254 South 2nd Street off Havemeyer, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
$55 each for 2 people, without drinks, without tip
Email chezjosebk at gmail dot com for reservations
♥ ♥ ♥
Back in 2009, I had a very impressive dinner at a pop-up restaurant inside the Brooklyn Fare store for $70 per person. Three years and three Michelin stars later, the tasting menu is now $225. So when I heard that chef Jose Ramirez-Ruiz used to cook there and is now running his own pop up at the Whirlybird Cafe, I jumped at the $55 chance before the rest of the food world raises his prices.
You take a risk when you decide to support a pop-up restaurant. As someone who’s served dinner to groups of people on the down-low, I know how it is to cook in a borrowed kitchen without the resources one may have if they were working in a real restaurant. Not only do you prep and cook the dishes for your customers, you also serve and clean up after everyone’s left. In the end, you realize that you really only do it for the love of cooking.
Chef Jose Ramirez-Ruiz, and his sidekick of the night @wandrlstng, both love to create and cook. The dishes were grown-up and technical and the vegetable-focused dishes were adventurous, savory, and delicious. As a carnivore, I am impressed when someone can push a vegetable’s limit to different heights.
Armed with a nice bottle of Haden Fig Pinot Noir, we sat by the window facing the street to enjoy our meal. I’m going to try to describe what we ate here. Apologies to the chefs if my taste buds misidentified something.
- Salted cod spread with warm crepe that reminded me of a Korean scallion pancake
- Vegetable broth that was so rich I couldn’t believe it was not made out of meat bones, served with small pieces of ramp stalks
- A beet green dusted with powdered yogurt
- Soft tofu with peas
- Date bread and the most delicious and evil ramp brioche served with ramp butter
- Young lettuce with Phu Quoc flavors of fish sauce, vinegar and Sriracha
- A surprising combination of strawberries, turnips and salmon roe that worked
- Asparagus, mushrooms, and olive sauce with a surprisingly technical foam made from tuna in a can
- Confit of carrots, cardamom and wild watercress
- Amazing textures of creamed spinach, beets and millet with an arrow leaf spinach
- Savory parsnip brûlée with mustard creme
- Beet yogurt hazelnut bar
I’m not Greek, but I sure do love my lamb. For Greek Easter this year, I was unable to join my friends in Boston for a full-on lamb roast because of new responsibilities at home (read: a new Rottweiler). But I didn’t want to miss the celebration so I biked over to Fairway supermarket, bought a highly-marked up leg of lamb for $34 and roasted it for seven hours while I walked the dog out, ran errands at Home Depot, and gardened the rest of the day.
1 3 to 4-lb lamb leg
2 red onions, quartered
2 sprigs of rosemary
For the dressing:
a handful of basil leaves
a handful of parsley
a handful of mint leaves
1 tsp stone grain mustard
a jigger of sherry vinegar
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup of olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 315º. Meanwhile, place the lamb in an aluminum-lined roast pan. Using a small sharp knife, make about 12 small but deep slits all throughout the meat and stuff them with garlic and rosemary leaves. Rub the entire lamb with olive oil using your hands and generously roll in salt and pepper.
2. Cover the pan loosely with more foil, lightly tucking the foil around the pan. Roast in the oven for 7 hours, or until the meat is soft and falls off the bone with a gentle prod of a fork.
3. While lamb is cooking, make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender while slowly drizzling the olive oil to create a consistency similar to a runny pesto. Season to taste.
4. Gently remove lamb from the oven and let it rest on a chopping block for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate to serve with the dressing on the side, or pull the meat apart with your hands and divide among your guests and drizzle the dressing all over.
73 Warren Street between West Broadway and Greenwich Streets
under $15 for lunch
[stay tuned for overall rating]
I walked by this new spot in TriBeCa the other day and I had to stop and peek in because it looked like a cute IKEA cafeteria inside (in that yellow chair/wooden table kind of way). I’ve been working in the neighborhood for almost 3 years now and my lunch options are dwindling. If I’m not packing my own food, I almost always feel bored about the choices around me: the Whole Foods buffet that always seem to cost so much, the Halal cart right outside the Chase bank, Chipotle, or if I’m inclined to eat Vietnamese food, Nicky’s right off Fulton Street.
Mulberry & Vine is spacious and airy inside. The space’s cleanliness makes you immediately think that the food will be light and healthy. Some may think it’s a little too sparse which could translate to an impression that the food will be bland, but displaying everything in colorful enamel bakeware make it somewhat homey.
Prices vary but are comparable to the neighborhood’s: $13 for 3 dishes (1 hot, 2 cold), $12 for 3 cold dishes, $3 to $4 for soups and other sides, and a dollar here and there for extras (a bed of lettuce or arugula, a small container of green sauce, etc.)
Third visit, May 21, 2013
1 hot, 3 cold
- Turkey meatballs – Tasty, but could use some texture. The finely grounded meat looked fake to me
- Soba noodles – Good and simple
- Farro and eggplant salad – I really liked this except for the tough eggplant skin
- Kale salad – I think it would have helped if the kale was shredded in smaller pieces so that it didn’t feel like you were eating big pieces of raw kale
Second visit, May 10, 2013
1 hot, 1 soup
- Chicken enchilada – Tasted more like a lasagna with white meat
- Lemon cardamom rice – Sounded promising but was a little too thin for me; needed some oomph
First visit: May 3, 2013
1 hot, 2 cold dishes
- Roasted cauliflower – Simple and clean; just like how you would make it at home, but it came with a so-called “green Sriracha” which tasted just like cilantro pesto.
- Curried freekeh with mango – The Arabic bulgur, this curried freekeh tasted healthy with the mango chunks.
- Spanish spice-rub roasted chicken – Although it was under the list of warm dishes, this was a little too cold for my taste. If it’s not cooked Hainanese style, cold chicken just tastes undercooked. I didn’t check what makes a rub “Spanish” but there was definitely paprika all over.
Today’s verdict: The two vegetable dishes made a good bed for the cold chicken. I regretted not getting the turkey meatballs instead.
* And when I write “the whole menu”, I mean just about the whole menu. The menu changes according to the season’s ingredients and I will start writing about it this Spring 2013.
Talk about an easy salad. My friend Stacie of OneHungryMama turned me on to this salad via Instagram. She adapted it from Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo.
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsps olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 can of chickpeas, washed and drained
1/4 cup parsley, torn into pieces
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
a handful blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and lemon juice until well mixed. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Add the fennel, chickpeas, parsley, and cheese to the bowl. Toss together to combine. To serve, spoon the salad onto a large platter, and sprinkle the almonds on top.
Buy Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen from Amazon.com
Check out OneHungryMama whose recipes are as friendly to children as they are to adults
Ever since I moved to my Harlem apartment, I had to keep myself from buying any more new cookbooks. It was hard enough to pare down my copies when I moved in, so I’m trying not to accumulate any more new stuff. I mostly borrow from the New York Public Library now just to get my fill of touching the cover and feeling the pages of a newly-published book, but when it comes to Fuchsia Dunlop, I make an exception.
Her books were my reference when I began my Sichuan kick a few years ago. Nothing out there compared to her work, living in the Sichuan Province and learning from the area’s cooking schools and the local chefs. I lived vicariously through her and her cooking.
From her latest, Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, I ended up adapting her eggplant dish, or rou mo qie zi, from Hangzhou. I found myself in Flushing, Queens with my friend Josh over the weekend and bought some eggplants on the cheap. I didn’t have all of her required ingredients, so I played with what I had. Instead of ground pork, I used the minced beef I had in my freezer. She also required a sweet fermented sauce but I figured a dollop of chili paste will do. I also skipped the potato flour because I simply didn’t have any and I didn’t want to substitute regular flour or cornstarch with it. I have two kinds of cooking wines in my pantry so I used both just to have something else to splash in.
Feel free to eliminate the beef if you don’t want meat in this dish.
4 Asian eggplants
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 tbsps Sichuanese chili paste
1 small knob ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
a splash of chicken stock
2 tsps sugar
a jigger of Shaoxing wine, or Chinese cooking wine
a jigger of mirin, or sweet rice wine
3 stalks scallions, finely chopped
1. Cut the eggplant lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into thin and even slices. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain. Discard the water when ready to cook.
2. In a wok or a deep skillet, heat the oil for deep-frying. Add the eggplant in batches and deep-fry for three to four minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on paper towels.
3. In the same wok on medium flame, cook the ground beef until golden brown. Feel free to add more oil so it won’t burn. Add the chili paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry until you can smell their aromas. Add the stock and sugar and mix well.
4. Add the fried eggplant to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavors. Splash the vinegar in and add the scallions and stir a few times. Serve with a bowl of hot, steaming white rice.
Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop