It is no secret, I love being happily surprised when trying a new restaurant, especially one that comes by way of someone else’s recommendation, planning or behest. It’s almost like being blindfolded for a surprise that only reveals itself once you can see it and taste.
Long-time friend and foodie Jessica, who was celebrating her birthday this past weekend, put on my blindfold for what would be an inspiring meal. The directions were clear. An hour later I found myself in Brooklyn at Dover (@DoverBrooklyn, 412 Court St., 347-987-3545, www.doverbrooklyn.com).
The small, reserved-looking, non-moniker Carroll Gardens restaurant is passable (I walked past it), but I had the address and saw my friends through the clear wall of windows. They were sharing a bottle of lambrusco and chatting it up at the welcoming bar. Kisses and hugs later, we were seated at a table near the kitchen, which I am normally not happy with, but that wall of windows makes you feel like you always have the special seat in the house.
The local and seasonal menu was not long, nor was the ingredient list of each dish. That was the first hint that we might be in for a treat. When a chef lets great ingredients do their thing on the plate without too much fuss, a uniquely dynamic experience is to be had.
After much deliberation and discussion on sharing and preparation, our order was finally in. It was then that the creative bread presentation happened with house-made thin anise wafers and crusty herb bread with whipped ricotta and honey and bean and olive spreads. Can’t forget the two amuse bouche either: cold spicy gatzpacho then warm cheese gourgeres—the second hint!
Out came our first courses. There was the burrata and heirloom tomato salad with strawberries, purple basil and fresh croutons and ravioli with turnip and turnip greens. However, I was sharing two dishes with a friend that blew me away! The first was house-made garganelli pasta (like penne) with pork ragu and shishito peppers. Heaven. It was the perfect amount of heat, really flavorful and balanced with al dente pasta. I want it right now!
The other appetizer was pea salad, consisting of peas, lemon and cheese. My friend with whom I was sharing needed some convincing, but I just sensed this was the one. I wasn’t wrong. It was the moment when the blindfold came off. Sugar snap peas, English peas, snow peas and pea tendril leaves with lemon vinaigrette and pecorino cheese. All of the sweet peas were cut differently, creating a texture explosion that was not outdone by the acid and salt of the dressing or cheese, respectively. Why not try this at home?
Entrees at the table were Berkshire pork with fresh peaches and lamb with roasted eggplant. I shared a whole lobster, split served with roasted potatoes and onions, and my favorite of the lot, the rabbit. I was sold on the bagna cauda (anchovy sauce) on this dish, but the roulade of rabbit loin and petite rib rack with eggplant, shishito peppers, fennel, red onion and the rustic grilled country bread were a great vehicle for it.
With other mentionable items, like the wickedly spicy watermelon soda with basil and chili and ambrosia panna cotta with coconut and meringue, Dover had me at first bite. The blindfold is off and now I see.
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com