Brooklyn Sells Out, Tastefully
Once upon a time, Brooklyn restaurants were known for their locally sourced, rigorously seasonal menus, their loyal, neighborly clientele, and their tiny, tiny rooms. Now that Kings County has officially morphed into an international dining destination, however, more local chefs and restaurateurs seem to be abandoning the tiny-room formula and expanding their successful franchises by leaps and bounds. Or so I thought to myself as I contemplated my perfectly charred, faintly spicy clam pizza pie at the larger, more user-friendly version of Franny’s, which those legendary Brooklyn culinary demigods Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg opened in April on Flatbush Avenue.
This Franny’s 2.0 version is more impersonal than the original, it’s true, but there’s much more space in the new setup for the inevitable fleets of strollers that tend to pile up by the entrance in the evenings, and if you pine for the classic, old-shoe feel of the original, you can always wander a few blocks down Flatbush to the old Franny’s space, which now houses Feinberg and Stephens’s excellent new neighborhood trattoria, Marco’s. There are no pizzas on the menu of this slightly dowdy-looking establishment, and thanks to the Stygian lighting, the brown, parchmentlike menus can be difficult to decipher. Once you’ve acclimated yourself to these challenging conditions, you’ll find all sorts of authentic wonders on the menu, in particular the skewers of roast duck gizzards drizzled with a Concord-grape mosto, tangles of buttery tagliatelle speckled with salty shreds of prosciutto di Parma, and plump, perfectly charred lamb chops scottadito served, like in a home kitchen in Rome, over wedges of toast.
Andy Ricker has just moved Pok Pok NY from its original, cramped, perpetually oversubscribed space on Columbia Street to a larger room down the block, while up on Court Street, the talented Battersby chefs Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern have recently opened a capacious new restaurant called Dover, which has a good-size outdoor dining patio and, unlike their famously Lilliputian Smith Street establishment, a stand-alone kitchen. Farther north, in Greenpoint, all the stylish Manhattan food nabobs I know are making pilgrimages out to Glasserie, where the accomplished young chef Sara Kramer cooks rustic, Middle Eastern–accented dishes (try the lamb croquettes folded with bulgur, the sweet-potato dumplings, and anything served with fresh-baked Yemeni “flaky bread”) on the ground floor of a refurbished former glass factory on Commercial Street.
For a real dose of the new-Brooklyn big-box style, however, I suggest you book a table at Paul Liebrandt’s new hotel restaurant venture, The Elm, which opened in July on the fringes of McCarren Park in Williamsburg. The triple-height atrium dining space features a gleaming, state-of-the-art open kitchen, a wall covered in vines, and not one but two counters (one for drinks, the other for Liebrandt’s elaborate multicourse tasting menu). Order anything the peripatetic, ex-Manhattan chef cooks in a Le Creuset pot, in particular the generously portioned big-ticket items, like lobster cassoulet; the sweet, almost candied Iberian-style pork belly with pan con tomate; and the delicious turbot, which Liebrandt serves, when it’s in season, with a thin layer of mashed ramps in rich lemongrass broth stippled with summer beans and tiny cubes of bacon.