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The Accidental Couscous...Dutch Treat...Sui Generis


Week of October 27, 2003

Spuyten Duyvil
Priced out of their formerly rent-stabilized Manhattan apartment and downsized from jobs in the music and tech industries, respectively, Joe Carroll and his girlfriend, Kim Barbour, took what might seem the path of least resistance: They opened a bar in Williamsburg. But the month-old Spuyten Duyvil is no ordinary hipster-haunted watering hole. Carroll, a self-professed beer geek and home brewer, seems determined to expand the neighborhood’s libationary horizons with over 100 bottled beers and six on tap, carefully culled from what he considers the world’s foremost small-production breweries. Don’t bother looking for Belgium on the chalkboard menu; its beers are categorized more precisely under the regional headings of Flemish and Wallonian. A limited (but equally wide-ranging) wine selection and cheese and charcuterie plates exhibit the same passionate connoisseurship. At the moment, Carroll’s eagerly anticipating the arrival of cask-conditioned ales and pear cider from the UK. “They won’t ship during warm weather,” he says—reason enough to hope for a long winter.
359 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Western chefs have co-opted Japanese ingredients and flavors for years, but culinary appropriation goes both ways. At Sui, opening this week in Soho, sushi rolls come wrapped in prosciutto, slathered with Thai peanut sauce, and drizzled with salsa. The eclectic menu doesn’t stop there: Beyond the waterfall and the fish tanks, the kitchen, led by co-owner and executive chef Adam Roth (pictured), turns out buffalo carpaccio with foie gras and a teapot for two of seafood-miso soup.
54 Spring Street

Les Enfants Terribles
The owners of Les Enfants Terribles may be French, but they insist that their new restaurant, a gold-leafed pioneer in the no-man’s-land where Chinatown meets the Lower East Side, isn’t. Instead, globetrotting partners Fabrice Vautrin (of Le Père Pinard) and Stéfan Jonot, a documentary filmmaker, plumbed their collective travels for culinary and decorative inspiration, to which they applied an atmospheric French Colonial veneer. Add a chef from the Ivory Coast to the multi-culti mix, and you’ve got a menu that features steak tartare and escargots alongside bacon-wrapped scallops with fried plantains and Senegalese rice. Soon serving breakfast, too.
37 Canal Street

Room with a View: With the arrival of Belleville, Brooklyn's foodiest arrondissement gets even Frencher.  

the underground gourmet
French Twists
A new Brooklyn bistro gets an “A” for atmosphere.
It’s no wonder Belleville looks like it’s been in Park Slope forever—thanks to permit snags and construction delays, it nearly has. On the bright side, the interminable postponements gave designer and partner Alex Gehrab plenty of time to sweat the details. When he’s not acid-etching mirrors or staining tile, Gehrab imports container shipments of miscellaneous French décor and sells it to restaurateurs hungry for that certain Left Bank je ne sais quoi. Belleville decidedly has that, thanks as much to its beautiful zinc bar as to its trio of owners from such established expat outposts as Félix, Casimir, and the Elephant. But what makes it a boon for the ever-burgeoning Fifth Avenue restaurant row is a not quite predictable menu that combines standards like duck confit and steak-frites with offbeat digressions like fazzoletti pasta with braised beef cheek, and calf’s liver with polenta and fig vinaigrette. Small plates of preserved tuna with lemon and capers and watermelon-goat-cheese salad offset the heartier fare. You may feel transported to Paris, but the kids’ menu (ham-and-cheese sandwich, angel hair with tomato sauce) is pure Park Slope.
330 Fifth Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn

object of desire
The Accidental Couscous
WD-50’s signature squid-“linguine” appetizer came about on purpose, but the new scallop “couscous” was a “happy accident,” says chef Wylie Dufresne. The clever accompaniment to his butternut-squash-tamarind soup has an al dente texture and delectable brown-butter-scallop flavor enhanced by a drizzle of hazelnut oil on the surface of the soup and a tiny strip of preserved-lemon “paper.” It came about when a kitchen staffer overchopped the scallops and noticed that after being cooked, they resembled the semolina granules. “So we went with it,” says Dufresne. “Now we’re experimenting with shrimp.”
50 Clinton Street

Slow Food: Paula Wolfert makes a convincing argument for taking your time.  

ask gael
Another cookbook? Who needs it?
I defy a passionate cook (or a passionate cookbook collector) to resist The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Paula Wolfert’s newest (Wiley; $34.95). It looks almost edible: the cover with its spilled seeds of the pomegranate, the apple Eve probably passed on to Adam, the sensuous photographs. As all her pals know, the woman is a fanatic, a passionate pilgrim to faraway kitchens no matter how primitive, a champion of indigenous ingredients. But authenticity is never enough for Paula. If it isn’t delicious, it isn’t in her books. And she’s there, too, urging you on, passing along little tricks, enticing you to the stove. I can’t wait to taste salmon poached in olive oil with rhubarb, cucumber, and mint salad, or the sesame-studded tomato jam. Her slow-cooked duck with olives has the crisp skin and melting interior of a confit but needs no time to mellow. And word on the pastry circuit is that her classic canelés de Bordeaux—lush custard inside a burnt-sugar shell—are a revelation.


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