A Catfish Grows in Brooklyn – Review of Catfish

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Catfish

Inside Catfish – Photo courtesy of Catfish.

Catfish
1433 Bedford Ave
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
347-305-3233 /catfishnyc.com/

On an underdeveloped stretch of Bedford Ave. in Crown Heights, one that I’m sure won’t stay that way for long due to the rapidly evolving Brooklyn landscape, Catfish opens its doors daily for weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner of the New Orleans persuasion.  Fair prices ensure a neighborhood vibe drawing neighborhood people.  Catfish is a place to linger at the bar on a lazy Sunday or a place for brunch with a friend; a place where it’s easy to become a “regular”.  In the summer, a breezy front entrance and a comfortable garden out back will be the perfect places to soak up the sun, enjoy a beer, and nosh on some oysters or clams on the half shell.

Owners, Maxx Colson, Aaron Giroux, and Luke Wheeler could very well be mistaken for members of your local rock band – the kind that girls swoon over- but instead met while working at a DUMBO gastropub together.  They’re young, hungry, and ready to do whatever it takes to make Catfish all that it can be.

While working a limited menu for the first few months, Catfish now offers a full menu with all your bayou favorites.  Po’ boys, Jambalaya, and gumbo stand front and center with a New Orleans style cornbread (served with cinnamon butter) that can’t be missed.  A conservatively priced whiskey and scotch list as well as a thoughtful draft and bottled beer selection round out the menu and ensure that you’ll stick around for more than one drink.

I hope Catfish will appeal to both the new residents of Crown Heights as well as the old.  A place where differences will melt away with shots of rye whiskey in the name of a good ‘ole fashion, good time.

Catfish on Urbanspoon

Soul Food Arrives on Bedford Avenue: A Review of Sweet Chick

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Sweet Chick
164 Bedford Ave.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 725-4793 / sweetchicknyc.com/

 

Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Collard Greens and Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

Collard Greens and Fried Chicken at Sweet Chick

I was thirsty, nauseous and I wanted gum immediately after.

I foraged through a bucket of chicken at Sweet Chick, the new soul food hotspot on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. An actual bucket, not in my living room in front of the TV, but in an actual restaurant.

When in Williamsburg, I’d rather trek to the smaller streets than hang on big bad Bedford Avenue. Sweet Chick is literally steps from the L train, not enough distance for me to enjoy being in Williamsburg.

The restaurant has been busy since it opened February 19. They’re even adding a late-night (12am-2am) menu, beginning this weekend, to accommodate the demand.

Not to sound like an old lady (which happens often), but the place was so dark I could barely see the food I was eating. I asked our server afterward what was in the slaw. It was collard greens, but it was so overly dressed I could barely taste anything. I would have loved some braised collard greens, and that’s something they could easily have cooked or partially cooked in advance, versus slopping some slaw into a bowl. It was overwhelming.

If you want fried chicken, you can get two pieces of chicken with your choice of waffle for $16, or opt for a bucket with the slaw and a biscuit for $17. That’s a pretty pricy bucket of chicken. I wish they had served a plate alongside to make eating it easier, but I was excited to dig in. The highlight of the meal was the chicken wing. They braise the chicken in sweet tea to give it moisture. That wing was insane! The white meat was fine, but not as moist as others (Pies ‘n’ Thighs is still a showstopper.) Also, some bites had more of a spicy kick than others. Hopefully, the chefs will work out a consistent flavor profile.

The cornbread was not crispy on the outside, and not warm. It tasted like what you grab in plastic wrap from the grocery store or deli.

The biscuit was bland, not anything close to the decadent softness I wish it had. It was hard to finish. Also it’s not served with condiments, but I used some of my friend’s butter (three different butters, actually) that came with her waffle. Still not enthused.

Some of their specials included general tso’s fried chicken with a rice broccoli waffle. A nice touch for the veg crowd, they have fried seitan as well. It wasn’t bad, though a bit soggy, the skin not as crisp as on the fried chicken.

The cocktail I had was tasty: the Sweet Chick, with house-infused watermelon vodka and a spicy brown sugar rim. They use Bootlegger vodka, produced in Roscoe, New York, for this one. Still, all of the cocktails were at least $11, a bit much to charge just because local artisan ingredients are used. (Another one has Jack Daniel’s Honey and soda from Brooklyn Soda Works.) Also, fruit-infused vodka is not hard to make.

The place is cute, with waffle pans on the walls in some spots. I think I’d be more into it if it had a more Southern feel; it still looks very Brooklyn. I hope the food gets better and cheaper; the late-night menu might be the way to go.

Now enough chirping from me, go try Sweet Chick for yourselves.

Sweet Chick on Urbanspoon

Serving Locally Sourced World Cuisine with a Side of Neighborhood Vintage – Review of Trix

BY ELENA MANCINI

147 Bedford Avenue
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
http://www.trixnyc.com/

A stone’s toss away from the bustle and human bottle-necking of the Bedford and North 7th L train subway stop stands Trix, an original restaurant that pays  tribute to the vestigial industrial character of Williamsburg’s Northside.

Trix - Art

With original artwork that melds garage with lyrical, encompassing portraiture, industrial scultptures and craftsmanship by Minneapolis-based artist, James Johnson, Trix exudes unforced bohemian appeal. The aesthetic concept behind Trix is the result of  restaurateur, Veso Buntic (also owner of Anabale Basin in Long Island City) and Johnson’s close collaboration. A venture that began in 2011, both artist and entrepreneur wanted to incorporate visual artifacts that would evoke the restaurant’s previous occupant and a nod the the Williamsburg of a grittier era. Belinda’s Go-Go Lounge inhabited the site until 1987.  Belinda’s occupied the space until 1987, and is memorialized with stained-glass lettering on Trix’s storefront and tasteful portraiture in the restaurant’s interior.  

Trix -Bar Detail

 

Trix-Onyx Bar

Trix

As to the interior, sheets of gray metal span the length and breadth of the ceiling. Flamingo mosaics adorn the base of a sumptuously sculptured bar. A wave like structure in pewter forms the base and 100 year old lit alabaster spans the bar top. With arachnid sculptures hanging from the walls, the expansive bar weds Goth with Miami deco. If the visual effects of the bar will draw you in, Trix’s winning speakeasy-style cocktail list designed by  Dusan Zaric of Manhattan’s Employee’s Only and an eclectic wine list definitely want to make you stay a while.  The Amelia cocktail prepared with fresh blackberry juice, elderflower and vodka is a wonderfully smooth way to downshift after a long day at work or to spark a night out. For a more warming pick-up, opt for the Peach Smash, made with Makers Mark and Creme de Peche with lemon juice. Most cocktails are under $15 and closer to $10. They can be had at a discounted price in addition to $3 beers and $5 select wines during Trix’s  Monday – Friday (4-8) happy hour. $1 oysters with a complexly fiery harissa sauce complete this happy hour bonanza.

Pescetarians and seafood lovers will find themselves cheerfully rewarded with a locally-sourced French-inspired menu with global influences executed by Chef Ian Pasquer. However, the offerings hold ample selections for the meat-and-poultry-oriented as well. A great deal of Trix’s  fish and seafood is sourced by D’Artagnan in Manhattan. Small plates range from $6-$12. Entrees range from the low 20s to $25. Desserts are under $10.

Trix-3

Honey-tenderized grilled octopus salad was an enjoyable small plate. Optimally-charred and supremely tender, the octopus rested atop a bed of aged  balsamic dressed watercress making it a highly recommendable starter-choice. Mushroom polenta is a grounding and tasty vegetarian alternative. Perfectly crisp and delicate wedges of polenta are perched atop a bed of cremini mushrooms in a white wine reduction. Shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano tie the flavors and textures together.

Trix2

A felicitous adaptation of escargot was Chef Pasquer’s appetizer, Stuffed Icy-Blue  Mussels with Almond Escargot Butter. The fulsome and yielding mussels were deliciously stuffed with breadcrumbs and Mediterranean herbs in a piping hot Almond Butter sauce making a dish worthy of standing on its own and not in the shadow of its conch-housed cousin.

Scallops and foie gras delivered their own distinct flavor rewards. The scallops, soft as clouds furnished the unmediated flavors of the sea. The foie gras was predictably rich, but had an added dimension of tang that deepened its earthy flavors.

Seared yellowfin tuna came perfectly rare with a side of anchovy caper salad.

Chocolate suicide was a flourless decadently creamy triumph by Chef Pasquer, who is also Trix’s pastry chef.

Polite and knowledgeable service, expertly executed quality ingredients and moderate tabs make Trix a fun, low-key restaurant with flavor rewards, and a trip on the overly-congested L line well worthwhile.

 

Trix on Urbanspoon

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

Sao Mai on Urbanspoon

A nice spot for affordable Italian – Review of Speedy Romeo’s

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Speedy Romeo’s
376 Classon Ave.
Clinton Hill
718-230-0061/speedyromeo.com

Mushroom egg pizza

An adorable Italian spot just opened in Clinton Hill.

And unlike most Brooklyn restaurants, no matter how delicious or trendy, this one has an awesome bathroom. Yeah, that’s right — a spacious, clean, brand new bathroom. It’s exciting.

On an early summer’s night, sitting right by the open window and enjoying a variety of bites was lovely and relaxing.

Though it sounds like a luxury limo service you might use on Valentine’s Day, Speedy Romeo’s offers a variety of small plates and brick oven pizza, along with larger entrees.

The caesar salad, with a single anchovy laid on top, was forgettable. A highlight was stuffed red and green peppers with sopressatta and ricotta, lightly charred on top. These had a perfect balance of sweet, spicy and salty — certainly a hit. I’m still thinking about the perfect brunch pizza I had on another visit. It had egg, mozzarella, wild mushrooms, and sage, with the scorched crust shining through on each bite. It was heavenly. You can also add two eggs to any pizza for $4 during brunch.

The restaurant provides a jar of housemade pickled chili peppers, a very nice touch, as it’s fun to experiment with kicking the heat up once in a while, especially on the pizzas.

Pickled chilis

Stuffed peppers

The food isn’t over-the-top or trying too hard. But it is good for what it is — nothing hugely innovative but made with care and the customers’ happiness in mind. Each ingredient came through as very fresh and delicious, and the service was great. They were having fun, and it seemed like they actually were happy to be serving the food, which is a good sign.

I love that the back of the restaurant smells so smoky — it reminds me of an Italian restaurant I went to as a kid. That scent of crackly fire is the ultimate comfort.

Speedy Romeo’s also serves lunch, but is currently closed on Mondays for “fine tuning,” according to their web site.

I can’t wait to try more dishes at this cozy spot.

Speedy Romeo on Urbanspoon

“The Next Big Small Brand” boosts a new food venture

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Last night’s “Next Big Small Brand” contest at BAM pitted three emerging San Francisco companies against three New York ones to receive help advancing their brand. The winner gets branding and strategy assistance, PR representation, retail opportunities (including Whole Foods and Brooklyn Flea), and kitchen equipment.

Attendees had a chance to sample the companies’ products and understand how they’re setting out to reshape the food landscape.

The contestants:

Big Dipper Baby Food

Big Dipper Baby Food (San Francisco)
-Offering fresh, organic infant purees in their store and delivery to schools in San Francisco and Marin County, California, this company hopes to promote healthy eating from the start. I greatly enjoyed their baked apple, whipped parsnips, beef marrow and cardamom creation. It was tasty! These guys are making wholesome possibilities accessible to parents and planting healthier foods in schools. They’re also proving that adults and babies can eat the same foods, making it easy for parents to whip up their own concoctions!
bigdipperbabyfood.com/

Mac and cheese pies

Pie Corps (New York)
Who doesn’t love pie? This dynamic duo offers up both sweet and savory pies of all varieties, like fried chicken with gravy and beans or mac and cheese with pickled jalapenos and onion rings. With so many options across the spectrum, this was the longest line all night. Thanks to them for topping off an already decadent evening with a maple bacon pie on a stick. Woohoo!
piecorps.com/

Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco)
-Like two modern-day Willy Wonkas, Cameron Ring and Todd Masonis truly love chocolate, and have a very close relationship with it. Though there’s no chocolate river quite yet, these guys are churning out tiny batches of the good stuff, each bar crafted by hand.
dandelionchocolate.com/

Spicy-kick chia chargers


NY Superfoods (New York)
Using Bolivian chia seeds as the basis for their snacks and nut butters, these guys are paving the way for this omega-3 superstar to really shine. Their products are soy-free, dairy-free and vegan, and the all-natural ingredients are listed very clearly on the packaging. NY Superfoods won the contest!
nysuperfoods.com/

Black Jet Baking Company (San Francisco)
-These guys bring “nostalgic baked goods with an edge,” the “edge” mostly being their personalities, baker Max Shaw said. Aside from that, they make the best coconut macaroon I’ve ever tasted. Moist, chewy, and not too sweet, this was my favorite sample of the night. Shaw and founder Gillian Sara Shaw took home the People’s Choice prize.
blackjetbakingco.com/

Planet Fuel (New York)
Trying to limit kids’ sugar intake is certainly a challenge, but this company offers organic juices mixed with natural spring water in a recyclable, re-sealable aluminum can. Not only that, but a portion of the proceeds are donated to various environmental organizations. My favorite was Wilderness Will’s Organic Apple Grape, made with natural spring water, organic apple juice concentrate, and organic concord grape juice concentrate. I think these are great for kids, keeping them hydrated but giving them a little bit of flavor to enjoy.
planetfuel.com/

Previous contest winners were Sweet Loren for her all-natural, ready-to-bake desserts (2011) and Kombucha Brooklyn for their deliciously healthy fermented tea beverages (2010).

A Contemporary Brooklyn Spin on Big Easy – Review of Fort Defiance

BY CRAIG CAVALLO

Fort Defiance
365 Van Brunt St. (at Dikeman St.)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 453-6672 / fortdefiancebrooklyn.com/

Muffaletta at Fort Defiance

When you walk in to the restaurant you won’t find yourself standing in front of a podium.  Your last name doesn’t matter and ‘party of five’ would just be a Jennifer Love-Hewitt reference.  There’s no host or hostess and you certainly won’t find a maitre’d making pleasantries.  You’re water is going to be filtered.  So long as it’s not sparkling you won’t be charged for it, and although the restaurant is in Brooklyn, there’s no room for strollers.  The only conventions Fort Defiance boasts are a front door and a chef.

A sign hanging inside at the end of the bar explains how Fort Defiance was built during the Revolutionary War to help detain ships from entering the East River.  The bar itself is set beneath large panels of dark wood that suggest the hull of a cargo ship.  The night I dined there the captain smiled and waved me in.  Her name is Abigail and it turns out she’s leaving for New Orleans in a couple weeks.  The cocktail list is headed with an homage to her departure and, in regards to her drinks, suggests you ‘Get em while you can.’  Ingredients like flamed orange peel and rosemary smoke reveal cocktails that express the vision Fort Defiance has.

Pickled herring sits in horse radish and creme fraiche and manages to retain a freshness despite its preparation.  Biting into the dense, meaty flesh invites a sensation that must be the human equivalent to bears catching salmon swimming upstream.

Monday’s are burger nights at F.D. and it’ll only run you $10.  For $12 you’ll get a beer with your burger.  Make it $14 and you can wash down the perfectly seasoned blend of lean and fatty cuts from Pino’s Prime Meats with homemade punch–obviously spiked.  The burger is dressed economically; lettuce, red onion, and pickles.  It’s accompanied by a side of roasted potatoes that is kept warm in a cast iron skillet, the likes of which can be seen through the pass being tossed with the same frequency a saucier may skim the fat off a stock.  A pleasant spectacle though perhaps a better plate of food if the potatoes were hot out of the oven.

Aqua walls invoke more maritime spirit and lend themselves to a bright room should you decide to dine here for lunch.  Any of the $6 beers on tap are the perfect companion to the New Orleans inspired muffaletta.  The history of its creation at Fort Defiance started with St. John Frizell’s longing for the sandwich he became familiar with living in The Big Easy for eight years.  He is the owner and proprietor of the restaurant so no one could really tell him having muffaletta’s FedExed from New Orleans was a bad idea.  His intention?  Dissect the sandwich and put it back together using local products.  The result?
 An authentic product trapped between perfectly toasted lips of bread that scream of cured pork, briny olives, and rich Provolone and Emmental cheeses.  The sandwich is a symbol for the effort that goes in to the restaurant.

Adam Baumgart is the current chef and his well-crafted menu exists in a remote corner of Brooklyn.  Peter Luger’s gets diners from all over the country.  Roberta’s serves sweet breads to patrons from the Upper East Side.  Fort Defiance may not have what it takes to entice guests from all reaches of the city but you quickly get the feeling that’s not what they’re after.  Instead, Fort Defiance succeeds as a subtle, reliable, neighborhood fixture and shows no signs of going anywhere.  These notions are quickly set into place after one of the servers or the bartender catch your eye and politely steer you to a table, should there happen to be one open.

Fort Defiance on Urbanspoon

Gourmet Execution and the Comfort of Brooklyn – Review of Vinegar Hill House

BY CRAIG CAVALLO

72 Hudson Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-522-1018 / vinegarhillhouse.com/
Dinner
Monday – Thursday, 6 – 11
Friday and Saturday, 6 – 1130
Sunday 530 – 11
Brunch
Saturday and Sunday, 11am – 330

Tucked in a corner of Brooklyn, about as close to the nearest train as it is the Lower East Side, Vinegar Hill is a dozen or so streets sandwiched by the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Heights.  The neighborhood gets its name from the Battle of VinegarHill, which took place in Northern Ireland during the Irish Rebellion of  1798.  Eight years later, in 1806, the Brooklyn Navy Yard became an active shipyard, and 202 years after that, Sam Buffa and former Freemans chef Jean Adamson opened Vinegar Hill House.

You are liable to walk right past the restaurant.  It’s on a quiet cobblestone street and from outside it looks like nothing more than a modest farm house.  Inside it’s warm and dim; there’s a wood burning oven in the back whose digital temperature reads 749 degrees.    Old hard wood floors set the stage in this theater and there’s not an empty seat in the house.  That’s not a terribly challenging task given the 40 seat capacity, but given its location, and the temperature of a January night in New York, you get the idea that the food is going to be worth the trek.

The copper bar offers to hold your elbows as you wait for a table.  They’re all good choices, except for the one that didn’t finish the transformation from a tree.  It sits just inside the entrance as a small, kidney shaped slab of wood that is not sensible or necessary.  We had to join the statistic of guests that asked to be moved.  The food is too good here for the likes of such tables.

After a short stint in the oven, the croutons in the Caesar Salad ($11) are fried in schmaltz.  The preparation leaves the outside crunchy while the middle stays tender and warm.  The dressing had the perfect amount of acidity, fat, and saltiness that comes from a classic incorporation of Caesar dressing ingredients.  For the price though I thought another handful of romaine wouldn’t have hurt the food cost.

The handmade garganelli ($16) were the right choice for a sauce of preserved lemon, capers, chick peas, and kale.  It was a light dish that excited the palate but could have benefited from a grating of pecorino.

The wild boar shank ($24) rested on a delicious, but restricted portion of grits.  The wood stove proves to be an exceptional heating element when it comes to finishing a braise, as the meat pulls effortlessly from the bone and melts in the diner’s mouth.  The dusting of fennel pollen that covers the pecan grits is exactly the breath of fresh air an otherwise rich entree may have suffocated without.

There is something timeless and satiating when it comes to eating this particular cut of meat.  Jonathan Safran Foer may disagree on this point, but it speaks to the human soul in the same manner as a campfire, when you’re staring into one on the prairie—instilled in humans after centuries of hunting and evolution.

The food is exceptional at Vinegar Hill House.  It is well thought out, professionally executed, and perfectly seasoned.  The place is quaint, the menu is economical and concise, and the service is an ideal match for the restaurant’s vision.  It executes the Brooklyn restaurant theme to near perfection but forgets the lower overheads that distinguishes them from others across the river in Manhattan.  With a Brooklyn location, Vinegar Hill House has the ability to offer New Yorkers what Manhattan restaurants don’t and others in Brooklyn do.  All they need to cross their t’s and dot their i’s is tune up the portions or tone down the prices.

Vinegar Hill House on Urbanspoon

A New Asian-American Post Poised to Send Park Slope Abuzz – Review of Talde

BY CRAIG CAVALLO

Talde
Hours are Monday – Sunday 5pm – 12am
369 7th Ave.
Park Slope, Brooklyn
347-916-0031 / taldebrooklyn.com/

Iceberg wedge served with "sri-rancha"

Two huge square windows lend a peek into the restaurant as you walk north on 7th Ave towards 11th Street in Park Slope.  The name above the entrance is Talde.  It is the new creation from
Top Chef alum Dale Talde and neighborhood veterans David Massoni and John Bush.  Chef aside, the duo has earned a respectable name for themselves running their nearly two year old outpost down the street, ThistleHillTavern.

It is usually a gamble choosing to eat at a restaurant on opening night.  The early opening with friends and family can only soften the blow so much.  But, everything seemed in place walking into Talde at 8:15.  That includes the beautiful, ornate, 150 year old dark wood that once sat in a Mamaroneck mansion upstate and now helps to welcome patrons out of the cold.  The room was clean, the floors weren’t scratched and there was no gum under the tables.

The service, like the food, is fresh and enthusiastic.  The algorithm between spicy food and water levels is thankfully understood at Talde.

The beverage options are not exceptional but there is something for everyone.  There is sake, wine by the glass, including a white and red option from China, $10 cocktails, and a safe selection of both draft and bottled beers.  The brief bottle list is efficient and offers wines mostly from Italy, France, and a handful of states, many of which are from artisanal producers practicing organic wine making methods.

The menu is simple, short and concise, economic, and riddled with influence from Dale Talde’s Philipino background.  It is encouraged to share here and that is never a bad thing.  The dishes seemed to have a mind of their own and came from the kitchen to our table following their own schedule.  Only once did I raise a brow, when the side of black pepper toast ($3) hit the table after the apps and before any of the mains.  Albeit delicious, and basically cinnamon toast for grown ups, it was odd having it arrive on its own.

Start with the PerillaLeaf ($7).  It is covered with shrimp, peanuts, and a tamarind infused caramel that are all easily hoisted to the diner’s mouth using the leaf as the vehicle.  It is a provocative combination of flavors that excites the palate and readies one for a full meal.

The Hawaiian Bread Buns ($11) come in three’s and offer three options, Filipino pork sausage, Long Island fluke, and a market vegetable, available in any combination.  Maybe a bit over priced, but a fun snack and an easy share.

The Saigon crepes ($11) were like an Asian quesadilla and the first introduction to the Chinese bacon that makes frequent, and pleasurable, cameo’s throughout the menu.  Chinese bacon is essentially pork belly and the way it is done here leaves the diner with a mild, lightly barbecued result.  The crepe is a light, crispy shell that traps bean sprouts, smoked shrimp, Chinese bacon, and mint.  A well thought out dish that is fresh and, ingredients considered, surprisingly light.

The iceberg wedge ($9) is remarkable and shows chef Talde’s ability to cross pollinate food from different cultures.  It is served with “sri-rancha”.  Sriracha is slow cooked in an Alto-Shaam until it dries out and turns into a powder and is then mixed with a homemade ranch.  All of which rains over crisp chunks of iceberg lettuce.  The Chinese bacon rears its pretty head and, in traditional style, wedges are finished with crumbles of blue cheese.  Perfect.

Neighborhood noodle nooks ZuZuRamen and Naruto have a new contender with the wonton noodle soup ($12) at Talde.  It is exactly what the heart and soul crave on a 16 degree winter night.  The broth is rich and clean and hot.  The pork wontons would have been just as good dressed in butter and sage and served at the likes of Ciano or Maialino.  The broccoli rabe was vibrant green and al dente.  It added to layers of flavor with its bitter crunch.   The smoked pork was on the dry side but the six-minute egg sat softly in the broth, once broken, its yellow soul was the yin to the broths yang.

The BBQ pork shoulder ($18) was a thick slab of pork that almost pulled apart by looking at it.  The pears it is served with were a step away from an afterthought but the smoked miso mustard was the perfect condiment to cut the fat marbled throughout the wonderfully smoked pork.

I left in a mild delirium.  My stomach was full of well executed food and my mouth still carried the rich flavors they left behind.  Park Slope does not have anywhere that offers these clean, modern, Asian flavors and I left Talde thinking I had to catch the F train at Delancey or 2nd Ave to head home.  A second in the cold air brought me back to reality, I was home, and even better, I could walk home.

Talde on Urbanspoon

A Sliver of Naples – Review of Forcella’s Pizza di Napoli

BY DARA POLLAK

Forcella
485 Lorimer St
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
718-388-8820 / http://forcellaeatery.com/

Manhattan Location: 334 Bowery, Nolita – NYC

Forcella Interior

After my visit to Italy some years ago, I fell in love with Neopolitan-style pizza: thin crust, slightly blackened on the bottom from the hot brick oven, and topped with fresh ingredients like mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, basil, truffles…I could go on. So when I heard about Neapolitan pizza spot Forcella making a debut in Williamsburg, I had to drop in for a bite…or two…

The space is small and cozy, the waitstaff all have Italian accents, and you can watch the pizzas being flipped around in the big open kitchen. It reminded me of a place I would actually go to in Italy – and just as I was thinking that, a group of Italian men sat down next to us and were discussing the menu boisterously with the waiter in Italian. Our questions for the waiter were a little less loud and in English, but we found out that each pie is about 9-10 inches, and the crust is incredibly thin, so you can easily order one per person (which is what we did and finished every last bite).

Pizza Margherita @Forcella

The first pie we tried was the traditional Margherita (homemade mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, $11) and the crust is so thin that the weight of half an olive would make it flop mercilessly in surrender. This is not to say that it doesn’t taste good, but I think the crust should have a little more resilience. Though for such a thin crust, the edges are surprisingly puffy and doughy, which is a fantastic contradiction and in my opinion, pretty tasty.

Pizza Montanara @Forcella

The Montanara pie is one of their specialties, and for $10 it might just be the best bet; deep-fried pizza dough is topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and basil. This pie doesn’t look all that different from the others, but upon your first bite, you can taste the difference. The dough has a slightly crunchier exterior, similar to that of a zeppole, and is a little bit greasier on the lips. It’s really good and it’s not as out-there as it sounds – we were envisioning an entire pie covered in batter and deep fried a la Chip Shop. Guess they don’t do that in Naples?

 

Pizza San Gregorio @Forcella

Our last pie was the San Gregorio, one of their white pizzas (or pizze bianche, $15), which was mozzarella, pesto, truffle, and tomato. I love pizza with truffles or truffle oil, so I was mildly disappointed with this one. The truffle was barely noticeable, and if you have had truffles before, you know them when you smell them or taste them. The pizza was also divided into two sides, which I thought was strange, one side had the pesto, the other had the tomatoes. Where was the truffle though? I only got a light hint of it on the tomato side – if you’re going to charge $15 for a pie, make sure there are truffles on it. The pesto side was better anyway, even with the absence of truffles – the balance of flavors was perfectly salty and nutty.

Pizza alla Nutella @Forcella

I am rarely able to turn down dessert, especially when that dessert involves Nutella, the ooey, gooey, chocolatey hazelnut spread. Naturally, they have a Nutella pie for dessert (Angioletti  Alla Nutella, $6), which is actually two deep fried pies sandwiched together with Nutella in the middle and powdered sugar on top, making it like a crunchy, doughy crepe. I have nothing technically “bad” to say about this one, mainly because you could put Nutella on cardboard and it would taste good, but the execution was kind of lazy. Maybe some will think they get points for simplicity, but it needed something else. Would I eat Forcella’s Nutella pie again? Sure. Would I be super excited about it? Probably not because it was boring.

If you’re in the mood for a lighter, thin crust pizza with really fresh ingredients, Forcella won’t let you down. If greasy, sloppy, New York style pizza is more your speed, I would take the train back to Manhattan and get to a Ray’s, asap.

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