Tag Archives: Frej

NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Isa is a Trip Not to be Missed

Isa

View from a Cocktail Perch

When you first walk into Isa you are immediately greeted by a strange feeling of comfort — a brightly colored curtain made of pieced together knitted afghans serves as the weather barrier between the door and the inner sanctum of the dining room. But as you enter into the main room and take a glance around, the feeling of comfort changes from grandma’s couch to one of a chill-warming modern camping lodge with stacked logs, candlelight, communal tables and smooth cement walls.

Across the entire back wall of the main dining room is an open kitchen providing free entertainment for the evening. The fun starts with a drink menu as playful as the afghan curtain. To drink: cocktails such as the Enlighten Up, Brain Hammock, Inspector Spacetime or Looking Glass give the feeling that you might be going on a strange strange trip from here on out. If you’re more of a wine drinker, even that list gives the option of ordering up a wine from the “Orange” selection — somewhere between a red and a white and the result of a grape skin soaking to blend the two genres.

The dinner menu is short and straightforward and changes frequently. Simply listed:  artichokes, tartar, mackerel, pork loin. But it was in the fine print descriptions that the intrigue presents itself. When I asked our server if there were any standout dishes not to be missed, she went on to describe everything on the menu individually and ended with saying they were all her favorite. No help there.

I started with the Tartar, presented in three very simple circular disks of ingredients with crunchy flax and a dollop of creme fraiche as its accompaniments. It was simple in presentation and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Tried alone or with a little stab at each, this starter was outstanding.

Isa Tartar

Isa Tartar

I ordered the Mackerel as my main. Another simple dish that was not short on flavor. The fish was slow cooked resulting in a delightfully juicy bite, and was served atop a creamy parsnip puree with sweet peas and covered in a thin blanket of crunchy, peppery radishes. Everything about this was not complicated, but when tasted in one bite, the variety of textures and seasonal flavors confirmed this was not just an ordinary dining experience.

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

The Skim: I’m in love with this new trend of dining — found at Frej a few weeks back and now at Isa. The art is in the simplicity. Isa is having fun with the decor, the cocktail menu, the quirky touches here and there, but when it comes to the food, it’s about pairing the freshest seasonal ingredients and textures and letting them be the star of the show. What’s more? This menu is accessible to just about anyone — for $50 you can enjoy a three-course prix fix or get away with spending $30-40 if you want to stick with a starter and main. No wonder Isa was nominated for a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant.

Map: 348 WYTHE AVE
Reservations: Yes! Here 
Phone: 347-689-3594

Good Things in BKLYN:
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk
Do This!: Learn to Forage in Prospect Park for Edible and Medicinal Plants with Expert Leda Meredith

Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
NYC Best: Source Your Spices and Specialty Foods @ Sahadi’s 

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NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk

The Garage Door Style Entrance to Kinfolk, Temporary House of Frej

The Garage Door Style Entrance to Kinfolk, Temporary Home of Frej

Back in 2009 I read about a 10-seat place in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Fare that was preparing extraordinary dishes, yet was fairly unknown to the masses. Intrigued, I made a reservation for 8 people hoping I could convince 7 lucky friends to dine beside me that weekend. At the time, the ticket price of $95 a head seemed like a worthwhile, though steep, 20-course dining experience with Chef Cesar preparing everything table side. When I called, someone answered my phone call on the second ring and I had my choice of weekend reservations. Fast forward three years and three Michelin stars later, and the reservation book is full months in advance with a pricetag skyrocketing to $225 per person. Sigh. Last night I had an early-Brooklyn Fare-days deja vous moment at Frej. Something special is blooming.

Tucked down an untrafficked street in Williamsburg, you’ll come across a converted industrial building with a garage door front. The multi-purpose space is design studio by day, bar by night {with B.Y.O.V – bring your own vinyl – Tuesdays on the menu}. The bar is called Kinfolk and also plays the role of generous relative, providing space to Frej, its temporary dining houseguest {although I am hopeful this kinship becomes permanent}. It’s a symbiotic relationship — Kinfolk needed to serve food to obtain a liquor license and the guys behind Frej were looking for a small space to test out their concept. Named after the nordic God of Harvest, the menu is based on local-seasonal fare prepared with a scandinavian hand.

We settled into the intimate 10-table seating area and things started off simply, but on a high note. They had me at warm, fresh baked bread with a side of salty butter. That butter was gone by the end of dinner.

Frej Bread and Butter

Frej Bread and Butter

An amuse of pureed celery root, pork jowl and chicory was a perfect introduction to the balanced local, ingredient-focused flavors of the rest of the meal.

Amuse: celery root, pork bowel, chicory

Amuse: celery root, pork jowl, chicory

Smoked brook trout, egg yolk, dill, chickweed, rye bread was both light and rich at the same time. I loved the crispy rye bits strewn about the dish and I’m a sucker for dill on any finned friend. Oh, and egg, how I love thee.

Burnt hazelnuts crispy sunchokes skin beef liver puree

Smoked brook trout, egg yolk, dill, chickweed, rye bread

Burnt hazelnuts with crispy sunchoke skins, sunchokes and a beef liver puree, was a surprising marriage of textures and flavors. I loved the richness of the puree, was delighted by the use of the delicate sunchoke skins and enjoy hazelnuts on pretty much anything, but the one-step-beyond-toasted flavor really counterbalanced the liver puree and had me wiping the plate with said lovely warm bread.

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

Soft poached egg, with pickled hen of woods mushrooms and crispy seaweed. Hello egg again. This was one of my favorite dishes — it was earthy, it was vinegary, it was sweet, it was creamy, it was crispy, it was perfection.

Soft poached egg, scallop, hen of the woods mushroom, cauliflower puree

Soft poached egg, scallop, hen of the woods mushroom, cauliflower puree

Skate wing, pickled onion, carrot ribbon, fennel frawns, almond powder. I’m starting to catch on — fresh local fish, bright fresh herbs, a little earthiness, a kiss of sweetness and a touch of vinegar. That umami that we all crave and leaves us wanting more…more…more!

Frej Skate wing, carrot ribbon, pickled onion, fennel frawns

Frej Skate wing, carrot ribbon, pickled onion, fennel frawns

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelée. Ok, no, this was my favorite dish. I made what could have been three bites turn into nine, just so I could enjoy the perfectly tender beef with the accompanying, cleverly sweet and tart cider gelée bites. If it wasn’t already Wednesday, I would have made a reservation for the next night on the spot.

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

Hibiscus pound cake, dried berries, cardamom ice cream. And dessert didn’t disappoint either — somebody please make me a hibiscus pound cake for my next birthday. Delightful.

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

The Skim: If you’re looking for a place with no pretense, but is rooted in innovation, then get thee to the Frej. These guys have mastered plate after plate of umami-satisfying local flavor combinations. Nothing is fancy pants. Everything is unique. Eye brows were raised with excitement throughout our entire meal and each dish was wiped clean and washed down with delightful Kinfolk cocktails {might I recommend the Kinfolk pink grapefruit collins}. The best part about it all? It only costs $45. The. Best. Undiscovered. Deal. In. Town. And you heard it here first, brunch will begin within the month. I may just move my permanent residence to 90 Wythe street — until then, Frej is making its way to my Favor8 list.


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Map: 90 Wythe and 11st Street {Brooklyn}
Reservations: A must — info@frejnyc.com {open Mon-Wed 6-10pm}
Phone: (347) 286-6241

More Brooklyn Gems You Should Know:
Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Isa is a Trip Not to be Missed
Do This!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}

Vinegar Hill House is a Sweet Spot for Supper
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
Brooklyn Fare Fares Well, Earning 2 Michelin Stars

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