought from Puebla by the chef give a soupçon of fiesta, of color but always leaving the focus on the glass in front of you.

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Parting shots. Our charming bartender offers and enjoys a shot with customers as you leave. A lovely gesture especially when you need to be armed for the cold. Or even just life.

Madre Mezcaleria

706 Washington Avenue by Prospect Place

718.399.0706

Open daily 5pm – 2am

 

 

Behind The Green (Blue) Door

Karasu

Door #1, 2 or 3…hmmm. Always a chance you’ll miss the prize if you choose wrong, but not here. First door takes you into Walter’s, an agreeably hip neighborhood pub. Could be a very pleasant evening. Views of Fort Greene Park, cocktails, raw bar, fried chicken, weekend brunches. You know the drill. And it’s good. But if you march yourself straight to the back of the dining room and push open door #2, you will tumble down a chic NYC rabbit hole and find yourself in a speakeasy of the Japanese persuasion.

A peek through the Walter’s window…

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Door # 1

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We pass through tables of people enjoying themselves, the Walter’s hostess nods as we stare ahead purposefully. We follow her lead to the way back, an unlit hall and a large blue door. #2. She opens it, gesturing for us to go inside. We’ve arrived into cozy sophistication, an alternate universe of dining, imbibing, charm. Jazz spinning on a turntable, good jazz. Nothing to do but live a little.

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Art deco lighting, flattering and indirect of course, with Japanese blonde screens, deep blue walls, all hand built by the owners out of a former doctor’s office.

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Gorgeous bar. Big beveled mirror. Congenial waitstaff in very cool jackets with large buttons and small pockets. It’s all sumptuous, lush, au courant but not precious.

Owners Dylan Dodd and Danny Minch along with Head Chef Yael Peet, chef Josh Goldstein,  and infamous barkeep Thomas Waugh have created something they refer to as Kyoto casual, a modern take on seriously seasonal Japanese dining. Peet’s offerings take strong influences from izakaya, robata and kaiseki cuisine with an ever changing menu. It’s all sensational. Mr Waugh hails from ZZ’s Clam Bar and the Major Food Group, and has devised a grand list of incredible Japanese whiskeys and sakes. Sometimes a classic drink is the thing, but should you be feeling frisky and devil may care, he has a coterie of cocktails re-imagined with timely Japanese ingredients, augmenting smoky, sweet, citrus, creatively inspired beauties guaranteed to tease and thrill. I’m talking about the cocktails.

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A friend had the Smoked Palomino with mezcal, sherry and grapefruit. August in a glass. Layers of smoky citrus and then a head spin as you hit notes of sherry.

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I had the Ginger Baker, partly because I’m a tequila fan but also because he is one of the greatest  drummers of all time. Reason enough to drink him. The reposado tequila, oolong tea, ginger and cassis were surprisingly complex and incredibly good. I had more than one.

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Hoyo “Sawayaka Junmai”. Soft and easy. One of many choices on a list of great sakes.

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It’s a 40 seat Japanese cocktail bar turning out a mean mix of spirits as well as divine food. As is the new normal, dishes are meant for sharing and are divided into snacks, raw bar, smaller plates and larger plates.

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Previous press tells the story of the name, Dylan Dodd was in a Seattle antiques shop and found a little carved figure that seemed very Japanese. Returning to Brooklyn with it in hand and without a name for the new spot, one of the Japanese chef’s suggested Karasu – loosely translated as little crow. Perfect.

Otsumami means bar snack of the day and we were lucky enough to be there for a favorite, uni wrapped in nori. It was sweet, briny, buttery. I can easily see sitting at the bar one day, nosing down one of the more rare whiskeys and indulging in several plates of these.

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Can potato salad be ambrosial? Yes Virginia. If it’s Japanese potato salad topped with miso and sesame seeds. Taking an American classic and flipping it upside-down. The Japanese way. Addictive is a word flung far and wide to cover almost anything lately but it seriously applies here.

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Karaage duck wings, four plump wing drums dressed with a kicky, spicy  sesame sauce and adorned with scallions.

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House made tagliatelle with uni in a smoky butter. I often feel that with uni pasta, there’s never enough of the prize ingredients to really be satisfying, but Chef Peet’s version is Japanese comfort at its best, a gratifying, impeccably composed dish that won’t let you go until the tears have stopped.

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Tonkatsu pork chop. With cabbage as it should be. Breading that’s light and crispy. Also as it should be. Because that’s how you do.

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Impeccable Donburi bowl, ocean trout sushi with ikura and rice. A tonic for these warm days.

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The whole fish is a meaty seafood parade of shiso pesto on a perfectly cooked daurade ordered with a side of seaweed flecked miso koshihikari rice. Superb. This is a dish to dive into, fingers, chopsticks, fork, whatever you can use quickly before a dining companion gets the better of you. Break apart the white filet, that lightly seasoned fatty skin, avoid the bones. You’re golden.

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Apparently one of the more revelatory reasons to get here pronto is for the aged prime rib steak rubbed with fermented koji rice then dipped into the accompanying vinegar sauce  – which seems to be akin to doing peyote in the Teachings of Don Juan. Mind blowing. We only had one steak eater at the table and it’s quite a substantial dish, so next time. It’s going to be the talk of the town if it isn’t already. Don’t miss out.

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Summer focused ice creams were offered for dessert – ginger, green tea matcha, and black sesame. I think flavors vary daily but these were sublime.

Sweet change.

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Karasu isn’t old world traditional but it’s also not hipster hell. It’s a gem. A grown up good time. Door #3 is the door to your heart, because you’ll like it here and will have found a new place to love. It’s a find. Especially when you push through the wardrobe door and…well…find it.

Karasu

166 DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene *located in the back of Walter’s

347.223.4811

Closed Tuesdays / Kitchen open weeknights 5:30-11:30 and weekends till midnight. The bar is open later.

 

 

Faro To Table

Faro

It’s cool, creamy, industrial chic, but also like a big-warm-everything-will-be-alright-I swear kind of hug. I’ve been lucky enough to dine here a few times and each visit reminds me that Portland has nothing on NYC. Plus there’s that Roman Gnocchi but I’ll get to that later.

Owned by married partners, Chef Kevin Adey and wife Deborah, who handles the front of house, they have a combined lineage of Jean Georges, Le Bernardin and most recently, Northeast Kingdom, also in Bushwick. Together they’ve created a restaurant with unaffected charm that truly and soundly is farm and grain mill to table. Others may do it, or tease it but these two are living their dream. Wood fired food, ranging from locally grown rooftop vegetables to NY state grown grains that are hand milled in house, a farmer’s ethically produced meat, to local fish and pastas that are conjured from just made grains by the hands behind the counter.

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If you live nearby, likely the streets will feel more familiar and less deserted to you as the “L” or the Uber pulls up. But I love nothing more than having no idea where you are, peering through a dark evening and seeing the light. So to speak. No reservations, and if you encounter a brief wait, no matter. Great staff, splendid food. It’s  worth it.

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Now, a tavola! Started with an on tap NY State Rosé that was delightful and set the tone of pleasure and whimsy for the food. There’s definitely a sly wit behind the range. Plus we added house made warm bread with butter that is just impossible to deny. It’s a menu item and they only make a few loaves a day so you should just go for it. Carbs are not the thing to fear here. Embrace and revel.

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There’s a good list of wines, local beers and twelve lovingly designed cocktails. Apparently the whiskey sour is the one to beat, made with Medley Bros. 102 Heritage Bourbon and with twists and dashes of this & that, it has garnered raves all around.

Two different porridges from two different visits, both divine. At one dinner a friend looked directly into the bowl and asked, where have you been all my life? It’s supreme comfort and tantalizing seduction all at once.

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The illustrious, widely acclaimed Sweet Pea Porridge with local grains, morel mushrooms and foamy whey. Essence of spring. Fabulous. Did I mention that?

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This week it was a lovely combination of corn, chanterelles and scallions. You just wouldn’t have expected porridge in the current dining scene to rate so highly and echo Oliver’s cry of “please sir, could I have some more?”

Several more digressions before we hit what might be considered the main courses. Larger plates? We shared everything each time so it was all just a huge feast to me.

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Fire Roasted Beet with a local farm egg and pistachio pesto sit atop a cream of goat cheese. The four main ingredients are all winners, bringing out the very best in each other. Inspired.

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Tomatoes and cucumbers from nearby Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, in an escarole boat with scattered bits of feta. Simple, delightful, summer.

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Wood fire roasted carrots. Like being in Italy, good Italian cooking is the sum of the ingredients not the now popular foam to table techniques. Another entry from Brooklyn Grange Farm. Truly locavore, even the same boro.

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Peekytoe Crab with corn and a dollop of creme fraiche was fresh and summery but the only dish I’ve eaten here that seemed to be missing a soupçon of something. Maybe because my companions cleaned off the creme fraiche before I got into it and that could have made the difference? Still very nice but it’s in tough competition with my table’s other dishes.

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Corn tortellini with mascarpone, chanterelles and carmelized bits of fresh corn was a late spring entree and it’s salty sweet subtlety still lingers in my mind. The chanterelles were a wonderful counter to the corn’s creamy earthiness, and gave the pasta a peppery finish with a hint of their apricot musk. Hope it returns. June is right around the corner right? Sigh.

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A special pasta the other evening was a delicate garganelli with insanely -can’t worship enough- peppers from the clearly profound fields of Brooklyn Grange Farm. Perfectly folded, toothsome squares of pasta. This almost made me regret the second order of the Roman Gnocchi for the table but I digress.

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An on-the-menu pasta is the somewhat infamous Squid Ink Calamaretti served with Maine lobster in a light coconut curry milk. All of the pastas are so beautifully, brilliantly cooked – it’s almost like the perfect chip, bet you can’t eat just one. The lobster was spot on and we all loved that the pasta shape appears as squid rings so it was not only delicious but amusing. Pasta with a sense of humor. Who knew.

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There is much to be enjoyed from sustainably sourced and ethically produced meats on the menu but we only got as far as the Wood Fired Scallops with peas, bottarga and milled right there by the chef – emmer (farro). These were just great. The ideal sear, charred crust that sinks into that sweet scallop brine as you bite it.

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As much as I enjoyed everything and am clearly a fan, my heart is seated squarely in that Roman Gnocchi. This is just heaven. It’s not a light dish, two large pieces of semolina covered in yet more from Brooklyn Grange gold – swiss chard or kale, depending on what month you dined here. Then cream and salt cured egg yolks. Apparently the egg is smoked overnight in the embers of all that wood-firing and then shaved over the rich, soft grain. I can’t get enough. It’s luscious. Best word I can think of for it. Truly luscious.

The space is big, bright and airy, a former warehouse for Moma art storage. A minimal fifty seats keep diners feeling spacious and comfortable. Decorated (that word minimally applicable here) sparely. White walls, startlingly high ceilings, custom built tables and the coup de grace, locally handcrafted high fire clay plates by artist Sarah Ritz through her company Freundeskreis. They’re all varied, muted hues and beautiful. And as intended, go impeccably with the decor and most importantly the philosophy behind Faro. Local, artisanal, community.

The tables were even custom sized to accommodate the ample plates and bowls, all of which were created to allow for diners with shared plates and glasses to actually have room at the table. So nice to be considered for a change.

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Innovative, outstanding cooking with more than a nod to local and sustainable sources, a celebration of respect and collaboration for regional growers, producers, artists and most emphatically, the food Chef Adey creates himself.

Faro
436 Jefferson Street
Bushwick, Brooklyn
718.381.8201
Open daily from 6pm-11pm

Thai This…

Chiang Mai

By now, anyone who is interested in restaurant news knows that when the originally illustrious Kao Soy opened in Red Hook, Brooklyn, it was much lauded, but then drumroll… a parting of the ways occurred less than a year after it opened. Co-chef Kanlaya Supachana left and started up her own new spot just down the way. It may only park in the Home Made Cafe space for six months while she looks for a more permanent home, but at least we are the immediate benefactors of pop-up land in a big way. This is authentic, contemporary, fierce, filled with heart Thai food.

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The vibe here is great. Brick walls, mismatched tables and chairs, sculpted pigs in the window and a chalkboard where the quote changes daily.

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However, the wonderful soulful vibe has nothing on the food here. This is remarkable and dare I say – meaningful cooking. You can taste her intention, the legacy of her father’s recipes, her technique that is beautifully displayed in the pleasing and very assertive spicing. It’s unique and without compromise.

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We started with Mamuang Nam Pla Wan. Raw green mango with sweet chili shallot dip. Perfectly ripe mango, a soupçon of the good to come.

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Tum Mamuang, green mango pounded with palm sugar, garlic, and dry chili made in the northern style. This one is done with plaa raa, a fermented fish sauce instead of regular fish sauce. It’s refined, luscious and tongue sizzling, served on betel leaves so you can wrap up a few sticks and bite into the filled leaf, for that edge of sweet coolness that is deliciously welcome.

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Jin Som Mok has become one of the most talked about dishes. Grilled fermented ground pork with pork skin, pig’s ear, garlic and chili in banana leaves, served with the usual holy trinity of ginger, shallots and peanuts. It has that addictive salty-sour-lime-peanut-ginger thing that you can’t get enough of. And there’s no reason you should stop trying.

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Krabong – butternut squash, taro and banana blossom fritters with a spicy chili vinaigrette sauce & sweet peanut chili sauce. It’s fried delight all the way around – crunchy, an earthy sweetness and yet light…and those banana blossoms are even better than they were at the former restaurant. Better mood, better blossoms?

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Khoong Yang, delicately grilled prawns with spicy Nam Jim Talay and sweet peanut chili sauce was choice. One of the prawns was a bit overcooked but I forgive. On the whole it was a juicy, delightfully satisfying dish.

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Pla Nueng See-ew, steamed fish filets with soy ginger sauce, Yu Choi, celery and scallions. So simple right? But the broth is sublime, rounded and rich. No thai bread for sopping of course though these are the times when it would be so nice.

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There’s much more to taste here, friends flipped for the hangar steak redolent of thai spices as well as the many other pork dishes available. All the more reason to come back.

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There’s a full beer and wine list. We thought we’d start with a beer and move on to the more than decent wines but our beers were great and perfect with the meal. Good to know there are wines there to choose from though that would compliment perfectly.

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Contributing to the food, atmosphere and the heart here, are the staff. There’s a sweetness and sincerity, an eagerness to please. Much like the aesthetics of the plating. Dishes are served with expected Thai accoutrements like banana leaves and cilantro but here they are charmingly, gracefully arranged on the plate.

I didn’t get to see the back garden, a must before the weather or the pop-up changes but I know the chef grows flowers back there and creates interesting and lovely arrangements in the front of house from her forays to the flower market. It’s that care and attention to every detail that is so prevalent in every bite she offers.

I wish I lived next door. I’d go all the time. This is the kind of place that you want to get to asap and then return to again and again while it’s here. Hopefully Chiang Mai will land somewhere for good and we won’t have to forgive ourselves for not dining here as much as we know we should have. Or at the very least, enjoy it often for the next six months or so and no self flagellation will be required.

Chiang Mai
293 Van Brunt Street between King/Pioneer Street
646.858.5185
Sunday-Thursday 12-3:30 / 5-10:00
Friday-Saturday 12-3:30 / 5-10:30

Eastern Yang of a Different Color

Lomzynianka

Go Polish or go home. Greenpoint Brooklyn is pretty much the epicenter of great NYC dining these days along with Bushwick and Bed Sty. Obviously there are wonderful finds all throughout the borough(s) but from ethnic to a gourmand’s nirvana, these three areas have more than arrived.

So yeah, seems like a better plan to eat Yin food in a Yang season. Things that are cooling and hydrating really do appeal. Except when treated to brunch at one of the best Polish restaurants in NYC. Oh well. Chi imbalance but happy tummy.

There are a couple of lovely Polish venues in Greenpoint but I do have a soft spot for Lomzynianka. Lovely staff in a dark and plastic home away from home. Brick wallpaper, crackly tablecloths and always holiday decorated stag heads. Toss in lace curtains and tiny homey table lamps and you have a lovely respite from the unrelenting sunshine plus comfort food of a pretty high order. Mama must be in the kitchen because the food is definitely made with love.

Pickled vegetables, coleslaw and shredded beets served in a cold jumble are as refreshing as any offering for the table could be. Sugar, vinegar, tang. It’s perfect. But if nothing else – hop trains, buses, snag a ride just for the red cabbage and creamy cucumbers. And dill. They do love their dill here. The dish is cooling and flavorful, makes you forget the heat outside and the nap you’ll need later. I didn’t want to stop eating it.

But if you were to only use your metro pass for one dish, the red cabbage is in direct competition with the potato pancakes. It’s like having candy, potato pancake candy. Dip your forkful in apple sauce or sour cream or both. The delicate crunch, slightly oily, addictive sweetness adopts the Lays adage – bet you can’t eat just one. And even if you could – why would you want to?

It’s cheap enough to try everything, if you have the appetite capacity for it all. Borscht comes in red with dumplings and vegetables or white with sausage and bits of hard boiled egg. Sweet, sour, savory – they leave no beet unturned. Served with a rye bread basket, both borschts (say that 5x fast) are fabulous though the white seems to be the borscht that dreams are made of.

Don’t forget the ethereal veal meatballs, who would have thought that fluffy would be your go to word here? My dining companion flipped for the kielbasa sausage stuffed with savory pork and covered in the crispiest of skin. I like a good pierogie and had to go with fried over boiled. Shimmering golden brown and filled either with sauerkraut/mushroom, farmer cheese or potato and cheese. Still sticking with oozing fluffiness here. Plenty of horseradish later, I was done.

Lomzynianka’s food dispels the eastern european myth most often subscribed to of heavy, filling and maybe tasteless. While not the likes of a green smoothie, their food shines for it’s lighter hand. The herbs and sauces are a quirky marriage of european cultures merged by history and injected with the sharp clarity of juniper. Kind of heady. No need to wait for winter, truck on over in bermudas and see for yourself.

Lomzynianka
646 Manhattan Avenue / Greenpoint
718.389.9439
Cash only and BYO

* Header photo by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com

Anella Grew In Brooklyn

Anella

Brooklyn dining is fantastic and in my opinion, Greenpoint just may be at the top of this food chain. Among the jewels, we find a red diamond right on Franklin Street, tho it could make perfect sense in the Marais. Unassuming, unapologetic, unbelievably good and tres charmant. They make it clear that this is how and what that they want to serve and that you will in fact – enjoy it. All in a loving, seasonal, guileless and slightly assertive way. And I was thrilled.

I’m not sure it’s possible to have better food at reasonable prices surrounded by such a warm, comfortable-with-an-edge vibe. Brooklyn or beyond. The distressed walls, natural elements, subdued (and ever popular) edison bulbs set a tone of rustic chic. So it works well for a special evening or for just getting some dinner with pals. Plus there’s a garden! And brunch. No need to ever leave…

The night I went we were offered some early springtime specials. Soft poached eggs on creamy polenta with foraged mushrooms and spring garlic. A jubilee of happiness. Heaven as made in a mortar and pestle, creamy upon creaminess. Can you ever go wrong with burrata? Not really but here it’s even more right. And it came with a cracker like accompaniment that we had to refill just for it’s own oiled saltiness. Spring pea soup topped with mascarpone was as joyous and comforting as spotting the first robin red breast of the season. Throw in the charred sgombro (holy mackerel!) with toasted pearl couscous and calabrian chilies and my aim is true. That was insanely good and beautifully spiced.

The infamous bread comes in a claypot, it stands up in quarters as if to be something vegetal I imagine but it’s chewiness begs to be slathered in the soft salted butter. The match doesn’t disappoint. I usually deny myself this portion of the evening but not this night. Not this bread. Not this butter.

Roasted chicken with honey, garlic, black kale and panelle made this dish sing. Nothing ubiquitous here. Just bliss. But of course for me – it was the stuzzichini with wild ramps, fava beans and brown butter.

I have no words. It. Was. Great.

The wine list is very pleasant with nothing really crazy out there but all very trustworthy choices. Plus cocktails that match the seasonality of the food.

Brunch features a renowned bloody mary and a french toast with apples etc that I haven’t yet tried. But I will. I want to be back there. Now.

Anella
222 Franklin Street between Green/Huron Streets
718.389.8100.
*in spite of what has been written, they do take reservations (needed) and credit cards now.

* Header photo taken by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com