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Posts from the ‘brooklyn’ Category

Dino: Fort Greene’s Fifth Rustic Italian, Tailor-Made for Hipsters

Dino, the newest Italian restaurant to hit Fort Greene, is just like many of the other restaurants that have moved into Brooklyn in the past five years: cozy, inexpensive, homey, and simple. Yet, just because it’s mildly formulaic doesn’t mean it’s any less charming.

Bright and open to DeKalb Avenue, Dino is a small rectangular room, painted white for simplicity’s sake. Wooden ceiling fans twirl lazily above the dark wooden tables. On one side of the room is a relaxed bar, manned by an attractive hipster-chic bartender who exudes more calm than my yogi. The design is kept simple with few adornments other than large luxe mirrors and an unusual vaguely Medieval chandelier. Seating around 70, Dino should seem more bustling than it is; however, an almost eery calm defines the casual neighborhood hangout.
The food is simple and rustic Italian. While the flavors are bold, the kitchen’s creations and their presentation are basic. Dino serves comfort food straight-up; don’t expect fireworks and backflips here. However, through fresh quality ingredients and a touch of inspired originality, Dino avoids the red-sauce black hole that casual Italian tends to slip into. The crostini rotate seasonally and can be very good; the chicken liver pate option is bold, smooth, and salty, while the ricotta topping needs a bit salt to bring out the delicate flavor. The appetizers are traditional, ranging from a thick slice of bufala mozzarella with tomatoes and basil to mini veal meatballs with lemon zest and sauteed calamari in white wine and garlic. The pastas are the real show here – fresh, comforting, layered with familiar flavors. Try the bucatini, a thick long noodle cooked just right in a hearty sauce of tomato and onion gravy, pancetta, mint, and pecorino. Or, if you’re looking for something lighter, opt for the basic spaghetti with lemon juice and garlic. Entrees keep it simple with options such as roasted chicken, pork milanese, and grilled or pan-seared salmon with a silky pea puree.
Dino isn’t complicated or fancy; it’s simple and proud of it. It’s the type of any-night place that you could just wander into for an easy and relaxed meal in the neighborhood. Prices ensure that a meal at Dino won’t be an occasion-based production. While not necessarily something special, Dino serves its purpose well as a satisfying and casual hangout for Fort Greene foodies.

Dino on Urbanspoon

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Sel de Mer: Salty Seafood Supper

Williamsburg is slowly creeping up on my list of favorite eating neighborhoods after my recent dinner at Sel de Mer, a casual seafood joint on Graham Avenue. A previously unexplored segment of Billyburg for me, around the intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Graham Ave yields several great finds (other than the neon 24hr White Castle) from sexy Mexican at Mesa Coyoacan to rustic Provencal at Fanny to classic Italian at Cono & Son. Without using too many stereotypes here, Sel de Mer embodies the laidback super-casual yet culturally-aware throbbing heart of Williamsburg.

On a quiet block outside the busy ‘just-over-the-bridge’ mini-hood near Bedford Street, Sel de Mer or ‘sea salt’ lurks. A tiny space, the dining room seats just 28 plus 4 seats at the bar. Blue painted siding and warm yellow walls evoke sand and sea, while nautical knick-knacks and a bold fishy smell hammer it home that Sel de Mer serves seafood and, really, only seafood. The most complicated part of the restaurant is the mess of tattoos on the three artfully-disheveled servers.

Made out of the covers of old library books, the menu is a greatest hits compilation of classic seafood dishes. Everything from mussels mariniere to fish & chips to fish cakes to shrimp & lobster cocktail is there and for under $15. The specials menu also yields a few gems including the sea scallops on a bed of bacon creamed spinach, oysters, tuna carpaccio, a whole dorade, a whole grouper, and grilled bronzino. Generous portions, loads of crusty sea salt, and fresh flavor-packed proteins make Sel de Mer a neighborhood keeper. The highlights reel includes mounds of fish & chips in the perfect light crusty batter showered in malt vinegar, five dainty and super caramelized sea scallops perched atop savory and delightly mushy cream of spinach, and the hulking rounds of juicy fried green tomatoes served with brie, lemon juice, and saffron aioli.

As a Bostonian and a Cape Codder at heart, I can vouch for the quality omnipresent in the seafood at Sel de Mer; these seafood classics are done right with few unnecessary trimmings. It’s just good-tasting food for rock-bottom prices in a charmingly residential neighborhood – not to mention, the bottles of wine will blow your mind, often priced for under $30 – what more could you want from a casual restaurant?

Perfect For: fish and malt vinegar cravings, casual dinner out in the neighborhood, late in the game date with no need to impress, brooklyn adventurings, pre-game feast

Sel de Mer on Urbanspoon

Whoever Franny is, She Does Pizza Right

I don’t know who the namesake is for Franny’s, the chic and modern pizzeria in Park Slope, but she must have known how to do pizza right. This gastronomic gem on Flatbush not only serves some of the best ‘new-age’ pizza I’ve had thus far in New York but also does it all being 100% environmentally-friendly.

The surprisingly luxe space a couple blocks north of Prospect Park has a light-flooded dining room, a stone and marble bar, and a garden out back. The open kitchen lets you peek into where the magic happens and lets tantalizing smells waft through the restaurant.

The menu, just one short sheet of options, offers a limited but enticing set of modern Italian dishes, including Salumi cuts, crostini, sausage, pastas, and pizzas. The pizzas are the real highlight here; however, everything proved to be supremely tasty. My party, ‘weary’ from a long day in the hot sunshine in Prospect Park, chowed down on Fried Potatoes with Provolone, Chilies and Capers, Wood-Roasted Pork Sausage with Peppers, two Clams, Chilies and Parsley pizzas, and a Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella, Sausage and Hot Pepper pizza.

The appetizers were expertly prepared and seasoned. A fresh twist on Patatas Bravas, the fried potatoes were coated in a light melted provolone and sitting in a bright ‘gravy’ of capers and chilies. The capers lended an unexpected citrusy bite to the heavier and more mellow provolone. All in all, who knew such a common dish as fried potatoes could be so wondrously fresh? The wood-smoked pork sausage was equally tasty, hand-made and atop a bed of gigantic marinated hot peppers. Spicy and savory, the sausage just melted away in your mouth.

The pizzas, while completely different in flavor and composition, were both divine. The clams, chilies and parsley pies were surprisingly light, dotted with small bits of steamed clams. The white pie added very delicate and balanced flavors to complement the clams. The tomato, mozzarella, sausage and hot pepper pie was much bolder in taste. It had the traditional tomato and cheese base with substantial cuts of spicy pork sausage and rounds of hot peppers. I couldn’t get enough. The dough itself was the real superstar though. It somehow managed to be chewy, soft and crispy at the crust and thin under the pie. I was so enamored with the fresh-baked doughy flavor and consistency that I kept scarfing my boyfriend’s discarded crust rinds.

Franny’s was completely worth the trip out to Prospect Park/Park Slope, and if you live in the area, just know I am envious beyond belief. The laidback Brooklyn mindset permeates this sophisticated pizzeria. The waitstaff is friendly and efficient while not seeming frenzied. A sort of confident calm saturates the atmosphere. The food is beautiful, elegant flavors and a modern look.

Additionally, Franny’s is committed to the ‘locavore’ concept, serving food made from farms in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The owners have long been committed to supporting sustainable agriculture. On the back of their menu, they give credit to where each of their ingredients comes from. Furthermore, the restaurant is run entirely on renewable energy, made up of 35% wind power and 65% small hydroelectric power. The coffee is fair trade, the kitchen cleaning products are environmetally-friendly, and the kitchen grease is converted into biodiesel fuel. Talk about feeling as though you’re reducing your carbon footprint!

Franny’s is perfect for a lazy afternoon meal or for a relaxed date. The food is heart-warming and passionate, ideal for sharing. Also check out the innovative cocktail menu, stacked with some pretty tasty artisan concoctions (I personally prefer the Sparkling Mint – a bubbly and fresh twist on a mojito).

Franny's on Urbanspoon