If the Underground Gourmet were to suddenly lose his mind and open a restaurant, the first thing he’d do is post an ad on Craigslist, which seems to be the trick to unearthing superb kitchen talent these days. It worked at Tía Pol. And it’s what brought chef Paul Williams, fresh off a long cooking stint in New Orleans, to the stove at Sweetwater, the Williamsburg punk bar turned cozily lived-in gastropub. Williams’s arrival hasn’t garnered as much notice as when the bar first became a restaurant a year ago with a different chef and owners. But he’s started making a distinctive culinary statement with a big, brawny, butter-crazed style informed in part by his Big Easy gigs at Bayona and Lilette, and in part by his Brooklyn childhood. There’s a bit of Bay Ridge in the saffron rice balls, or arancini, but unlike the supersize specimens dehydrating under heat lamps at your average slice joint, these are built for human consumption, stuffed with provolone and set adrift in a delicious sausage-and-mushroom ragout. Potato gnocchi are lavished with butter, Parmesan, and a touch of truffle oil. Smoky eggplant-and-oyster soup is pure New Orleans, strange and unexpected but undeniably tasty. A beet-and-goat-cheese-salad special breaks the ubiquitous beet-and-goat-cheese-salad mold: The beets are marinated and grilled, dressed with insanely rich walnut butter and seasoned with Creole spices. Spanish mackerel in a delicate orange-butter sauce is supremely fresh and cooked much more precisely than its casual burger-and-brew setting requires. This is sumptuous, full-flavored food—especially “Food of the Gods,” a molten chocolate cake submerged in an olive-oil-enhanced chocolate soup, crowned with hazelnut cream and sea salt. It’s amazing what you can find on the Web these days.
From Brooklyn to Bayona and Back Again
105 N. Sixth St., nr. Berry St.; Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-963-0608