Dine in Brooklyn: the second half

Dine in Brooklyn wasn’t just an excuse to try some of the best restaurants in Brooklyn. It was also a chance to test the limits of my own taste.

Dine in Brooklyn 2013 logo

I’m not one for spicy food, but I powered through an amazing Latin meal at Palo Santo. I’ve hated lamb since I dissected a sheep’s eyeball in second grade – eating it still evokes the scent of formaldehyde – but when it was my only option at Allswell, I held my nose (not literally, in this case).

Dine in Brooklyn ends today, so this won’t be as helpful as my last post on the matter. But you have two meals left; why not take advantage of them? Unfortunately, I’m in DC, so I can’t complete the sweep.

I’ll be eating cereal for dinner for the next few months after this binge.

Saturday: brunch at Fort Reno BBQ
669 Union Street, Park Slope. (347) 227-7777. Barbeque. Brunch, dinner.

Meat: 1/2 pound BBQ chicken, 1/4 pound fatty brisket
Sides: burnt end beans, mac & cheese, collard greens
Drink: ”Fall Fashioned” (bourbon, fresh apples & house brandied cherry, bitters)

Snow was coming down as Jason and Anthony met me at the well-decorated Fort Reno.

Fort Reno’s deal was 3/4 pounds of meat and three sides – supposedly good for two – for $28. We tacked on a egg & cheddar biscuit and a pulled pork sandwich. It was enough for the three of us, and it complemented well the wintry weather.

The bar has a special offer: follow them on Twitter, and you get a free shot of bourbon. Challenge accepted. The Fall Fashioned was much more tasty.

Sunday: dinner at Palo Santo
652 Union Street, Park Slope. (718) 636-6311. Pan Latin. Brunch, dinner.

Starter: pork tacos
Entrée: grass-fed skirt steak – grilled sirloin, onions, potatoes
Dessert: sampler: chocolate mousse with almonds, pecan cake with ginger ice cream, lime pie with whipped cream, papaya sorbet
Drink: michelada (green for St. Patrick’s Day)

Jason and Anthony suggested I visit Palo Santo, as they had come on Friday and loved it. (It’s the sister restaurant of Fort Reno.)

Unlike most spots, Palo Santo does not have a fixed Dine in Brooklyn menu. The entire list is in play; the steak alone would have been $26 à la carte, meaning the rest of my meal cost $2.

This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The pork tacos were perfect – just the right amount of crispiness. There was almost too much food in the entrée. And each of the desserts had a special flavor.

Monday: dinner at Allswell
124 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg (North Side). (347) 799-2743. Gastropub. Dinner only.

Starter: figs with endive, candied walnuts, gorgonzola
Entrée: lamb meatballs with hummus, flatbread, tomato, arugula
Dessert: ricotta cake with Seville marmalade and vanilla custard
Drink: Left Hand Milk Stout (6% ABV, Longmont, Colorado)

Allswell is a cool spot. A gastropub by Nate Smith, late of Spotted Pig, it has a good beer selection and some tasty specials. The quartet sharing the bar with me took advantage of the $1 oyster happy-hour special.

It wasn’t a great deal for Dine in Brooklyn, though; gtting the same things à la carte would have been $2 more expensive. The food was good – particularly the oil-soaked flatbread – but after the bargain I received at Palo Santo, my frugal side was disappointed.

Then I had to head out to my bike as a blizzard came down. More on that later.

Tuesday: dinner at Kiwiana
847 Union Street, Park Slope. (718) 230-3682. New Zealand. Lunch, dinner.

Starter: butternut squash soup with pecans
Entrée: manuka and marmite braised baby back ribs with squash puree and broccoli
Dessert: Milo-chocolate molten cake with whipped cream
Drink: water

Mark Simmons opened this joint last year. Previously, he had been the chef at Melt, formerly one of my favorite brunch spots.

I had never had marmite (or vegemite), so I was unsure what to expect with the main course. I got meat that fell off the bone at the slightest provocation, with a taste of molasses. Outstanding. The surrounding courses were also excellent.

Robbin had green leaf salad with garam cashews, shallots and kiwiberries; fettuccini with roasted beet and pecorino sauce, rocket and pine nuts; and pecan bread pudding with whiskey caramel and ice cream. All delicious.

The interior of Kiwiana is dark, perhaps evoking the kiwi bird’s preferred nocturnal state. My only gripe is the service was a bit too inattentive for my liking, particularly given the small water glasses.

Wednesday: lunch at Madiba
195 Dekalb Avenue, Fort Greene. (718) 855-9190. South African. Brunch, lunch, dinner.

Starter: Durban samoosas (curried potato & pea crunchy pastry triangles served with a mango atchar)
Entrée: confit of Cornish hen Peri Peri, served on truffle-smashed potato and bisto-mushroom gravy
Dessert: Mom’s tipsy tart, crammed with nuts and dates and soaked with brandy syrup
Drink: guava nectar

I had a lot of fun here at an evening birthday party last year, but I was expecting a quiet afternoon in. Indeed, when I entered, I was the only patron, and the manager was kind enough to let me stash my bike inside (I had forgotten my Kryptonite). A steady stream of locals and South Africans trickled in throughout my meal.

The food here is great, but it’s worth visiting this place just for the decor. A chandelier of Coke bottles. Warholized portraits of Nelson Mandela (whose nickname gives Madiba its name). Ballots from the 1994 election serving as bathroom wallpaper.

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