Thursday, May 30, 2013

ABC Cucina

'Jean Georges does it again' is the first sentence that popped in my head re: ABC Cucina, his hot new tapas spot in the old Pipa space in ABC Carpet and Home. With the success of the perpetually busy and always delicious ABC Kitchen, there is some pretty scary high expectations for Dan Kluger and co at this more casual endeavor. I'm happy to say that at least according to one lowly blogger and self proclaimed foodie, so far so good!

ABC Cucina is magnificent to look at. There is a packed bar in the front, an oyster bar, comfortable booths and steel tables. Think vintage glass, reclaimed wood, and mismatched hot pink chairs. It definitely makes a statement. There is a more relaxed and casual vibe compared to Kitchen, but there are plenty of similarities as well. The 2 kitchens actually use some of the same ingredients, albeit in different ways, and both are big into the in-season produce (we had 3 different dishes with asparagus and/or peas in it).
For such a new place I have to say, they seem to have their sh*t together. We were seated promptly, the waiter was helpful and available, and the drinks (though on the weak side) were great. Extra props for the Sangria that my friend, the wine connoisseur thoroughly enjoyed.

So how is the food? Does it live up to all this hype? It is delicious. Some things were definitely better than others, but we have to give them a little leeway here, they are after all, only 3 weeks old and still in the "soft opening", impossible to get reservations stage. I'll get to food specifics in a sec, but for now suffice to say that yes, it is worth it, and yes you must get your ass here pronto. 

Since we ordered almost the entire menu (no fish or shellfish of course), I divided the dishes as follows:
1. Amazing - order this for sure. It will blow your mind. 
2. Good Stuff - tasty, order it depending on the size of your appetite  
3. Pass - not outright "bad" (nothing here is bad), but I probably would not order it again and you shouldn't either.

Amazing dishes:
  • Spring Pea Guacamole - Wow. Yum. Need more.  
  • Spring Vegetable Salad with manchego and herbs - Great salad. Loved. 
  • Fluke with green chili dressing, crunchy rice and herbs - Loved. Fresh and refreshing. 
  • Sugar Snap Peas with fried shallots and I'm not sure what else - Pretty and yummy.
  • Pea Soup - Warm, flavorful, and even vegan! 
  • Spring Pea Empanadas with green chili yogurt - SPICY but definitely a must order. 
  • Sauted Mushroom Tacos - What do they put in here? These blew the fish tacos away. 
  • Spring Vegetable Brown Rice and salsa verde - one of the best dishes of the night. I taste cumin. YUMMY. 

Good Stuff: 
  • Warm Marinated Olives- Self explanatory. Good. 
  • Potatoes with spicy tangy sauce and rosemary- I liked these, my table mates claimed they've had better.  
  • Cheese Fondue - Also good, but you only need a few bites, it is pretty rich. 
  • Asparagus with marcona almond and spring onions - Another good veggie option, but I was so full by the time this came I didn't really enjoy it much. 

  • Grilled Tuna Sashimi - Eh. Was ok, but not worth ordering. 
  • Crispy Fish Tacos - Pass. Too sweet and kind of soggy. 
  • Maitake Mushrooms with goat cheese, fresno pepper vinigrette - Looks pretty, didn't love the flavor.
  • Black Sea Bass with marinated tamarind and thyme - Most expensive thing we ordered and it was just okay. Strog BBQ flavor if you like that kind of thing. 

All 3 desserts that we got fall into the good category. Had a few bites of each, but nothing on the Sundae at ABC Kitchen level. Soft and Crunchy Almond Cake, Salted Caramel Impossible Flan and Mango, Pineapple Basil, and Chocolate Coconut Popsicles. 

Neighborhood: Flatiron / Union Square 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Lots! Good for Groups, Small Parties, Girl's Night, Fit for Foodies, Impress your Date, Hot & Trendy

ABC Cucina, 38 East 19th Street (No Website Yet)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Frankies 457

Frankies 457 is the perfect Brooklyn lunch spot. I'm not gonna lie and say it is my all time favorite place, but Frankies is always good for solid, homey Italian food with a backyard patio that makes you feel like you're in Europe. Instead of fighting the crowds and waiting for hours or dining at 11 pm, go on a beautiful spring day and sit outside in the back garden. The service is usually pretty good, and the atmosphere has that rustic old school italian restaurant in Brooklyn vibe. The portions are on the small side, so I  suggest ordering a bunch of things and sharing. They have a nice selection of vegetarian options included more than 6 different salads, a whole slew of vegetable sides, cheese plates, crostinis, and pastas.

The Fennel Salad with celery root, parsley, red onions lemon and pecorino is a must order. I like the Italian Tuna Salad with herb mayo, but note it is not really much of a "salad". The Farro Salad with wild mushrooms and ricotta salata is also pretty good, and has nice flavors. I love the Stracciotella cheese here, it is stringly, creamy and delicious. Another amazing thing to get is the Crostini with cannellini, capers, lemon and anchovy. Insane!! The Vegetable Plate is pretty straightforward and a little boring. Skip this and order something a little more exciting. Some rave about the Gnocci with marinara and ricotta cheese, but I found it a bit overrated. 

Overall, I like Frankies. I'm just not gonna marry him. The food while for the most part delicious, is not transcendental. Certain items are definitely better than others. Frankies has become a Brooklyn staple, and if you've never been I would definitely suggest a visit. The same guys also opened a Frankies Spuntino in the West Village. I'm sure I will find myself back here time and time again and with so many options in this Carroll Gardens sect of Brooklyn, that is usually a pretty good sign.  

 Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn 

Bite Mark: ***

Good For: Lunch, Outdoor Dining, Italian Food, Small Parties, Girl's Night 

Frankies 457, 457 Court Street

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Springtime in Brooklyn - Where I'm at

Springtime in New York, there really is nothing like it.
Flowers are blooming, sun is shining, and most importantly, al fresco dining.  :-)

These quick months before the summer brings sweltering heat and a mass exodus from the city, I try to take advantage and really appreciate what a great season it is to be living in New York.

Although my rotation of favorite restaurants is constantly changing, below I've compiled a list of where I find myself most recently filling my belly. PS: Click on the links to read my full review and find location and contact information.

  • La Vara - Love this Cobble Hill spot. Great Brunch here too. Service is always helpful and nice, and the Spanish influenced food is always spicy and delicious.
*Order This- peppers, potatoes bravos, spiced chickpeas, churros, eggplant with honey, all desserts

  • The Farm on Adderley - Tis the season for outdoor patios! This place is my staple go to for quick, easy, delicious and clean food, especially at lunch time. It is never too crowded at lunch and there are always delicious options whether you are in the mood for breakfast type food or sandwiches and lunch fare. 1108 Cortelyou Rd 718.287.3101
*Order This- shaved brussel sprouts with parmesan, poached eggs over polenta, oatmeal, portobella sandwich, french fries

  •  Franny's - My favorite thing about Franny's is the fresh farm to table food. They always have the freshest seasonal ingredients (ramps, peas, asparagus, etc) and find ways to use them in creative and delicious ways. Although the loss of the outdoor patio is slightly devastating, the new bigger space ensures your wait time is much more managable.
*Order This- beer on tap, ricotta hot pepper pizza, olive oil and garlic crostini, cacio e pepe, and whatever fresh vegetables are currently on the menu

  • Saraghina - Although my Mother's Day experience here was less than stellar (the service was really slow and I left my clutch there and they were not too helpful in helping me recover it), I do love their pizza and the outdoor space promises good times. The neighborhood is a little rough, but the lack of a wait time and delicious pizza still keep it in constant rotation.
*Order this- bloody mary, chocolate chip pancakes, french toast with fresh fruit, burrata, pizza

  • Brooklyn Farmacy - If you haven't been here yet, add to your hit list! This place is a dream. Old school ice cream parlor with decor and toys to boot plus benches outside to enjoy the warm weather while you sip on your ice cream float. Bring your kids / dogs / lovers etc. 513 Henry Street @ Sackett St 718.522.6260
*Order This- grilled cheese, orangenius ice cream float, sundae of broken dreams 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Nightingale 9

Nightingale9 is the new, hip, Vietnamese spot from the team that brought you Seersucker and Smith CanteenTouting Vietnamese street food and classic dishes, given the general success of their previous endeavors, I was looking forward to trying the newest addition to the Carroll Gardens food scene. Always one for an adventure, my lack of meat and seafood eating rarely becomes an issue when trying some more adventurous spots. I always seem to manage finding enough to eat. Sorry to say that that was not the case here.

Some things to note about Nightingale9 or N-9 for short. This place is cash only. They only serve beer and wine (currently). They take reservations. It is a cute spot with mostly wood communal tables. And the menu is pretty limited. Although an online scope of the menu offered some veggie options, on the night in question we were told they were no longer on the menu. The waitress was sweet and did her best to accommodate, but I wouldn't recommend a trip here to the non meat and shelfish-eaters that I know. We pretty much ordered every vegetable on the menu, but I would not say I left feeling overly satisfied.

Some of the standouts was the Green Papaya Salad (sans beef), and the Raw Collard Greens with coconut, fried shallots, and lime. They also gave us a bowl of steamed rice since they were unable to do the fried Jasmine rice without the meat in it and NC Peanuts were a nice salty sweet snack. The 3 sauces they give you on the side to dip everything in is also a nice touch. 
Although I found the food rich and flavorful, I wasn't blown away. I was kind of annoyed they took some of the other vegetarian options off the menu, and weren't able to do more in the kitchen to fill our hungry bellies. Regardless, the best part of the meal was by far the Ice Pops they serve for dessert. We had the Vietamese Coffee served in a metal tin with cocoa nibs to dip and the Thai Basil with shredded Coconut on the side. I would go back alone for those pops! Yum!

Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn 

Bite Mark: **and a half

Good For: Adventurous Eating, Ice Pops! 

Nightingale 9, 345 Smith Street