No culinary safari through the wilds of Brooklyn would be complete without stops at all the recently gentrified watering holes, like Franny’s, on Flatbush Avenue, iCi, in Fort Greene, and Applewood, in Park Slope. But lately, the local chowhounds have been congregating on the empty sidewalks of Van Brunt Street, in Red Hook. After you’ve enjoyed a serving of the wine-braised short ribs (with smoked bacon and orange zest) at the great neighborhood bistro 360, you can stroll down the block to the eclectic mom-and-pop fusion establishment (he’s American, she’s Korean-American) called The Good Fork. The beamy little room is covered with wood molding, like the cabin of a ship’s, and in clement weather, the rickety garden out back is strung with lights and you can dine under the stars on bowls of slow-braised pork stew (with creamy polenta), crunchy-bottomed pork-and-chive pot stickers, and a superior marinated skirt steak served, Korean style, with an egg on top.
Williamsburg is being steadily overrun by all kinds of new dining establishments, but the serious-minded swells in the neighborhood seem to be congregating at Dressler, where the beautifully appointed room is worthy of any new restaurant in Manhattan, and the prices are, too. The proprietors have imported the famous hamburger from their nearby dining bar, DuMont, and laid on fancy-pants dishes like grilled rib eye, and shreds of smoked sturgeon piled with creme fraiche on a crunchy potato galette. But the real draw is the space. The softly lit room is adorned with intricate lattice trimmings that look like paper cutouts and make the whole place glow in the evenings, in a very decorative, un-Brooklynlike way.
The Farm on Adderley, which opened not long ago amid the clutter of 99-cent stores and bodegas on Cortelyou Road in far off Ditmas Park, is where my pioneering Brooklynite friends go to experience the joys of Haute Barnyard cooking. But the rest of the borough’s high-foodie aesthetes are clamoring for a table at Porchetta, on Smith Street, where the ambitious young chef Jason Neroni recently arrived to take over the kitchen. Neroni, who trained under Alain Ducasse, has a gift for imbuing old-fashioned Italian cooking with a kind of cutting-edge, Manhattan flourish. On one evening I dropped in, the tiny, harried kitchen was turning out bowls of deconstructed ravioli (filled with butter-cooked market mushrooms, shavings of Parmesan, and a single gently poached egg), chewy bricks of braised pork belly candied with dates and prunes, and a gourmet preparation of short ribs (sprinkled with sugared black olives and a mustard-greens-and-Gorgonzola fondue) that tasted as fine as any short-rib equivalent across the river, but, at $17, cost half as much.