Maison Premiere

298 Bedford AveBrooklyn, NY 11249 • (347) 335-0446 • maisonpremiere.com

 

More like Maison Meh. And to think this place was actually considered for a James Beard! It’s not even worthy of a James Buchanan. Sure, the setting is nice in the back garden and the oysters are money, especially with that marvelous mignonette, but just because the serve absinthe doesn’t make them 4 stars (unless you got really drunk on the absinthe and meant to actually click 2 stars). This over inflation of culinary prowess makes Brooklynites look desperate, trying to keep claiming that all the really good restaurants are now in Brooklyn and not Manhattan. They aren’t. I’m sorry to break it to you. Okay, so you’ve got Vinegar Hill House, Blanca, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Peter Pan Donuts, Peter Luger– Okay, fuck it. So you have a lot of good restaurants. That still doesn’t change the fact that Maison isn’t one of them.

The crudos are crapo. The cod brandade is blandade. The sardines and olive starters are passable at best. And even the octopus is a rubbery mess. And I wish I could say things got better but apart from the Atlantic Cod served over Tarbais beans and the pork porterhouse with mashed potatoes and shrooms, they got so much worse. The lobster roll would be considered a crime in the state of Maine. And the duck au poivre is so inedible it could almost start a war again with France.

But the atrocities against our mouths weren’t quite done yet as the monster rose back up from the dead for one final blow, in the form of empty calories. Both the cheesecake and the absinthe pana cotta were bunk, sealing the fate of MP with a firm two knives.

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Blanca

261 Moore St. Brooklyn, NY 11206(347) 799-2807blancanyc.com

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Had I never been to Momofuku Ko prior to my visit to Blanca, I’d probably be swooning even more than I’m about to, but unfortunately the concept does come off a bit as a copy cat (without the affordability hook). A high-end, chef’s tasting only offered to a dozen stools overlooking the kitchen amidst a purposefully pompless dining room.

What’s different is that it’s Italian and if you’ve ever been to Roberta’s for pizza, than you’re probably already drooling, because you kinda know what this chef is capable of. Then again, you also kinda don’t, because Carlo Mirachi is about to open a can of culinary whoop-ass on you that you’d likely never come to expect from a pie slinger, slinging around Ultimates instead, as if they were going out of style.

To get here, there are few things you need to know. First, make a reservation fast, because as I mentioned above, there aren’t many seats and there are only two seatings a night. Second, be willing to eat when you normally wouldn’t. The first seating is at 6pm and the second is at 8:30pm. I recommend the earlier one so you have time to digest. I also recommend booking during Passover when you weed out about half of the competition to get a table. Third, be prepared to drop some coin, because you HAVE to get the “wine” pairings. I use quotes because many of the pairings are not actually wine (more on that later). And finally, to get to the dining room itself, you must first check in at the front desk in Roberta’s, where they will then escort you to the back corner of the ever-expanding Roberta’s compound, to a nondescript building set apart from the rest of the hullaballoo.

Kicking things off, they get you in the mood with a pallet-cleansing sip of Evil Twin “Blanca Biere de Table” yes, beer of all things. But nice touch on the “blanca.” Well played.

First on the food docket comes a little taste of glass shrimp with sprinkling of kohlrabi and black sesame, paired with a crisp Hugues Godme Extra Brut Champagne. It’s a nice, light start to set the mood, artfully balanced and just understated enough to give them something to build to.

Unfortunately, the second course kinda dropped the baton. A house-cured pancetta that was as white as ghost, both looking and tasting like a pure ribbon of fat. It was easily the worst course of the night and so off-putting that I honestly recommend skipping it entirely and saving more room for the brilliance to come.

And Johnny come quickly, with an early Ultimate, served in the form of a cold soup, made with garbanzo beans and autumn olives, which that alone is impressive, because let’s be honest, it’s not like garbanzo beans are a treasure trove of flavor, so to get that much pizzazz out of it is easily worthy of a golf clap.

Chasing that was a bit of a wasted bullet with a ginger-soaked apple and macadamia shavings. Nothing to write home about, and not much to blog about either. And sadly, neither were the next two courses, the sweet potato with buttermilk and the peas with ramps. All paired with a Rose and not a one worth remembering.

But just when my faith was failing, BOOM another Ultimate. The lamb carbonara is balls out jaw dropping. Sporting a healthy, peppery kick this carbonara kicks some serious ass. And adding to the ass-kickage is the pairing with a vermouth from Hammer & Tongs that is so inventive that it is only bested by its complementary perfection with the pasta.

Then, right on the heels of such pasta brilliance, they do it again with an agnolotti filled with a smoky lapsang souchong (Chinese tea). And while I would love to wax poetic about it, the next pasta course managed to blow them all away. A spicy blood orange nduja (pork sausage) ravioli that is so fucking good that it will make you angry that they only give you one of them. But perhaps the most shockingly amazing thing about this pasta is that the pairing deserves an Ultimate unto itself. A stout beer with the most badass name in history, Siberian Black Magic Panther Imperial Stout. I don’t even know what it means, but what I do know it that it goes hella good with spicy blood orange nduja ravioli.

Sadly the rollercoaster returned, however, as the stracciatella with beef lardo and the king crab with bottarga brought me back to Earth. But barely did my feet even touch the ground before being swept into the stratosphere once again by the “bread and butter,” also known as pizza crust and homemade salted butter. I know it sounds so simple that it teeters on lame, but if lame tastes this friggin’ good, then sign me up for a lame-a-palooza.

Back to blah was the loin of wagyu beef and the pork with grapefruit, proving out a theme, if you ask me, that the meat dishes, across the board, proved to be the biggest misses of the night.

Fortunately the hits were so strong that it made up for it in spades, coming in every shape and form, including even a palate cleanser, such as the pineapple, cilantro sorbet.

Then, capping the night, we were met with a finale of desserts set to the theme of a late harvest Riesling from the Finger Lakes in New York. The first of the lot being sourdough gelato with yuzu crème. So inventive. So good. You really have to try it to understand.

After that, the sunchoke with cardamom, the cashew coconut cake and the chocolate peanut butter cookie were much more in the mortal realm, but after such heights I think it was probably prudent to ease you back into the real world.

4 teeth

Glasserie

95 Commercial St. New York, NY 11222(718) 389-0640glasserienyc.com

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Being that it is currently a James Beard nominee, this was way up on my list of Brooklyn bites, so when the chance arose to dine here on an expense account, I was in Ferocious heaven.

Regrettably, heavenly is not exactly how I would describe the aroma upon entering. Rather the word dishwater comes to mind. Such a turn off right out of the gate to be hit by a wall of wafting stank from the kitchen opposite the foyer. Not great planning on that one. Nor on the chairs, which make you feel like you’re auditioning for the shrinking role in Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately the rest of the setting is nice, with its exposed brick, charming divided-light windows and mid-century touches, mixed with a little rustic industrialism.

In terms of food, I really appreciated the inventive fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Not that there isn’t already an inherent overlap between the two, but the way the chef blended those elements was truly original.

Not wasting any time, our painfully hip waitress delivered a series of wows, the biggest and Ultimatest being the flatbread with labneh. Served piping hot, so much so that no one could even tear it apart for the first several minutes. And the labneh (yogurt) is unbelievably thick and creamy, filled with a lagoon of wonderful olive oil and harissa. The grilled bread was also good, but next to the flat, it was Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

I also loved the mixed nuts with leblebi. The latter are dried, crunchy chickpeas that are popular during cocktail hour in Turkey. The olives were also nice. Home marinated I’m guessing, because the stems were still on many of them.

After that the courses started hitting the table fast and furious, with a lot of hits, but unfortunately a few misses as well. The hits for me would be the lamb sweetbreads, done grilled as opposed to fried, which I really liked. Feels like a more faithful preparation. The rabbit tacos were also quite nice, served in what I believe was a jicama taco shell. The stuffed cabbage was such a blast from my past that I almost had to love it. And it did Bubby proud, granted a much more inventive spin, made with hanger steak inside, as well as couscous.

In the middle of the field I would put the chicken entree, the leaves and leaves salad, the Syrian cheese plate (pictured) and the Brussels sprouts. All are good, but the fact that sprouts are on every friggin’ menu these days is growing a bit played. And while I appreciate the brown bag serving vessel, I can’t get past the “me too” factor. It’s like kale and Brussels sprouts are being mandated by some sort of foodie mafia overlord.

Bringing up the rear would be the cauliflower and the hanger steak. The former for being way too basic to the point where you could make as good or better at home, and the latter because it was undercooked and chewy, without enough flavor to make the jaw work worthwhile.

In terms of cocktails, they all sounded better than they tasted and the Arak, while served up on a silver platter, literally, is as basic as it gets at its core. The only inventive twist being an actual twist- and a shot grapefruit juice to mix in with your ice, water and anise booze. For a better Arak cocktail try the Hana at Balaboosta.

During dessert things went a little off the rails. The cookie assortment was easily the best. The ice creams went 1 for 3, pistachio being the only one anybody touched. The cardamom and tahini both melted in the bowl like a lonely Wicked Witch of the North. And the chocolate mousse was so bad it shat the bed, or should I say the diaper, which is what it looked like once you opened the bag, like a diaper with shit in it. Not sure what they were thinking on this one, or more than likely it was a lack thinking that lead to this abomination of presentation, but unless you want to test the fortitude of your constitution, I’d take a pass.

So while the performance most certainly ended on a foul note, the earlier winners were enough to carry it over the mid-line.

3 teeth

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

727 Manhattan Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222(718) 389-3676 • peterpan-donuts.com

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Unless you are in the know, or you’ve been tipped off by someone who is, you would walk right past this unassuming place. In fact, that’s exactly what my friend did even though we were on a mission, heading directly there.

Once you find it, step inside and you will soon discover that the bakery is very old school. In fact, the only renovation in sight was probably the upgrade from rotary to push button phone. Even the prices seem to be stuck in the past (no complaints) with a dozen setting you back a mere 10 bucks, which is robbery… of THEM. Just one bite of the Blueberry Buttermilk and you would gladly pay the same amount for just that one doughnut alone.

And while you’re likely to hear many others rave about the Old Fashioned, the Red Velvet, Honey Dipped and Sour cream I say skip all of them, because they are snores by comparison to the Maple. In fact, the Maple is so damn irresistible, when we cut it up for sharing we actually found a hair baked into it, but still kept eating. Yes, it’s so good it’s worth getting Hep B. And this was actually my second favorite! Which should speak volumes about how incredible the Blueberry Buttermilk must be. Obviously and Ultimate.

In third place I’d go with the apple crumble (pictured), which is pretty much what it sounds like, the cross pollination of an apple crumble and a doughnut. And in fourth, the chocolate coconut. A bit less inventive than the others, but nice and dense with the cake, which is how I prefer my doughnuts. Sure, fluff and airy has its merits, but I prefer that in my croissants. When it comes to doughnuts, I want the thing to weigh in like a 10 pound plate at the gym, not that I would know since I haven’t worked out in ages… unless you count digesting as exercise?

My only gripe holding them back from 5 knives, other than the string of “ehs” noted above, would be the way the clerk guilted me into buying a 13th doughnut. After ringing me up and tying up the box, she bothers to ask if this was my first time. I naturally replied, “yes,” hence why I bought the friggin’ store out so I could try everything. So THEN she tells me I have to get the Sour Cream because it’s the best one. Now, I appreciate the tip, but A) I would’ve preferred the tip at the onset of donut-palooza, before the transaction was settled and the dozen chosen. And B) if you are going to ask me to pull my wallet back out and go for a 13th, you better be fucking right! But as you can probably surmise from my tone, the sour cream was, well… a sour note. So unworthy of the recommendation that it cost Peter Pan a knife. Fortunately for them, I doubt it will hurt their business one iota.

4 teeth

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co.

114 Nassau Ave. Greenpoint, NY 11222 • (718) 349-0400 • greenpointfish.com

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I love the vibe/concept of this place. A little fish market up front, with a few lucky seats lined up along a bar overlooking the kitchen, Momofuku Ko style. Sadly, the food is not anything even close to Ko style and almost everything needed seasoning.

The iced tea needed sugar, the fish sandwich and fish tacos (pictured) both needed salt and pepper, and the tacos also needed copious amounts of Tapatió. Then, after all of that, they were still lacking by comparison to the fish tacos at ABC Cocina. Granted those are the best I’ve ever had, but these might actually be down there among the worst. Overcooked and flavorless to the point where the freshness of the fish no longer mattered.

On the plus side, the blistered shishito peppers were nicely salted and worthwhile. And the lobster roll was hearty thumbs up. Packed with meat and not too much mayo. Not quite at the ranks of an Ultimate, but it would hold its own against Luke’s in my humble, and by that I mean not at all humble, opinion.

Definitely not worthy of the 4 stars you’ll see on Yelp, but if you need a good fish market, the stuff in the case looked good. Just wish someone there knew how to cook it. Luckily we walked over to Peter Pan for some donuts afterward and all was right again with the world.

2 teeth

 

Peter Luger Steak House

178 Broadway Brooklyn, NY 11211(718) 387-7400 peterluger.com

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There are two types of New York Steakhouses, old school and new school. And while they both obviously serve steaks as their main event, I truthfully find the experiences to be apples and oranges. Refined versus reminiscent. Inventive versus simple. Pricey versus- okay, well they’re all pricey.

So, where does Peter Luger fall in this? At the very top of the apples (a.k.a old school). The steaks are sourced, aged and cooked to perfection, along with a little butter. Served sliced, which I found novel and a touch risky, allowing all of those juices to get out before serving (pictured), but somehow Peter overcame, serving up a buttery, delicious pile of sliced meat.

The other surprise was how casual the setting is. Similar to Old Homestead and Smith & Wollensky, Peter Luger leverages the Tudor house of décor, but the vibe and the details are such that it almost makes you feel awkward to be dressed up, unlike the aforementioned.

But perhaps the most shocking thing of all about Peter Luger is what I’m about to tell you next… Don’t go for the steak. Go for the strudel. I have been to the finest strudel maker in Vienna, where strudel is practically religion, and I submit to you now that Peter Luger’s apple strudel is better. So take that Austria. How you like them apples?

P.S. They used to only take cash, so bring a wad the size of your femur because the place isn’t cheap.

4 teeth

 

The Ultimate Lobster Roll

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I know I’ll probably catch some grief for not having a single New England establishment amongst these, but the only one that would’ve made it no longer exists, at Harborside, Osterville, MA (RIP). Sorry, NE, you may have created it, but New York perfected it.

Pearl Oyster Bar – New York, NY

I have been going to Pearl ever since it was a one-table restaurant and a bar. Oh, and the owners were still in love. Since then, the owners split up and the place blew up (now about 20+ tables). But the good news is that in all of this time Pearl never lost its way. Their lobster roll continues to be the bomb. The standard to which all others are held in my book. And I’ve been all up in New England, on Cape Cod, etc… And there was one other that bested Pearl. But then they closed. And closed don’t count in Ultimates. But I digress.

What makes Pearl so damn fine is that they don’t over do it with mayo and herbs and spices. But they don’t underdo it either, making it feel too much like a lump of lobster meat in a hotdog bun. They also give you a ton, making it feel mildly worth its hefty price tag. And with a well poured pint of Guinness, there are few things on this earth that compare.

Red Hook Lobster Pound – Brooklyn, NY

Now after praising the shit out of Pearl’s lobster roll I’m about to sound like a giant hypocrite, and that’s because I am. But no more than anyone else I suppose. I’m human. And I love to contradict myself. Even within the very same post. Like now. Because Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Connecticut-Style is so good, it’s contradiction worthy. A little on the small side, however, but don’t let it’s diminutive footprint fool you. It’s more filling than you’d expect, primarily because it’s done up with warm butter as opposed to cold mayo. They also toss in a sprinkle of paprika and then top it with freshly chopped parsley and the net outcome is a lobster roll incomparable to so many others, because the flavor spectrum is just so vastly different. Like apples and oranges. But make no mistake, this is one friggin’ good apple.

L&W Oyster Co. – New York, NY

Technically this isn’t a lobster roll. It’s a sandwich. And more specifically a lobster BLT. But more specifically than that, it’s OMFW (Oh My Fucking Wow). Served on a buttery toast, as opposed to a “hot dog bun,” which I’m not sure is required by the official lobster roll commission of Maine (if that even exists), then they spread a killer sriachi aioli and top it off with bacon, lettuce and tomato obviously. But what isn’t so obvious is how much one man can truly love a sandwich.

The Mermaid Inn

After having made this initial post so many people clamored on about Luke’s Lobster and how it deserved to be on this list so I finally tried it, and well, as you can see, Luke’s still isn’t making the cut on my update either. That said, just a few blocks away there is a very similar roll, clean and simple, like Luke’s. With a nice hint of vinegar, like Luke’s and that one IS making the list.  Mermaid somehow manages to play subtly like a seasoning virtuoso, allowing the lobster to shine in all of its lobstery glory, and yet still brings a little somethin’ somethin’ to the party with the most artful restraint. And thus, edging out Luke’s by a nose.

Calexico

153 Rivington St. New York, NY 10002 • (646) 590-4172 calexico.net
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Seeing the lines, I had such high hopes for this place, but I gotta say, I have no idea what people are talking about. The burritos are FAR from “huge.” Go to Chipotle, Benny’s, Blockheads… Those are huge. These are more… what’s the word? Diminutive. So much so that when I brought it back to the office, a guy I work with commented on how surprisingly small it was- so it’s not just me bitching.

And as for flavor- “crack sauce?” Implying something is so good it’s as addictive as crack? Sorry, but they must’ve forgotten to put it on mine, because it was flavorless. I wound up drowning the thing in hot sauce just to make it worth eating. If you want a truly addictive burrito experience try Tres Carnes.

But whatever you do, please don’t waste your time standing on line, only to then wait around another 15 minutes for your mediocre order to be made. There’s a Chipotle just down the street and it’s bigger, faster and better.

1 tooth

Red Hook Lobster Pound

 284 Van Brunt St. Brooklyn, NY 11231 • (718) 858-7650 • redhooklobster.com

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For a lobster roll in the city, there is only one better that I know of, Pearl Oyster Bar. That said, Red Hook has three types and all are varying degrees of holy shitter- the Maine Style (with mayo), Tuscan Style (with vinegar and herbs) and Connecticut style (with butter and paprika). Maine is normally the kind I’ve had in the past, but I have to say, the Connecticut (pictured) is the one to get. In fact, it’s an Ultimate. The Tuscan is also pretty great. And surprisingly, Maine is my least favorite of the three, but that’s more a reflection of how amazing the first two are, as opposed to how bad the Maine is.

On the downside, 15 bucks for a lobster roll half the size of Pearl’s (which is only 4 bucks more) seems awfully steep. I usually need to eat two of Red Hook’s, they are so small. So, 30 bucks for lunch plus a drink starts to be more $$$ than $$.

As for other dishes, the shrimp roll is a big pass IMO. I like the cracked pepper on it, but it’s really not worth forgoing the main event. Nor is the lobster mac and cheese, which is so poorly done you can taste the fact that this was an afterthought on the menu with its giant lumps of lobster thrown half-assed on top of a very average mac. I think RH should just stick to their core competency.

And last but not least, the decor, while campy and bare bones, is also a touch odd with it’s dining room located confusingly next door to the actual counter. So, you actually have to exit one building and enter another to order your food and then eat it.

Back on the plus side, it’s great place to go instead of eating at the Ikea. And if you go to their Dumbo location in the summer, the view of the city is incredible.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Pizza

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I have been dreading this post for a while because there are SO many great pizza places out there it’s hard for me to narrow down. I mean the list of honorable mentions is easily in the double digits. The other reason I was dreading it is because everyone thinks they know the best pizza place and are extremely passionate about it. So I can only imagine I will get comments to the contrary below. But, I say bring it on! I’m always happy to try new places and revise a post.

La Pizza Fresca – New York, NY

Believe it or not, this is the ONLY pizza joint in the United States that is recognized by the Official Commission of Pizza in Italy. And believe it or not, I’m not making that up. The reason for their approval is that apparently La Pizza Fresca is the only place in the country that makes pizza according to the authentic Italian tradition. Now, if you’re normal, you probably don’t even care about this. All that matters is how the pies taste. Well, Mama Mia! The primavera is easily the best veggie pie I’ve ever had and the Quattro Frommagi is easily the best cheese pie. The veggies are fire roasted and so fresh they pop off the pie and dance in your mouth. And the Quattro? For the first time ever, I could literally taste each individual cheese shining through like a quartet of cheesy complexity. The only rub is the wait. Not that the place is ever really that packed, strangely enough. But I suppose it’s because the “authentic traditional” method is painfully slow.

Roberta’s Pizza – Brooklyn, NY

Consider me stung, because I loves me the Bee Sting. Granted I’m an easy target for a spicy and sweet combo, but this pie is on point all around. Get it? Pizzas are round. While you’re busy groaning, let me explain what makes it such. First, it’s the spicy soppressata, with its slight crispy char. Then, they drizzle honey over the top and that’s when the magic happens, blending with the sauce and the cheese and the oils of the meat. All sitting on their killer dough. It’s morta bene.

Grimaldi’s – Brooklyn, NY

There’s nothing fancy going on here. This is just straight up New York pie at its absolute best. Don’t get too cute with too many toppings. Just stick to your basics like pepperoni and mushroom and be prepared to bow like Wayne’s World at the knees of a pizza god.

Oenotri – Napa, CA

I’m a borderline mushroom groupie. Seriously. If there were AA for mushroom-eating I might be sitting in a 12 step somewhere right now, “Hi, my name is Ferocious Foodie and I’m a mushroom-a-holic.” So, it was probably a foregone conclusion that a mushroom pizza would be on this list. But not just any mushroom pie, this is gourmet all the way. From the impeccable choice of fresh cremini mushrooms to their almost bone marrow-like saute, making for a wonderfully creamy, tender top, aboard a perfectly contrasted crunchy crust. No wonder Thomas Keller loves this place.