Cream is back and wants to take bar food “up a notch.”
Three years after construction forced a fashionably-designed eatery on Myrtle Avenue called Cream to shutter, its heavy wooden doors were quietly pushed open again at the start of this summer.
Out with the old and in with the new: restaurant owner John Black bought one of those flashy websites that look like a web version of Snapchat Discover and partnered with a new chef, Nightt “Diablo” Samuel, fresh from running a shortly-lived offshoot of Jimmy’s Diner in Greenpoint– now home to the buzzy Chez Ma Tante. Samuel considers himself schooled in more fashionable New American fare and he has casually remade the menu at Cream, giving it the kind of punched-up accessibility that Instagram foodies are hungry for.
Gone are the pan-roasted quail and the cold calamari. In its place are recognizable delights: burgers that are elegantly designed and available in regular, lamb and black bean variety. Cocktails that explode in color. Samuel tells me that he looked toward bar food for inspiration to create the kind of small things you can spend all night ordering. He hoped a location like this would give him a chance to “take it up a notch.”
What remains is the place itself, as diametrically opposed to this idea of bar food as a ski resort: a two-floor miniature palace right on the newly renovated plaza at the 71st Avenue Triangle, paneled in wood and with a patio that boasts a stone water feature that belongs to a dramatic Bond scene. The font on the door, unchanged from its original opening in 2013, neatly apes symbols of mid-tier Gotham luxury and the lighting brings to mind the kind of clubs you would need to know someone to enter.
A collection of vaguely controversial erotic photographs remain, though Samuel tells me he intends to replace them with something more “food sexy” when he can.
It remains a little hard to get exactly what Cream was or is trying to get at, still sandwiched between a nail salon and a three-seat barber shop. In a place where culinary sophisticates swoop in to look for smartly placed holes-in-the-walls (see nearby hits like Little Egypt and Guadalajara De Dia II) Cream remains a loud and luxurious shout from the rooftops. Look at me, the doors still yell, don’t you wonder what’s inside?
Samuel has done what he can to bring things down to earth. His own website reads: “I want the person that is about to eat the dish to recognize the technique and components that were put into it; and not whip out their smartphone and google what is in my dishes.”
His version of a burger comes with a ladle of bacon jam, a small but effective gourmet touch that turns the otherwise often dry staple into something lush and sparkling with contrast. Other household names appear like long-familiar friends: a mac-n-cheese starter that he tells me he has been perfecting for years, actually-smoked pastrami and, for vegetarians, the sturdy black bean version that replaces the pork-based jam with guacamole.
In the middle of the day, Samuel flips on one of those far-reach cable channels that plays classic rock music videos all day and the din of a long-lost U2 concert makes for strangely more pleasant background noise than the avant R&B of somebody’s Spotify playlist. My interest was soon diverted by the customary bread basket, which wooed me with a kind of natural Hawaiian bread sweetness. I like to begin my meals feeling hopeful.
Cream’s eclectic charm is perhaps most visible in the cocktail menu: a bacon chocolate martini competes with a sangria that the menu boasts is “not your typical sangria.” (perfectly fine, a little sweet.) The “Apple Rosemary Fizz” tastes like an apple martini pleasantly infused with a jolly rancher, which is something like the place itself: teetering between lowbrow sensual pleasures and highbrow sophistication. And currently a delightfully affordable $6 at happy hour, which mercifully lasts until 8pm.
Cream’s renaissance is worth checking out, sample their new cocktails in Ridgewood. It might just become your go to place.
Cover photo courtesy of Yelp
A Ridgewood based restaurant and bar that’s swanky without being pretentious. It has a full bar, sangria options and fun desserts.
59-09 71st Ave, Ridgewood (off the Halsey St stop in the L train)
Mon-Sun: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.