The Brooklyn Boom
I confess i used to be one of those Manhattanites who quietly turn up their noses whenever their Brooklyn friends begin babbling about the beautifully articulated pork chop they’ve just enjoyed on Smith Street, or the quaint little wine bar that’s just opened on their block. But the steak tartare at 360, on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, is still the best I’ve tasted in the city. The clean, well-lit Haitian establishment Kombit, on Flatbush Avenue, wins this year’s prize for the best fried goat in town (they also serve an exemplary dish of fried pork called grillot, with big smashed plantains). And if you’re craving an old-fashioned infusion of jerk chicken or medallions of hot, jellied oxtail poured over rice and a pile of butter beans, I suggest you hail a taxi and direct your driver to a diminutive West Indian joint on the northernmost fringes of Polish Greenpoint called Bleu Drawes Café.
In a borough known for its pizza meccas, Franny’s, on Flatbush Avenue, is the latest big thing. The pies are charred in a wood oven, of course, and you can peruse the Greenmarket pedigrees of the various toppings (oregano from Stokes Farms in Old Tappan, basil from the Farm at Miller’s Crossing in Claverack, etc.) on the menu while you wait for your order to arrive. The pizzas are superior, particularly the one covered with four cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, Gorgonzola, fontina) and the one covered with nothing much at all (olive oil, rosemary, and garlic only), but if you’re wise, you’ll save room for appetizers like rigorously organic piles of mashed chicken liver heaped on rounds of crostini, or long strips of soft, vaguely charred eggplant drizzled with pine nuts and flakes of ricotta cheese.
An unlikely bistro called Ici serves the best chicken-liver schnitzel in all of Fort Greene—or anywhere else, for that matter—and if you happen to drop by when the braised pork shoulder is on the menu (it’s served with Brussels sprouts folded with bits of bacon, and a pile of the most refined organic grits from South Carolina), you should order that too. Pork is also one of the specialties at Applewood, newly opened on a quiet, leafy street in Park Slope. The room was filled with smiling children on the night I visited, which didn’t detract from the quality of the spoon-soft pork belly or my short ribs, which were wrapped in a rich layer of caul fat, or my wife’s special sturgeon, which was crisped on top and flavored, in the new Brooklyn style, with a hint of truffles.