CHB Reviews: Dino

The new restaurant that's taken the place of LouLou - Dino - is now open, and last night I checked it out with Kath Hansen of PUPS. I had only been to LouLou a few times, but Kath remarked on the "great reno job" on the inside.


The back yard was small and cute, clean and simple.


The bread had one of the most delicious dipping bowls I have ever encountered. The olive oil was enhanced with mashed olives, along with tiny pieces of orange rind for extra flavor.


Kath had the chicken, as she says "you can judge a restaurant by its chicken."  She gave it two thumbs up, for both quality and portion size (she took half of it home with her).


I had the rigatoni, also delicious and a generous portion.


And the icing on the cake: the staff overheard Kath mention that she was taking me out for my birthday and they brought me a gigantic piece of tiramisu on the house.


Service was wonderful- friendly and helpful staff, a great sounding selection of seasonal cocktails (we opted for the rose, which was crisp and great for summer -- but we think this place would be worth stopping in to for a fancy drink!), they already have liquor license and take credit cards (which is not so common for new restaurants in this neck of the woods).  Pricing was "around the same as LouLou," per Kath, but "better than LouLou."  Simply put from me: delicious food, great staff, and they have their sh*t together.

(Sorry, I didn't have my nice camera with me!)

Dino 222 DeKalb Ave

Chocolate Croissants: Choice Market

Choice Market, at Lafayette and Fulton, was a beacon of gentrification when it opened a few years ago.  Their food is amazing, but the lines and the store setup are not. Croissant: chocolate croissant from choice market

Price: $2.25

Chocolate Distribution: One row of chocolate

Outside Appearance: Shiny

Description: While this croissant was a touch on the greasy side, the taste was just about perfect - buttery and light, with just a little bit of crisp in the outer bread.  This pastry offers layers of airy bread that just about melts in your mouth. One of a kind, at least in my hunt, and the price is even on the lower end comparatively.

Score: 9 (WINNER)

Chocolate Croissants: Desserts by Michael Allen

I stand firmly by Michael Allen, (Fulton nr Grand) who made my wedding cake.  This guy's a pro and his pastries and sweets are amazing. Chocolate Croissant:


Price: $2.17

Chocolate Distribution: The entire croissant was filled with soft chocolate!

Outside Appearance: The largest of the bunch; smooth

Description: The best part about this croissant was the chocolate, which filled the entire pastry.  The chocolate also tastes a bit like Nutella.  It wasn't greasy at all, but it tasted heavy and wasn't very fluffy.  It earns points for it unique flavor, but loses a bit since I was looking for a "traditional" croissant experience.

Score: 7

Chocolate Croissants: Urban Vintage

This absolutely lovely restaurant / home decor shop, located on Grand Ave, offers food and goods at affordable prices.  I love the look and feel. Chocolate Croissant:

chocolate croissant from urban vintage

Price: $3.21

Chocolate Distribution: Two rows of firm chocolate

Outside Appearance: Textured and matte

Description: Two generous rows of chocolate, but the most heavy/bready of the bunch.  Their pastries come from Balthazar (Bittersweet on DeKalb also gets pastries from Balthazar). UV lost .5 for having the highest price of the bunch, but gained it back for having the friendliest service by far during the croissant testing period.

Score: 7

Chocolate Croissants: Outpost

Outpost Lounge on Fulton near Grand has been a favorite of mine for years now.  Great decor and a nice outdoor space make it a great coffee homebase for people in eastern Clinton Hill.  They also offer cute coffee drinks named after streets in the 'hood. Croissant:


Price: $2.72

Chocolate Distribution: One row of chocolate, but the chocolate was soft and blended nicely with the bread.

Outside Appearance: Smaller than the others and on the greasy side.

Description: This croissant was a little greasy, but the croissant itself was flaky and light.  Despite being the smallest of the bunch, the flavor was great. Service took longer than expected.

Score: 8

Chocolate Croissants: Provisions

Provisions offers a lovely variety of goods on Fulton at S. Portland in Fort Greene.  I love them for party meats and cheeses (delicious selection and great, helpful staff), but full on grocery shopping will break the bank.  In the front at the register, they also sell pastries and coffee. Chocolate Croissant:

chocolate croissant from provisions

Price: $2.50

Chocolate Distribution: Two rows of firm chocolate

Outside Appearance: Textured and matte

Description: I enjoy the double rows of chocolate, but the croissant is a little bit heavy.  Consistency is "bready." This is well-suited for someone who is looking for a heartier taste.

Score: 7.5

The Quest for the Best Chocolate Croissants

The chocolate croissant: my most favorite breakfast pastry!  And these days, readily available in the neighborhood and nearby Fort Greene. Lately I've been on a bit of a choc croissant bender, and so I decided to compare the local offerings to see which establishment offers the best one.  Under consideration: price, fluffiness, appearance, the grease factor, quantity of chocolate.  Over the next few days, I'll share my findings.

I'll be highlighting five offerings.  I probably won't be able to try them all, but feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

A Bistro: YUM

Abistro on Carlton in Fort Greene is one of the tastiest restaurants in the area. a bistro

Hidden behind a simple white gate, you might have just passed by without noticing.  Don't let the exterior fool you.  This tiny, cozy space offers some of the most interesting food around, not to mention  some of the friendliest service. It's a family affair - chef and co-owner Abdoul Gueye mans the kitchen, while his wife serves patrons.  The couple's young daughter is often on hand, too.

It's also BYO, which helps save some cash, and communal table often spark discussion between diners who didn't arrive together.

I've recommended this place to many locals and people visiting from other neighborhoods who are looking for a unique dining experience. What's your favorite dish?

Abistro 154 Carlton at Myrtle

CHB Previews: Roman's

outside of roman's, formerly bonita It's pretty obvious that Roman's is just doing a soft opening, but that didn't stop the husband and I from hustling right over last weekend to check it out.  I'm calling this post a "preview" as opposed to a "review," since it's really just first impressions.

First of all, it was awfully strange to get a table immediately on a Saturday night in this small and formerly bustling space.  Obviously there's no signage up yet, but I'm used to sitting on the window ledge drinking margaritas for awhile.

A few small interior changes have been made - the wall behind the bar has been been completely redesigned and restocked, new light fixtures have been added and a decorative wall was erected between the dining room and kitchen.

The menu, for now, is pretty bare bones.  It's small plates, and it needs explanation / guidance from the wait staff.

the menu

It's a small-plates setup, which often ends up in a trial-and-error ordering experiment. (How many plates do we need?  Are we going to be stuffed or left hungry?).  We started with the "heirloom radish," which consisted of a chopped radish and a few other radish-like roots, salted and served with creme fraiche.  It was light and fresh, though a few bites were oversalted and others were not salted enough.

heirloom radish

For second courses, we split the sauerkraut soup and the panette.  Both were delicious.  The soup was well-favored without being sour, and included a delicious bite of some sort of meat (pork?) and an egg.  The panette, small penne pasta, was served with a delicious sauce and toasted pine nuts.

Our third course was a stuffed meatball.  Delicious, but small.

For dessert we went with the dark chocolate, assuming it would be some sort of torte.  But in actuality, it was a pile of dark chocolate with some almonds.  For $6.  I looked at Will and said, "This is good chocolate, but it's... a pile of chocolate."

I'm really interested to see how Roman's develops.  I was unable to get a good grasp of the vibe they were going for.  Partly, it seemed to be trying to mimic the trendy 1920s thing that's been pervading popular culture these past few years.  But the cuisine suggests otherwise.  The bill was fairly pricey for the quantity, but I'm game to go back once they have a regular, full menu (and they are already taking credit cards).

If you're wondering about the name, it's clearly a reference to Rome, Italy.  Not only is the food described by the waitstaff as being Italian-influenced, but the outside of the menus feature an illustration of two infants being suckled by a wolf.  My renaissance-literature-professor husband informed me that it was a depiction of Romulus and Remus.  (Romulus was, according to Roman mythology, the first King of Rome).

CHB Reviews: Macbeth at the Irondale Center

Tonight, Mr. Lesterhead and I (I am using his laptop) checked out Macbeth at Fort Greene's Irondale Center.  An interesting interpretation, and I loved the choreography and sound (they use a technique called "Soundpainting").  But since Mr. LH is a renaissance lit PhD, I thought I'd let him do the formal review: October 1st, 2009

Macbeth is appropriate to autumn and October. Macbeth's colors are red and black; the poetry evokes the lengthening of nights and shortening days; and it's full of witches and ghosts. Perfect for the month of Halloween! I went with Lesterhead to see Strike Anywhere and ANITYA's joint production of "Macbeth Variations II" at the Irondale Center in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and South Oxford St. in Fort Greene tonight. The production definitely set the mood for a spooky October.

There are a few things you might want to know before you go see the play. First, Strike Anywhere and ANITYA are based in New York and Paris respectively. Second, this is an interpretation of Macbeth, not a staging of Shakespeare's play. It is performed in both English and French. Unfortunately the Irondale Center, unlike the Met, doesn't provide subtitles in glowing green LED in the banquette in front of you. For those who either know French or know the text of Macbeth or both, this isn't an issue. If you speak English but not French and don't know the play well, it can be confusing. Third, the philosophy of the joint company prioritizes improvisation. As they say on their website, it's never the same play two nights in a row. So if you think "classic" when you think Shakespeare, this may not be for you. On the other hand, if the classics bore you but you feel compelled to get cultured anyway, this production is both edgy and old skool.

I would give you my take with no chaser, but I happened to overhear a conversation as I was walking out of the theater that I think says it all about what this show accomplishes. Three men, all in their mid-20s, were walking ahead of me on the sidewalk as we left the theater, and this is what I heard. (I've given them names. If this is you, and I gave you the wrong name, email the blog's adiministrator.)

Theophrastus: Cool. Way cool. Did you love how three actors took turns as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? It was like they were three facets of the same personality.

Diogenes: No way man. That was pretentious, French [explitive deleted]. It's like "The Three" or something. Freud on stage. Yeah, I get it. Three actors per character: the Id the Ego and the Super Ego. Really?  You can't get more original than some pseudo-phrenology of the early 20th century?

Socrates:  Whatever. It was the best staging of the play I've seen in a while. Definitely better than the one the Public did with Liev Schreiber a couple of years ago. That was [explitive deleted] awful. I think Mayor Mike should pass a city ordinance that says it is illegal in the city of New York to put on a production of Shakespeare in 19th century European military dress. And right after than he should ban productions set in 1930s gangsterland New York.

Theophrastus: You have to admit, it was mercifully short for Shakespeare. The whole thing was, like, an hour and a half. And they only gave you the highlights -- the best speeches. It was way cool to end with the "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" speech.

Diogenes: Oh. My. God! That was the worst! If it isn't already the cheesiest 75 words in all the world, they made it the end of the play! Aaaaand end scene!

Socrates: Why are you such a cynic? It was an interpretation douchebag! It was a [explitive deleted] tone poem, and I thought they did an awesome job setting the tone. The witches were totally creepy with the red boxes in place of their heads, and that bit at the end where Lady Macbeth loses it, but she's behind the white scrim, pressing her screaming face through the fabric like a nightmare! The whole play was like that. The improv jazz, the garbled French and English, the three actors playing both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were meant to invoke a nightmare, where you can't tell which voice in your head is the one who can see what's really going on, and which voice is actually the devil in disguise! The theme of the [explitive deleted] play is confusion!

Theophrastus: Yeah! That's why the witches say "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: hover through the fog and filthy air." And then in the very next scene Macbeth says to Banquo "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." It's like no one can tell what's good or bad.

Socrates: Exactly. I thought the three actors who played Macbeth and the three who played Lady Macbeth were less like three Feudian puppets and more like three echoes of a paranoid mind, three voices in your head, second guessing and mutually accusing each other.

Diogenes: Come on! You have to admit, for someone who doesn't love this play as much as you [Socrates], this production looks like some serious self-indulgent navel gazing. They should pass out black berets at the door.

Socrates: OK, dude. Not all of us are as sensitive to [explitive deleted] as you. For my money it was a work of art. If you want to do better, put it on yourself.

That was as far as I got before my lady and I turned down a side street and left these philosophers to themselves. I say, check it out. It's only playing two more days. You might agree with Socrates; you might agree with Diogenes. But you won't know until you've tasted it for yourself.


Recently, some friends and I decided to scope out the neighb’s newest bar, the whiskey-intense Cornelius, located at 565 Vanderbilt Ave (Haha. Get it?). It was a weeknight and the place was relatively empty, but entirely pleasant in décor and libations, if not exactly the arbiter of the best service ever (we had to call our waiter over several times). That said, the menu was pretty amazing, offering an extensive list varied whiskeys, flavored vodkas and original cocktails.

We ordered a lot of cocktails and found them all to be quite delicious. My favorite was the Smoked Pineapple Margarita, which was just sweet enough. Another friend was quite impressed with the Sparkling Pear. The only place where I’d mark them down is that while they could make me a plethora of fanciful designer cocktails, they couldn’t fulfill my order for a plain old Rusty Nail. Why not? No Drambuie. Poor form, guys.

On the food front, since we stopped by on a Monday, we were treated to $1 Oysters. Beyond that, the prices at Cornelius are unfortunately on the steeper end.

All and all, this place is definitely worth stopping by for a classy cocktail and some atmosphere. It seemed like the few issues encountered are just opening/growing pains for a spot that will most likely prove to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.




Here’s more info , including a sneak peak of the menu.

Places to Eat with Kids: Anima

As the new blogger on the topic of parenting in and around Clinton Hill, I’m launching a series of reviews of local kid-friendly establishments.  Fortunately for the many families in the neighborhood, most restaurants here are laid-back and welcoming to families with kids.  I should also mention that I’m entirely aware that not everyone wants to dine next to a baby or child, but I think it is possible to do it in a considerate, low-impact way.  So, readers, please be thoughtful when you take your kids out with you—I know you will be! The first restaurant I’d like to cover is a neighborhood favorite of mine, Anima Italian Bistro.  Anima is our go-to place for weekend brunch (love the French toast!), but their dinner and lunch options are also good.  The food can be described as Italian soul food: simple, hearty and well-priced.  In fact, “anima” means “soul” in Italian.  Options include a variety of panini sandwiches, salads, pastas and burgers. Heartier entrees like branzino with a lemon risotto cake, stuffed pork chop with fontina cheese and a braised lamb shank with polenta are available too.  And there’s a kids’ brunch menu, including chicken cutlet, risotto, and “pasta bambini.”

The atmosphere is casual—think Italian pop music and farm tables—and the staff are friendly and warm to all their patrons, including kids.  Like typical Mediterraneans, they dote on Jasper the minute we walk through the door, and any stress about being “those people with the kid” quickly melts away.  It also helps that the restaurant is spacious, so it has always been possible for us to sit far enough from other diners that Jasper and his overflowing gear won’t disrupt them.  The food and service are prompt.  The décor is attractive, with brick walls, a tin ceiling and rustic aged wooden bar and wine racks.  All in all, Anima’s a great option for a fun and relaxing meal with the little ones.  Buon appetito!

High chairs—Yes

Space for strollers—Yes

Kids’ menu—Yes

Food delivery—Yes

Baby Changing Area—No, but restrooms are large and clean.

Outdoor space—Maybe (the previous restaurant in this space had a great back garden, but it has not been re-opened yet during Anima’s time there—maybe Summer ’09?)

Potential pitfalls—The wine-bottle curtain—you’ll know it when you see it—is an irresistible temptation to the small and curious.  We found that out the hard way!

Anima Italian Bistro 458 Myrtle Avenue between Waverly and Washington Brooklyn New York 11205 718-422-1122

Local Duo, Sparkly Fin, (sort of) Release First Album! Local Duo, Sparkly Fin, (sort of) Release First Album!

They are really releasing an album but they are only sort of local.  1/2 of the group Sparkly Fin live in Clinton Hill.  This half of the group is named Emily, who provides the vocals, and she decided to stay in the hood after graduating from Pratt this past May.  The other half is tastefully called Joseph, who lives in Baltimore, and he provides all other instrumentation.  This week (1/27/09) they are releasing their first album, High Pive.

Sparkly Fin fit nicely into the cotillion of contemporary bands who embrace the electro-acoustic spectrum with heart and soul.  Their myspace page used to proclaim that sounded like "Kate Bush kissing a pinball machine."  While I agree with their self-diagnosis, I will offer my own egregious (yet loving) analogy: Otis Redding making out with M. I. A. at a bris hosted for any male offspring of Thom Yorke.  What I'm saying, in lay terms, is that they are very sensitive to their tone, which usually doesn't get such attention in predominantly electronic music.  Also, they have an undeniably eclectic pop sensibility that contains sincerity as well as irony in a seemingly unpretentious way.  This sets them apart from the ideas that usually seem to spring out of the invisible retinues that follow around many a BK band.  Plain and simple, it's electro-pop music that is built to last.  As a final addendum, they encourage dancing.

To celebrate the release they are going to be having an intimate performance this coming Saturday (1/31/09) at Emily's apartment on Atlantic at 10pm.   Email the band for address/directions. If you missed any of the hyperlinks:

Bati -- Delicious New Ethiopian Restaurant Open in Fort Greene

My husband and I just got back from dinner at Bati Ethiopian Restaurant, in Fort Greene, and loved the whole experience – food, ambience, and service. Bati’s atmosphere is inviting and cozy—dark wood, white brick walls, bright Ethiopian-themed artwork, and the service was very friendly, attentive and quick. The menu offers beef, free-range poultry, and a large variety of vegetarian dishes. (Note: All the vegetarian dishes are vegan as well.) We ate the Doro Wett (chicken stew) and a combination of vegetarian dishes, which were all fresh, delicious and hearty, with generous portions.

The Bati Platter

Even though it was busy, owner Hibist Legesse made time to talk with me about her restaurant. (Meseret Kibret is also a partner in the restaurant).

Why “Bati”? Bati, the name of the restaurant, refers to a region in North Central Ethiopia known for its sprawling market, to the famous Ethiopian song “Ere Bati Bati”, and to “bati”, a type of music originating in the highlands of Ethiopia. Why Fort Greene? Hibist, originally from Ethiopia, moved to the US in her teens. Trips to BAM when she was living with her family in Harlem sparked an attraction to the Fort Greene area, and she has dreamed of opening a restaurant here ever since. Can you describe the food? Traditional Ethiopian with a focus on nutrition and health. For example, by adding extra teff (type of flour) to the injera (spongy flatbread), we’re increasing the fiber and iron content of the bread. You can see the difference -- the injera is a darker color. And by featuring healthy ingredients, such as flaxseed. We also plan to expand our vegetarian options. Do you have a signature dish? The Ye Telba Fitfit is a special dish, made with lightly roasted freshly ground flaxseed in house dressing mixed with injera. It is packed with anti-oxidants and very good for you.

Who’s cooking in the kitchen? There are a number of chefs in the kitchen, all Ethiopian, and all, as is traditional in Ethiopia, female. This tradition is changing though, with many young men now learning to cook as well. The basics:

Address: 747 Fulton Street at South Portland (right next to Provisions), Fort Greene Phone: 718-797-9696 Hours: Open every day

Starting this week (week of Jan 26th): Lunch 12-5pm; Dinner 5pm-Midnight

Takeout available; currently no delivery

BYOB until further notice (which is not a problem with Provisions right next door and Greene Grape a few doors down)

Welcome to the neighborhood! We will be coming back very soon!

Il Porto: YUM

Sorry for the delays, folks. Getting back from vacation is always overwhelming and I haven't had much posting time! pleasant surprise on washington

Last Thursday, before I departed for the Queen City, I hit up Il Porto for lunch on opening day. I was pleased to see that the "to-go" room was packed with local residents and workers waiting for a slice!

(Behind the counter. fresh pizzas being made)

I had my lunch on the other side, in the "sit-down" room.  The servers were friendly and helpful (I'm pretty sure several of them came to Il Porto from Il Torchio, along with the chef).  They started me off with this complimentary bred, fresh from the brick oven.

It was a touch choice, but I picked the Rugola and Prosciutto 12" pizza.


The prosciutto was extremely fresh, and the crush light.  It was so tasty that I ate 4 of the 6 pieces (though I could have easily gotten away with just 3).

I planned to head back home, full and happy, when Eda and Joe of Square Root Cafe popped their heads back to say hello and give me a piece of the Wallabout dessert pie -- Nutella, pine nuts, marshmallow.  AMAZING. dessert pizza sidewalk tables

The food was so tasty that I ordered delivery tonight for a small Fort Greene PUPS meeting at my place.  We did the Rugula and Prosciutto, Margherita and the Wallabout for dessert.  Rave reviews all around with only 1.5 pieces left over (and they take credit cards -- even for delivery!  Bravo!)

I'm glad they've been busy so far.  It'll be a great place to stop for food, especially before PEP openings and RePop First Fridays (like the next one on September 5, featuring my photography!).

Il Porto 37 Washington Ave. 718-624-0954

CHB Reviews: Kif

outside at kif Finally! After so much positive reader feedback, I was able to hit up Kif on Friday evening. I know many people loved Liquors, but to be honest, I was never really that into their food or service. Though it will always have a place in my heart, as it's the very first place I ate at in the neighborhood several years ago.

I'm glad to report that Kif seems to be offering tastier food and friendlier service!

I met up with BrooklynJay, who I haven't seen in months. We were able to snag a prime spot out back (glad to say they're also utilizing the back yard!), and started with falafel and pita/hummus. The hummus was great, and the pita bread was amazing -- warm, lightly baked and yet soft. Perfect for dipping.

hummus and pita

Jay had the burger. He was sick with a bad cold, so he wasn't his usual chipper self (or I would have made him write this review). Still, he cleaned his plate and said that the burger was tasty with a good mix of Moroccan-type spices.


I had the couscous royal, which was filled with veggies and a few kinds of meat. I normally wouldn't order couscous, but the reader comments persuaded me. It was delicious, and came with a bunch of sauces.


The best thing, though, was the dessert. We tried the orange flower creme brulee, and OMG. It really tasted like the smell of orange blossoms, and it might rival Chez Lola's lavender bread pudding as tastiest dessert in the area (though I think that's still my favorite).



The inside was lavish without looking overdone, and I hear they offer hookah service after 11pm. Service was very friendly, and I felt like the owner made a good effort to offer a warm welcome to everyone. (To be honest, I have heard more than one report that he's a bit chilly to same sex couples -- any feedback on this?)

Kif 219 DeKalb Ave.

(note: the photos are not the best, I know. It was really dark inside and out back!)

Rustik Tavern

Rustik Tavern 471 DeKalb Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11205

I needed a place to eat that was close by but I wanted someplace new too. I didn't want it to be too fancy either. I just wanted a nice, chill, relaxing place to grab a beer and some decent food. I saw a review of Rustik over on Clinton Hill Foodie which seem to fit the bill perfectly. (yeah, I've been slacking and they got to it before me) After checking out Rustik's very slick website and menu online I decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did.

The first thing I noticed was how...out of place Rustik seemed to be in where it's located. It's like bodega, bodega, take out, take out, bodega, Rustik.

Well at least you won't miss it walking by.

I was impressed with Rustik's interior decor. High ceilings and lots of lights, but not overly bright, gave it a very warm and inviting feeling and with that big sofa up front - definitely a place to chill.

First order of business: a beer. Rustik has a very decent selection of tap and bottled beers. (All of which is listed on their website.) I went with the Blue Moon which they had on tap - always an excellent choice.

Second order of business: FOOD.

Every item was named after something local or of significance. For example, the Willoughby Wings for Willoughby Avenue. It's kind of silly but nice at the same time. Adds a very "neighborhood" feel to it.

Prices were extremely reasonable. Lots of items under $10 and nothing over $15.

We decided on the following:

The Nostrand Nachos with the olives and the jalapenos on the side.

As a stand alone dish it's eh. I like the fact that it's cheese sauce rather than real cheese, real cheese has a tendency to clump up and get chewy as it cools, but other than that it was lacking something that made it great. Like...

The Clinton Hill Chili.

Now I know you can add the chili on top of the nachos for $2 but go with a whole order of chili along with the nachos and use the nachos to scoop up all that chili goodness.

The chili, by itself, is still was very good and, while still full of flavor, it was relatively tame and lacked heat and spiciness.

Mixing it with the nachos is really the way to go. It takes two "okay" dishes to 11.

We moved on to a small order of the Willoughby Wings with BBQ sauce. (That's where my olives and jalapenos went!)

I want to point out that these wings are breaded. Normally I hate breaded wings but these I didn't mind. It worked well with the BBQ sauce, giving the sauce something to stick to, as well as adding a bit of crispiness to the chicken.

What surprised me about this dish was that the BBQ sauce was actually spicy and had some heat to it. The heat was unexpected, I had to double check to make sure it was the wings and not the chili, but not overwhelming. It actually worked very well together as a sweet and spicy combination.

Finally, the Franklin Fish and Chips.

This was pretty good. The fish was lightly breaded, not battered, which kept the whole dish relatively "light". The fish was done well and was flaky and moist. The chips on the other

The chips were too big in size and I think that kept them from getting really crispy. The chips also had some old bay seasoning or something on them which was too over powering for the lighter tasting fish. I like the fish...the chips need work.

We wanted to try the Chambord Creme Brulee but they were out of it. (Doesn't it sound good though? Chambord Creme Brulee? Mmmm...)

Overall, it's a great place and I'm definitely going to be back. It's got a nice mellow vibe, serves good food and has good drinks. All at a very reasonable price. The entire meal was about $40. It's like the perfect little local neighborhood spot.

The service was good with the bartender being attentive without "hovering". (And he didn't once ask me if I spoke english! That's a plus right there!)

The one complaint I do have is the TV. There's a pretty big TV right in the middle of the room and when there's a TV on you're I would have like it a lot better if it was off and a good selection of music was playing instead. (They have a very nice sound system.) The TV just seemed out of place and sort of broke up that "chill" feeling if you know what I mean.

Other than that it's a great place and a very welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Oh, and if you're lucky you'll catch a free show.

We were treated to piano renditions of Keane and Coldplay. Very very cool.

A Bizarre Evening at Restaurant New Orleans

A few weeks ago, I had THE weirdest dining experience at Restaurant New Orleans on Fulton (nr. S. Portland). A friend I dined with took the time to summarize: Last weekend, though, we went out to dinner with some friends, R. and W., with the intention of grabbing dinner before seeing "There Will Be Blood". I suggested Restaurant New Orleans, a restaurant on Fulton not to far from BAM where were going to see the movie. I've passed by this place numerous times walking back from BAM and it always intrigues me. It is decorated like someone's parlor, but half the time its empty and sometimes we've passed by around 10pm and its been dark, with a woman sitting at a computer in the window.

Anyway, we decided to meet at 7, figuring it would leave us plenty of time to catch the 9pm movie. We sat down and browsed the menu while the man who sat us looked for a bottle opener and glasses for the bottle of wine we brought with us (byob). This took about 10 minutes, and the glasses we got were sherry glasses. When the waitress came to take our order, she nearly forgot to take W's order.

And then the fun started. R and W had ordered crab cakes and we had ordered shrimp cocktail as appetizers, but after about 20 minutes, only the crab cakes came out. After a few minutes, we tracked down our waitress (who was astonishingly hard to track down in a place that was also the size of a parlor), she said our appetizer was on its way. But then out came my catfish (which Sam and R had ordered as well), with a sweet potato on the side. I had ordered spinach and something else. The waitress said they were out of whatever sides I had ordered but they could make some nice garlic brussels sprouts. Sure, why not. About 5 minutes later, out came Sam and R's catfish as well. R's grilled catfish looked exactly the same as our blackened catfish. And they didn't have any sides. And there was no sign of W's gumbo. And it was about 8:30. The brussles sprouts never appeared.

We reminded our waitress about the appetizer, though we told her to just forget about it since we were already eating our main course. And then, about 5 minutes later, the reason for the missing shrimp cocktail became clear - they "were having a problem with the shrimp". And so they couldn't make the gumbo either. But they offered to make W a nice salmon fillet instead, on the house. She brought out a bowl of red beans and rice on the house too (we still never received any sides other than my sweet potato), so W ate those while waiting for the salmon, which came around 8:50. So we asked for the check too and paid that while W ate.

They felt so bad for all the trouble, so they comped us for two of the entrees and also offered us free brunch (though they didn't give us anything in writing indicating this). And they seemed so genuine that we weren't really upset about the service, mystified was the better word for our state. I mean, if they didn't have shrimp, they could have told us an hour earlier. Or the whole issue with the sides. W's dish came with collards, which both Sam and R had ordered but never came. How the place stays in business was the biggest question - its been there since we moved to the neighborhood I think. The food we did get was very good, but it just seemed like such a haphazard business that it was surprising that it was able to stay open.

I admit those crab cakes were delicious! Yet the dinner couldn't have been any more haphazard. Anyone have a similar experience?

Speakeasy: First Impressions

I dined at Speakeasy last night with two friends.  Apologies for not having my camera -- it was late (around 9 pm), and I had just returned home from a stressful grad class, and I forgot to bring it. For 9 pm on a Monday night, the place was pretty full.  There were a large number of people there who were just chilling at the bar, and most tables were full.  The atmosphere inside was quite nice, and I personally thought the decor looked great.  The chandelier is gorgeous! The crowd was also very diverse.  My friends also spotted a famous actor there dining (but I didn't know who he was). Food: we started with spicy wings as an appetizer. They came with a sort of sweet-spicy glaze and were topped with fresh cilantro.  Excellent, I thought.  Between us for dinner, we tried the roast chicken, the miso-glazed salmon and the... short rib?  All were really great -- flavorful and well-seasoned -- and there really is something to the idea of "comfort food."  Suddenly, we all felt kind of snuggly and content (seriously, we did).  We waited a really long time between our wings and the entrees, which was really the only problem we encountered during the evening.  Also, a few "key" items were not yet available, namely the lamb and the steak.  Will have to go back for those another time.

Not bad for opening night.

The prices, as noted by several readers, are a little too high. If the entrees were all $3 less, I'd probably go for dinner there quite often.  Also, my Heinekin was $6 (!!!).  I'm really looking forward to them serving brunch, especially on a snowy morning, since I live close by.

Anyone else go last night?  I know this place has received a lot of flack in the comments, but do go check it out before hating on it!  I thought it was lovely overall.

Il Torchio

Il Torchio

458 Myrtle Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11205

(718) 422-1122



"Hey." I said back to the strange man with the baseball cap on, a t-shirt and a beer in hand. I've seen him sitting at the bar all evening. Why is he talking to me?

Long awkward pause. No one in my party of four knows what to do now.

"You don't speak English?" said the strange man.

"Huh? Oh I speak English." i replied now with a bewildered look. Is he drunk?

Another long awkward pause before the stranger walks away.

"Oh, don't mind him. He's one of the owners. I have to tell him to stop bothering the customers like that." said the waitress.

"That was one of the owners?" We all looked at each other in amusement and laughed.

And that's pretty much the only bump in an otherwise really nice dining experience at Il Torchio, a new Italian place on Myrtle. As a new place they are still experiencing "growing pains" - running out of items, timing, etc. - but nothing that couldn't be corrected in the next few weeks.

The owners, as I understand it, are in the construction business and did a wonderful job of restoring the space. The bar area/dining room is very rustic looking yet airy.

It was a little dark for my taste but does create the mood of an "intimate dining experience" if that's what you're looking for. I was looking for a little more light so I could read the menu.

There's also a garden but I didn't go out back to check it out.

They offered a reasonably priced dinner menu with several salad, panini and pasta choices along with a couple of specials. They also have a huge tapas menu which I thought was a bit expensive at $8-$15 per plate. I always thought the idea of tapas were small, affordable dishes which you can make a meal of by ordering several plates. It'll be expensive to do it here at these prices but it didn't stop us from ordering a few as pseudo appetizers.

From top to bottom: The Tapas Special, the Dried Figs and the Artichoke & Parmigiano Dip.

The Special was nice - very garlicky.

The Dried Figs was interesting in terms of Sweet, Salty and Savory and might not be for everyone. Personally, I thought they were good but I'm gonna try something else on the tapas menu before ordering it again.

The Artichoke & Parmigiano Dip was very good, highly recommended, but you get this huge amount of dip and so little toast on the side! You'll need, no you'll WANT, a giant basket of toasts to scoop up all that yummy goodness! Now it could have been a bit thicker in consistency but in terms of taste...very good.

We then had the Insalata di Cesare to cleanse the palate.

Eh. I didn't like it. I like my salads to come dressed unless I ask for dressing on the side. The dressing was also very strong on the anchovies too giving it a fishy taste.The croutons were also a bit bland - need to be more garlicky. Unless changes are made - pass on it.

For entrees we got Penne ala Vodka, Rigatoni Bologneses and the Saffron Linguine with Clams and Calamari.

The pictures may not show it but these are fairly large bowls of pasta. (Or maybe I ate too much toast and dip.)

The Penne ala Vodka was very good. It wasn't too heavy on the cream sauce and had a very nice flavor to it. Very well done.

The Rigatoni Bolognese was good as well. It's a mixture of meats making up the Bolognese sauce which made the dish slightly different than the ordinary. Again, very flavorful and well done.

The Saffron Linguine had a lot of flavor but finished with a bit of saltiness. I'm thinking it's from the clams but I could be mistaken. It was still a very good dish that could've been better if it was slightly less salty.

We finished dinner with the Tiramisu which is not pictured because it didn't last long enough to get photographed! Decent slice of Tiramisu covered in a chocolate sauce. Yummy.

Overall, I enjoyed my dinner at Il Torchio. It's nice to have a reasonable priced (if you stay away from the tapas menu) Italian restaurant on Myrtle. The dishes are nice, familiar fare with a slight twist. The large selection of tapas gives it the ability to be a different dining experience every time you go - I'll definitely be back.

Note: They do not currently have a liquor license but are in the process of getting one. There is a liquor store on the corner with a nice selection of wines. Il Torchio charges a $10 corking fee.