Bushwick has finally been recognized by the French for something us Americans have known all along: Bushwick food is good. Originally published in 1900 by the French tire company as a guide to motorists, the Michelin guide has come to symbolize the best-of-the-very-goddamn-best. Michelin guide stars have been known to make or break a fancy restaurant, and each year in France, their release triggers rampant speculation and media frenzy. So what exactly does it mean that there are now eight Bushwick restaurants in the Michelin guide? Well, our writers hit the pavement to find out exactly what these local restaurant owners think about it.
Mominette: The warm and cozy cave on Knickerbocker Ave
Mominette is the sort of place we think of when we hear the phrase “dimly lit.” Everything is browns and golds and murmurs. The walls are covered in yellowed French newspapers, which manages to be just charming, and never quaint. The waitstaff are friendly, attentive, and thoughtful. The cocktail list is chock full of strange, whimsical flavors (definitely try the Bushwick Sour!). The crème brûlée has a flower on it. We asked one of the owners, Steven Mark Sciacca, to pick an important dish that he felt might’ve attracted the attention of the Michelin critics. He demurred, saying, “I can’t choose among our dishes. It’s like asking me about my two English bulldogs (J-Lo and Mabel) or my cat Bebe. I love them all.” But he offered one excellent suggestion: “Try the nightly fish specials that our chef Michael Arrington comes up with. The man is an absolute genius.”
Dear Bushwick: ‘Eclectic’ doesn’t quite do it justice
Dear Bushwick’s inclusion in the 2014 Michelin Guide is the culmination of the hard work of Chef Jessica Wilson and owners Julian Mohamed, Darren Grenia and Emily Sinnot. The British-inspired restaurant serves up dishes like pork chops cooked in an iron skillet and steamed littleneck clams. “[Jessica Wilson] got us on the map in terms of food,” says Mohamed. The restaurant has received citywide publicity since they opened last year. Now, it’s helping to draw attention to the local food scene. The inclusion of Dear Bushwick in the 2014 Michelin Guide is a reflection on the growth of the neighborhood and what it will come to offer. “Bushwick is the next neighborhood to be,” Mohamed. In terms of the future, Dear Bushwick is planning to set up a grill in the back garden, host dinner parties with set meal courses and a top-secret project that should come to fruition in the new year.
Northeast Kingdom: Whipping up fall deliciousness
Northeast Kingdom is our go-to Bushwick comfort food. From Chef Kevin Adey’s current fall menu, owners Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke recommend the stone cut oat porridge, point Judith R.I. chowder, and Clawhammer farm porchetta. “What makes these dishes so special,” they said, “is [not only] the amazing care and thought that chef Kevin gives them, but also that they represent long and meaningful relationships that we have with these farmers.” We tried the porchetta, which comes from a farm upstate and is butchered at the restaurant. The meat itself was delicious and moist (they sure know how to cook their proteins), served on some creamy polenta with a few slices of maple cider glazed turnips. Overall the meal was a delicious autumn feast, although the porchetta—done as pulled pork and deep-fried-crab-cake-style with tons of garlic, coriander, and fennel thrown into the mix—was a bit of a sensory overload on our mouths. Likewise, the service, which is normally very welcoming, was rather reserved. We’ll chock it up to an off-kilter night—isn’t Mercury in retrograde? We’ll be back the next time my favorite steak is on the specials menu: talk about local, meaty perfection!
Falansai: The new kid on the block, already steeped in culinary history
Falansai may be one of the newest restaurants in the neighborhood, but it’s already well-known for having excellent classic Vietnamese dishes. Between their rotating seasonal menu and their separate lunch menu, it’s a challenge to try all of their options. Owner and chef Henry Trieu’s dad taught him how to cook (homage paid with “Dad’s Shrimp Rolls”) and his mama’s recipes spurred his love for food. His personal favorite is his Mama’s Ginger Chicken, derived from her recipe to accommodate American eaters. For the vegans among us, the sauteed eggplants (Ca tim xao) are rich with curry and subtle touches of lemongrass. Omnivores can’t deny the shaking beef (Bo luc lac), wok-fried thick cuts of filet mignon, steaming hot or dipped in the perfectly simple juice of lime, salt, and pepper. And if you like fish, the clay pot catfish (Ca kho to) arrived this morning live from the Asian market. It’s filleted on the spot and garnished with caramelized peppers. Pair’s perfectly with Henry’s favorite Lion Stout, imported from Sri Lanka—a rare, rich find.
Three other established area eateries, Roberta’s, Momo Sushi Shack, and El Mio Cid, are also on the list. In fact, Roberta’s restaurant-within-a-restaurant, Blanca, earned an actual Michelin star for their reservation-only, $190 chef’s table experience.
But the Michelin inspectors weren’t completely thorough in their exploration of Bushwick. By my reckoning, it’s shocking that Tutu’s didn’t garner a mention. Where else did the guide go astray? Let us know in the comments!