What can’t you find to eat in Brooklyn? Eating well in New York’s hottest borough has been a given for many years now. Besides out-of-towners, New Yorkers from other parts of the city often make the short trek over the Brooklyn Bridge to sample cuisine from countries around the world — South African, Syrian, Iran, Mexican, Vietnamese, Italian, Caribbean — and to try the work of some of the city’s most creative chefs as well as some of the best ice cream on the planet at both Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream and Ample Hills Creamery. And for those who simply must try it all, or as much as possible, there’s always Brooklyn’s weekend event, Smorgasburg, situated Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays in Prospect Park, where visitors can sample food from more than 100 local vendors, including those who offer Canadian butter tarts, Szechuan rice noodles and Japanese shaved ice.
Start the day with a traditional French petit déjeuner at Provence en Boîte (provenceenboite.com , 263 Smith St., 718-797-0707), where Chef Jean-Jacques Bernat celebrates provincial cooking in Carroll Gardens’ “little France” neighborhood. Decorated with antique tin boxes and colorful Provence linens, the corner cafe offers fresh, homemade croissants, half a dozen choices of fresh bread each day and café au lait served up in wide bowls. On sunny days, Brooklyn’s young families park their strollers on the sidewalk and take up residence at the restaurant’s street-side tables. Some of the more delicious choices for breakfast include chausson aux pommes ($4.25), which is a French take on apple turnovers made fresh each weekend; croissant aux amandes ($4.25); savory crepes with Swiss cheese and ham ($8.75); or Croque Madame, a slice of country bread, bechamel sauce, ham, melted cheese and two sunny-side-up eggs ($12.95). Yes, the service can be slow (bien sur), but order up a French-press coffee and adapt a European pace.
Although very good bagel stores abound in Brooklyn (love you, Smith Street Bagels), the borough had long been missing an authentic Jewish deli like the famed 2nd Avenue Deli or Katz’s of Manhattan. But since 2011, Shelsky’s of Brooklyn (shelskys.com , 141 Court St., 718-855-8817) has been serving up “creative smoked fish sandwiches” and a head-spinning choice of options served on bread, bagel or bialy, plus classic deli offerings such as schmaltz herring ($5.50), which is fatty herring caught just before spawning; smoked bluefish salad with roasted hazelnuts, orange and fennel ($25.97 a pound); and chocolate babka ($14.50 a pound), because you can’t beat a babka. My husband’s favorite is Shelsky’s pastrami ($13.25), which is actually pastrami-cured salmon with mustard herring and Riesling-braised sauerkraut, served on pumpernickel or rye bread. Another favorite was Member of the Tribe ($11.50), which is Gaspe Nova lox with scallion or plain cream cheese, served on a bagel or bialy. Save room for dessert, which includes Mama Ilene’s coconut macaroons at $1 each, or lingonberry and toasted spiced pumpkin seed rugelach ($14.50 a pound).
Brooklyn’s only New Zealand restaurant celebrates kiwi food in Kiwiana, a minimalist but stylish bistro (kiwiana-nyc.com , 847 Union St., 718-230-3682) in the Park Slope neighborhood. But don’t be deceived by the pared-down decor; the restaurant describes itself as “eclectic/global,” although “kiwiana” means iconic things, including kitsch, from the New Zealand heritage. In this case, that includes green leaf salad with garam cashews, shallots and strawberries ($10); chilled sweet corn and crab soup ($10); scallop ceviche ($13); seared salmon with vegetables and dill buttermilk sauce ($25); and New Zealand rack of lamb with saffron rice ($27). Of course, the restaurant must offer the national dessert of New Zealand (and Australia): pavlova. Here, the meringue dessert is served with rose water, whipped cream, kiwi (of course) and strawberries ($9). Another typical, and delicious, New Zealand dessert is sticky date pudding with warm caramel sauce ($9). Drinks include New Zealand-brewed beer, plus a wide selection of wines from New Zealand and neighboring Tasmania.
Bruno is a writer based in the District. Find her on Twitter: @brunodebbie.
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