I stay clear of writing restaurant reviews. Until I can turn 30 or more covers twice a night with the level of quality and consistency demanded of a professional kitchen, passing judgement on those who do hardly seems appropriate. As a food writer and ardent cook, however, I can be inspired to share the details of a great experience with a modicum of expertise
Brooklyn - July 29, 2014 - I stay clear of writing restaurant reviews. Until I can turn 30 or more covers twice a night with the level of quality and consistency demanded of a professional kitchen, passing judgement on those who do hardly seems appropriate. As a food writer and ardent cook, however, I can be inspired to share the details of a great experience with a modicum of expertise
In a recent interview, Anthony Bourdain indicated that the chef communities of Latin America and Europe - especially Paris - are touting Brooklyn as a major culinary centre of influence. This had me intrigued enough to check it out.
Located in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn, Traif restaurant was opened in 2010 with some level of controversy among the local Hasidic community on account of the playfully irreverent name. Traif is a word used to describe the breaking of Jewish dietary laws, and featuring pork and shellfish on the menu alongside traditional Jewish food items is a fine way to do just that.
The restaurant is set in a charming, intimate space with a bustling, open kitchen. When I arrived unannounced early on a Saturday evening, there was room for one at the bar. I cannot confirm that chef and co-owner Jason Marcus was on hand, but the evening's service was expertly handled. It did not take long for the room to fill to capacity, and despite the frenetic pace, the staff was both cheerful and attentive.
I started off with a cocktail called Violet Beauregard, a blueberry-infused Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon with toasted pecan orgeat, lime, black walnut bitters and Scotch aroma. The nose of it brought a smile to my lips before I could even taste it, and I was hard pressed not to order a second one upon finishing. Orgeat is traditionally an orange-infused almond syrup, but the toasted pecan gave it a more complex layer of flavour.
I decided to go with two small plates and a dessert, but first the server arrived with a refreshing amuse bouche of strawberry gazpacho that disappeared as quickly as it came.
My first course was a terrine of foie gras with pickled, cured and pureed sour cherries, rose, chopped pistachios and lightly toasted challah. The smooth foie and plump cherries were a perfect marriage, and the light crispy texture of the challah was a perfect vehicle to take it all in. The bartender laughed when I gave him a nonverbal queue as to what I thought of my first taste.
The second plate was synonymous with Traif's coup d'etat - a slice of crispy Hampshire pork belly topped with Black Mission figs and set on a smear of toasted sesame hummus with pomegranate. A glass of Spanish Malvar was the perfect complement to the salty fattiness of the pork. Learning about grape varieties for the first time is part of the pleasure of enjoying a meal in a restaurant. Malvar is a less commonly known grape variety grown in the province of Madrid, and it was my first time trying this dry, crisp white.
On to the dessert course. While Traif is widely known for its bacon donuts with dulce de leche ice cream, I had to draw the line somewhere. They can go on my list of future indulgences, but I opted for the more refreshing plate of Chef Marcus' mother's key lime pie with zest of lime and pineapple. It was the perfect end to a decadent and satisfying meal.
If Traif is indicative of Brooklyn's culinary prowess, it bodes well for the borough's reputation as a world-class food destination.
LINK - http://www.traifny.com/