Applewood restaurant is amazing. Not the most journalistic way to describe a restaurant, for sure, but the truth. In its prior incarnation, 501 11th Street in Park Slope was a bar, the Blah Blah lounge, and I was a bartender there. We were known for cold cocktails mixed as the Sex in the City girls were making them famous, a great wine list and for great burgers. Now, Applewood restaurant continues the food and drink high standard, even if the ceiling-mounted projector and love-letter filled glass bar have been removed.
If you don’t know, this is restaurant week in Brooklyn. A number of restaurants throw open their doors for prixe-fixe lunches and/or dinners and show off their themes. At Applewood, the theme is fresh, local, nose-to-tail gastronomy and the menu, at $23 shows off the deft hand of the chef and his staff.
M & I went to Applewood last night without reservations. The answering machine at the restaurant had informed us earlier in the week that they were book, which wasn’t completely unexpected as they tend to be booked most nights anyway, without the advertising push of Marty Markowitz.
We were joined by two friends, one of which is a professional chef herself, and waited for about a half hour for a table. The same voicemail that said they were booked also said that there would be a small number of tables available for walk-in customers.
The full-price menu was available but the four of us opted for the restaurant week prixe-fixe. I started with the salad, (which when the waiter read my order back to me, he referred to as ‘lettuce’) which was crisp and fresh lettuce greens dressed with pesto and toasted pistachio nuts. M got the soup – creamy butternut finished with a swirl of maple syrup.
The main course offerings were mushroom risotto (which no one ordered), a seared duck breast that our chef-friend ordered and was cooked to a tender rare temperature and, having been given a taste, turned me around for that moment on my feelings about duck.
The final offering was a sea bass, cooked very rare and served with broccoli rabe and tiny pink shrimp in a seafood broth. (‘Nage’ was the name on the menu for the broth – a new addition to my food lexicon!) The fish tasted swimming-before-you-got-here-and-ordered-me fresh. M confirmed with the other two of us that his wasn’t the only piece cooked sashimi-style and I wondered if it would be warm all the way through. It was, and it was heavenly. The flavor of the broth, salty and lobstery-sweet melted the fish. The little shrimp were delicious and adorable, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to eat them. With a bite of fish? On their own? Before I could figure it out, they were gone and I was satisfied.
The dessert course was a choice of sour cherry and marscapone rice pudding topped with pistacio nuts, or quince and apple tart with bacon strudel and vanilla ice cream. Our table ordered both and couldn’t decide which was better – or more unique.
We shared a bottle of Nero d’Avola wine for $23, a perfectly balanced accompaniment to the fish and the duck. Fruity and earthy but mellow enough to let the food be the star at the table, as it should be.
I f you don’t have plans tonight, go and stand in line. There is a small courtyard in the front where you can bring a beer ordered at the bar and contemplate your dining memories that are in the making.
501 11th street
Brooklyn, NY 11215