Archive for the tag 'the bite'

THE BITE: Twenty-twelve has to be the year the Mexican restaurant established itself in Sheepshead Bay. We’ve seen the opening of El Mexicano Restaurant, and the soon to be open Jumpin’ Bean on Emmons Avenue, as they join La Villita as part of the smattering of  Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood. I’ve also noticed a few Mexican food booths popping up in the various groceries and doughnut shops of Avenue U. I endorse this trend.

Tacos El Rey, while not quite in the neighborhood, and not quite new, is probably the granddaddy of them all. Located at 3168 Coney Island Avenue, this nondescript hole-in-the-wall has been quietly serving up authentic Mexican food for more than 10 years.

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THE BITE: When asked what type of restaurants are needed in Sheepshead Bay, I’ve always answered that we need another Thai place. Well, after having that discussion for more than a decade, my desire has finally been fulfilled. We have a new Thai restaurant in the Bay.

Located at 3682B Nostrand Avenue, Thai Basil, which opened in early December, is dishing out “Thai fusion” dishes to all comers. I’m not sure what they mean by Thai “fusion,” as most of the dishes presented on the limited menu appear to be found in just about any Thai restaurant, but I’m pleased to see a new food choice in the ‘hood.

For the Bite, I sampled an array of dishes from the lunch menu that should represent the restaurant well. Pad Thai, considered by some to be the national dish of Thailand, Massamam Curry, cited by CNN as the “world’s most delicious food,” and Ginger Joy, a dish I never heard of before.

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THE BITE: Looking for a new place for lunch? Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II (2556 Coney Island Avenue) is trying something new; the hot table. Hoping to rebuild its customer base after the hurricane, Sarajevo II is offering up a hot steam table of home-made dishes for your mid-day indulgence.

Choices vary every day as the offerings of the hot table are created by a former employee who was coerced out of retirement after cooking for the highly praised Cevabdzinica Sarajevo Restaurant in Astoria. Hey, it’s all in the family. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo in Astoria is owned by Saed’s father. Saed is the owner and manager of Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II.

This woman, whose name escapes me, creates eight or nine different dishes for the “Hot Table” each and every day. There are three or four standards, from soups to rice, and four or five specials that change daily. The hot table ($7.00) is available from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. I was a bit confused by the rules, but apparently you can choose to have one or all of the dishes from “the table.”

“It’s just like eating at home. Eat all you want,” said Saed. Let’s be clear, though. This isn’t “all you can eat” for one price.

On my last visit, we purchased a plate of rice, meatballs in an interesting sweet and sour sauce and Bosnian moussaka. I was intrigued by this Bosnian moussaka. It fit in perfectly for “The Bite.” This is the first time I’ve seen Bosnian moussaka offered in the neighborhood.

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THE BITE: It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow. This has been one tough year and I’m having a hard time coming up with things to be thankful for. As I reflect on all I’ve faced this year, an interesting conundrum has arisen. With all the crisis I faced – hell, we all faced – this year, yet lived through, is there really a reason to be thankful? It all depends on how you look at it.

Which brings me to this week’s Bite. One of the results of Sandy’s visit was the lack of food available in the neighborhood during and immediately after the hurricane. Some homes and businesses were wiped out and had to rely on the kindness of strangers for their daily meal. In some cases that kindness came in the form of a “Meal Ready to Eat,” or MRE, courtesy of the federal government. 

Keep reading to see what this is all about. It ain’t pretty.

Arbuz owners and staff cleaning off the furniture just days after the storm.

THE BITE: The Bite’s been laying low as Sheepshead Bay struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy. With so many still without power or heat, it seems a bit insensitive to write about a newly discovered food dish. Now’s the time to help our neighbors rebuild.

Many of our restaurants and food mongers who came out for this year’s A Taste of Sheepshead Bay are still recovering and some are already back in business. Please do your best to help support the businesses that support Sheepshead Bites and the community. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to bring you our coverage of the neighborhood. No one else provides the local news when you need it,  like Sheepshead Bites.

Rovshan Danilov, the owner of Arbuz, put it best. “We need Sheepshead Bay back. We need the businesses to return. We need the customers back. We need the landlords to understand and work with the small businesses of the Bay.” We’re all in this together.

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Photo by Lenny Markh

THE BITE: I like to eat where our readers send me. I’ve had some interesting recommendations in the past couple of years, but this is the first time I had a recommendation from a reader who also follows Serious Eats. Not only does he follow Serious Eats, he follows recipes from my friend and fellow food writer, James Boo.  This elusive reader has such high regards for the lowly scallion pancake, he actually makes them at home using James’ recipe.

This reader, who will remain anonymous at his request, highly recommended the scallion pancakes at New Star Restaurant (2212 Avenue X – between East 21 and East 22 Streets) which happens to be walking distance from my home.

Oddly, I had never been to this restaurant. Of course, I had to go.

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Photo: Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I don’t know when donuts took control of the police, but when I was a kid, the stereotype was always a cop and a cheese danish. I guess as Dunkin’ Donuts and the various 24-hour chains replaced the small mom-and-pop bakeries, donuts were just easier to obtain. The cop on the late night beat needed coffee to stay awake, and what better accompaniment than a donut?

Forget the donut – let’s go back the to cheese danish!

At A Taste of Sheepshead Bay this week, I was re-introduced to one of my favorite neighborhood institutions, T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U – between East 23rd and 24th Streets). Their outstanding offerings of made-to-order canolli and mini pastries, reminded me of the wonders of the “mom-and-pop bakery.” It made me ask, and I hope it made you ask, why haven’t I been there lately?

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THE BITEOf all the columns I write each year, this one has to be my favorite. This is the column where I break my silence on what’s happening behind the scenes of Brooklyn’s greatest food fest, A Taste Of Sheepshead Bay!

First off – GO BUY YOUR TICKETS. Online ticket sales end very soon, so don’t delay. Yes folks, I want you to save some money and buy your tickets on line. Tickets online are $25, a savings of $10 from purchasing them at the door. Once you’ve bought your tickets, you can then use the $10 you saved on libations at the event. Or just give it to me, no one’s getting rich working at Sheepshead Bites, y’know.

Now, why should you attend A Taste of Sheepshead Bay? Well, apart from all the good food you’ll be eating, it gives you a chance to come out and support the local businesses of our community. You won’t find any restaurant chains or corporate shills pushing their food here. All of our participants are small, local, business owners who are working hard to make Sheepshead Bay and the surrounding neighborhood a great place to live. Some have been here for generations, some are just opening their doors. It doesn’t matter; they are our neighbors and one of the great creeds of Brooklyn has always been, “We take care of our own.”

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at who’s coming and some of the food we’ll all be enjoying…

See the list of foods served at A Taste of Sheepshead Bay 2012!

Photo by Ned Berke

THE BITE: Some form of dumplings are available in just about every eastern culture, and dumplings have even made their way into central European cuisine.

It’s widely held in the food community that the “dumpling” is an invention of  the Chinese and has spread throughout Asia and Eastern Europe as each culture passed this tempting morsel further and further west. The Italians, on the other hand, stole them flat out, with that rascal Marco Polo poaching just about every Chinese pasta dish for reinvention in his home land, with dumplings emerging as ravioli and lasagna.

Living here in Sheepshead Bay, we get to experience almost every form of dumpling available on the planet. From the Italian ravioli to the Russian pelmeni to the Polish pierogi, it’s all here.

Vareniki are the Ukrainian adaptation of the Chinese “Shui Jiao,” or steamed dumplings.  These small crescent shaped packets of heaven of unleavened dough are usually stuffed with savory ingredients such as mashed potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, cheese and/or meat, but are also prepared using a fruit filling. The Mennonites have a tradition of stuffing vareniki with hard boiled eggs.

I was introduced to the “dumpling” by my wife’s Polish aunt one holiday when she produced a steaming platter of home-made pierogi; one side overflowed with pierogi stuffed with cabbage and potato, the other pierogi stuffed with a sour cherry. I never experienced anything like it. As that was not only my introduction to the dumpling, but also my introduction to the family, I needed to exercise some restraint. Left to my druthers, I would have consumed the entire platter. I knew I had to find this again.

Luckily, with Varenichnaya (6 Brighton 2nd Street) at my beck and call, no such restraint is necessary.

While there are subtle differences between the Polish pierogi, the Ukrainian vareniki is more than an adequate substitute. Both are made from an unleavened, slightly sweet dough. Both were stuffed with a sweet-and-sour tasting filling of the whole, pitted, sour cherry, along with its juice. Both were served alongside a version sour cream.

Both are simply delicious.

However, I think the vareniki at Varenichnaya has the advantage. The dough is lighter, yet fuller, which may be due to the Ukrainian addition of sour cream, or its Russian equivalent, smetana, in the dough. The sweet-and-sour punch of the cherries also seemed much more balanced, with neither the sweet or sour flavor overpowering the flavor of either the dough or the cherry fillings.

Verenichnaya offers up a steaming plate of vareniki with cherry for only $6.95. It makes me wonder why I eat anything else.

And here’s some useless information that might just help you clinch Jeopardy; the world’s biggest dumpling (varenik) was 123 cm long, 81 cm wide and weighed 67.3 kilos. It was created for the Ukrainian Varenikis Festival in 2002.

Varenichnaya, 3086 Brighton 2nd Street, (between Brighton Beach Avenue & Brightwater Court), (718) 332-9797.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Varenichnaya on Urbanspoon

Correction (1:50 p.m.): The original version of this article misspelled the establishment’s name. It has since been corrected. We regret any confusion this may have caused.


THE BITE: I’ve been hearing about Taci’s Beyti for years. Last time – actually, just about every time – I get into chatting about restaurants with my friend Suleyman from the Turkish Cultural Center, he tells me about Taci’s Beyti (1953 Coney Island Avenue, between Avenue P and Kings Highway). He claims it’s one of the best Turkish restaurants in Brooklyn. I’m not about to take that on; I’m sure he is has much more expertise than I do, but I will tell you about one very interesting and one very good hot appetizer: hummus with pastrami.

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