Several friends have talked to me about Brooklyn. Correction: They rave about. Friends of mine who left Brooklyn for New York's other island, often talk to me about Brooklyn with a sense of gastronomic nostalgia . Street side panelle joints, old fashion Pork Stores, Italian Spumoni and Italian Ices and traditional Goomba hangouts: according to locals - you name it - Brooklyn's has had it first and Brooklyn's has had the best. Capisci!
To better gauge Brooklyn's importance, let me tell you that I have even heard several West Coast natives and transplanted mid-westerns praise the place as that virgin social and cultural territory that many of us have incorrectly stereotyped about for the longest time. Yes, we are greeted the famous "Fuggheddaaboutit" sign as we leave Kings county, yes, we recall that famous white sign during the opening credits of 'Welcome Back Kotter" - Brooklyn, 4th Largest City in America - the sign said. We have all been conditioned to think about Brooklyn in certain way, the wrong way. Well folks, let's put aside what we knew about Brooklyn and let's explore it anew. That's exactly I plan on doing over the next few months as I take it on to find connections with this great place. I will be searching for not only its own Italian markets and enclaves, but I am interested in visiting , all that Brooklyn has got to offer.
To kick things off yesterday, that fan club and I decided to spend the evening in Brooklyn. For the longest time, I have been meaning to visit my culinary school friends and restaurant owners George and Farid at Bogota' Bistro. I could not wait to surprise them. They had not seen me in person close to six years. George and Farid do a great and diligent job with e-mail, newsletters, website and are very actively using social media such as Facebook , and twitter. This ensures that a good level of marketing. Hey, do yourself a favor and become a fan so that you can learn more.
So what is Bogota' Latin Bistro? Simply put, a hip, super busy pan-latin restaurant in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn located on 141 5th Avenue. Their website is pretty informative (see http://www.bogotabistro.com/) with menus, picture and videos. but only a trip there will show you the real experience.
When you find the place , the outside facade won't say much but once you step inside , it's a very different story. It;s bustling, yet not super loud, A great mural greets you behind the bar area along with a row of "house infusions" such as Kiwi Cachaca, used to make all kinds of drinks, including Caphrinas, the quintessential Brazilian cocktail. There's a lot of detail in that mural. Indeed it's worth studying while you sip your refreshing kiwi Caphirinas,
|The Bar Counter at Bogota' Bistro|
After reasonable wait, we were seated. I think we got the best spot in the house . A table for two, situated in the elevated mezzanine which I guess is also used to host bands live music dinner parties. From on this lofty spot, we had a 270 degree view of most of the restaurant and bar area. The music alternated between fast paced salsas to popular, never overwhelming our ability to have an intimate conversation.
Let's talk about the food and the culinary experience. You all know how picky I can be. Well let me make it clear. I did not have a single complaint about any of the dishes we ordered. I say this not because I know the owners. but because I mean it.
The appetizers were off the chart and were the perfect treat to pair with a good Xingu dark beer from Brazil. The empanadas that came in two flavors: goat cheese, and "domino" a mix of very savory black beans, queso feta, and sour cream. Both were crips to perfection, almost buttery. I surely could have eaten several more had it not been for my own self-restraint. I knew I had to leave room for my entree.
I decided on Bacalao dish to test the Bogota' team. Why ? Given my Italian and Brazilian connections, I know bacalao, and can easily compare any Bacalao dish with those that I make and that I have eaten out. From the menu description I was expecting a dish similar to Moms and Aunts use to make on the holiday's in Italy. Don't get me wrong, mother is a great cook, but Bacalao is not her signature dish. Instead, the dish at Bogota' was very different,breaking with my Italian tradition, and indeed very good. The shredded cod was perfectly blended with slightly caramelized onions, chili peppers and cilantro. Most importantly , the fish was al-dente, and not a bit salty. I know what I will order next time. The sides of papa criolla and sautéed spinach tasted just like mine. Can't get better than that.
Let me move on to the dessert. Yes, by that time I was almost stuffed - too many plantain chips - but I had to go for the Churros, the perfect sweet to accompany my single shot of espresso. George , Farid and I made a few batches of them at culinary school. There was a sentimental value there.My better half, Brazilian native, decided for the flan de coco - It was some of the best she ever tasted.
Oh, about the service. I wish the restaurant world had more waiters like Adolofo , who was so attentive , and knowledgeable last night. If you go to Bogota' , make sure to ask for him
Hats off George and Farid, now I know why the restaurant was fully packed from the moment we walked in til the moment we left around 10:30 PM Congratulations and continued success, I will be seeing you again.
It's Sunday .Enough writing . Got to cook before the fan club rebels.
P.S. Got any places you suggest I visit in Brooklyn ?