Several times a week, Rocky saunters along Smith Street in Cobble Hill before or after work. For about a month, she kept mentioning passing by a small restaurant she had read about and how cool it looks. On our most recent night off together, it was her turn to choose our dinner spot. So I hopped on an F train to Brooklyn to join her at Battersby.
Since they operate primarily on a first-come, first-served system(and since it worked perfectly with our schedules), we planned to meet right at opening time(5:30). We were the first guests in the door and were offered our choice of seating. We opted to sit at the far end of the bar, since it provided the best view into the open kitchen, and we wanted to see co-owner/co-chefs Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern in action.
True to form, we started with some bubbles. Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs, always a welcome friend. I didn’t care for the small glass glasses(as opposed to crystal) which they served our Champagne in, though I’m sure if I had asked to switch to crystal stems they would have graciously obliged. We gave a quick look over the dinner menu and without hesitation ordered the 7-course Chef’s Tasting(a 5-course tasting was offered as well).
Amuse: Chilled Corn Soup. The first bite to hit the table was light and delivered a satisfying sweet corn flavor. It was also a nice treat to have alongside the bubbles.
Bread: Rosemary Flatbread, served hot and fluffy, and generously seasoned. Accompanied by whipped ricotta with olive oil and black pepper.
Amuse: Cod Brandade Croquet, Shishito Pepper, Tomato Compote. The sweetness and acid of the tomato balanced well with the croquet, while the vegetal pepper made for a well-rounded few bites.
1st Course: Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, Basil. A straight-forward plate. Beautiful for the season, and not over-treated. I appreciated the Campania-born Burrata much more than the domestic attempts I’ve been faced with recently.
2nd Course: Heirloom Carrot, Greek Yogurt, Crispy Quinoa. A variety of heirloom carrots treated in a variety of ways. Some had a fresh snap, while some had a tender sweetness that reminded me of my mom’s brown sugar carrots. The tang of the yogurt, with a little dill, livened the plate. The crunch of the quinoa was brilliant. An impressive dish.
3rd Course: Homemade Pork Tortelloni, Cherry Tomato, Dandelion Pesto. The pasta was very well executed; great pork flavor, but somehow very light. The tomatoes are a welcome addition to most any dish this time of year. While I loved the bitter flavor of the greens, for me they were far too strong to balance with the light tortelloni. Even between bites the leaves left too much astringency and overpowered the pasta.
4th Course: Poached Hake, Mangalica Ham, Piperade, Garlic Chips. Fantastic fish, confit in duck fat. The lively, robust flavor of the piperade made me dance in my bar-stool a little with each bite. Of course adding garlic and ham didn’t hurt. Great layers of savory and acidity. This was my favorite dish of the meal. Pretty damn tasty.
5th Course: Chicken Roulade, Spaetzle, Shiitake Mushroom, Bacon. So far, the richest dish, by far. Rocky commented on the heavy salt; I have to agree with her. Though she loved the spaetzle. I thought the roulade was overall well-executed, but a little dry.
We had one more savory course to go. I asked if it hard already started plating, because it if hadn’t, I wanted to supplement the kale salad that Battersby is becoming well-known for. We were told that the chefs had already fired our dish, but that it was built around that salad.
6th Course: Short Ribs, Crispy Kale, Green Papaya, Radish, Cucumber, Peanut. This was the best short rib dish I can recall being served as I’m typing now. They tend to be served either too rich or too sweet for me, but the freshness of the kale setting(which I believe lives up to its acclaim) made for a beautiful, fresh counter-balance. Bravo.
Pre-Dessert: Blueberry & Bay Leaf Panna Cotta. Nice little bite; light and addictive. The panna cotta was slightly herbaceous and soft, not too set. The berries were mild, not too tart or too sweet.
7th Course: Sweet Ricotta, Honey, Pistachio, Black Mission Figs. Rocky was really unfair to this dessert. She felt she had been ripped off by not getting chocolate. So I got to eat most of hers. I thought it was great.
Chefs Ogrodnek and Stern certainly have a great thing going in Cobble Hill. It was fun watching their passionate performance in the kitchen. Judging by the line out the door when we left, they’ll be at it for a while
Date of visit: August 22, 2012
Battersby. 255 Smith Street. Brooklyn, NY. 718.852.8321 http://battersbybrooklyn.com/