Saturday, June 11, 2011
Foray into Brooklyn: Vinegar Hill House
Clam Pie, bacon, potato, parsley salad
As storied as the Brooklyn dining scene is, I rarely make it out of Manhattan for food. Being as far uptown as I am, the only place I've been to outside of the island regularly is M Wells. In fact, I think I've been to M Wells more times than any other restaurant in New York.
However, now that I have a reason to head out to the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn on a regular basis, I figured I ought to find some local eats. My first attempt was reBar, which would make a great place to get a drink, but wasn't so great for dinner. On the second attempt, I did find a delicious little place in Vinegar Hill House.
I walked past this place easily before realizing I missed it. It blends into the row of doors in this mostly residential street. The entire decor of the restaurant was rustic home. A small, open kitchen and a scattering of tables were surrounded by kitschy decorations you'd find at your grandmother's house.
I've heard the place can get packed (they don't take small reservations), but even by 7 on a Friday night there were still open tables. I'm guessing the neighbors are the type who roll in late, as do all New Yorkers for dinner seatings.
The menu is divided into small plates ($9-12), entrees ($17-25), with pastas ($15-17) and sides ($8) rounding out the options. They also have daily specials, including the sweetbread cannelloni pictured above. Both the cannelloni and the clam pie were great sizes for a single person. The pie was smaller than I imagined it would be, but rich enough that any more would be decadent. The clams gave it a fun texture to the quiche-like background, while the bacon carried the heavy flavor notes. I'm not usually a fan of parsley, but when dressed right, in what I assumed to be a buttermilk dressing, it properly cut into the pie's richness.
Sweetbread cannelloni, morels, blueberries
I'm always delighted to see sweetbreads outside the typical sauteed presentation. This is the first time I've seen them rolled into a cannelloni, something like an Italian pasta crepe. It's hard to go wrong with slow-cooked morels, and blueberries gave a hint of sweet and sour.
Red Wattle Country Chop, cheddar grits
While the appetizers were smaller than expected, the pork chop was much larger than I expected. Wholesome and simple in appearance, complex and satisfying in flavor. I loved the lightly charred exterior and light pink interior. By the way, USDA says pink pork (>145 degrees) is now okay! Of course every restaurant already knew that, and if you still have an aversion to pink pork, you're missing out.
Guinness chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting
The chocolate cake is the perfect way to round out the meal. The cake itself, as dense as it was, was hardly sweet at all. Instead, the Guinness gave it flavor complexities reminiscent of root beer or sarsaparilla. A healthy (in quantity, maybe not in nutrition) dollop of the frosting gave each bite the sweetness you expect in dessert. I love cream cheese frosting. If you're ever on the Upper East Side, check out Two Little Red Hens' red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.
Vinegar Hill House is New York affordable, which puts it in the upper scale for almost everywhere else. It's a casual spot, but shouldn't be dismissed for its ambiance. Every dish was a hit and I'll gladly go back.
Vinegar Hill House
72 Hudson Avenue,
Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn 11201