A Park Slope Renaissance

A few months back I ran into a former co-worker and his partner, and I asked him that age-old question: “What neighborhood do you live in again?” His response: “Well, we’re a long-term couple in our mid-30s, so Park Slope.”

Park Slope’s reputation as one of Brooklyn’s premier social retirement communities persists for a reason: It’s tree-lined, rich in strollers and almost suburban, and though the neighborhood has long been home to some fantastic restaurants — Al di la Trattoria, Haenyeo, Miriam, Fonda — new dining options don’t tend to open there as frequently as they do in, say, the East Village or Crown Heights. But little by little, that is changing.

I’d say a transformation began with the cafe and bakery Winner, which opened in March 2020 and quickly became what Pete Wells called his “ideal pandemic restaurant” for serving an ideal pandemic meal: the rotisserie chicken “brushed with smoked honey and rounded out with a pound or so of roasted potatoes, some braised kale and a noticeably fresh sourdough baguette.”

Much has been said about that rotisserie chicken, but not so much about Winner’s sister restaurant Runner Up, where the menu, which takes some inspiration from fine dining, changes week to week. That means crudos, potato croquettes with trout roe and a strong wine list, but nothing too fancy. A recent change: Through March, the 12-seat restaurant is serving a $60, four-course prix-fixe dinner at the bar, which is pretty affordable as far as prix-fixe meals in this city go. That’s perfect for a night when you’ve got a sitter — or just want a really nice meal.

Another sure sign that your neighborhood’s dining reputation might be changing: a major restaurant group setting up shop. Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya’s Unapologetic Foods is best known for its popular restaurants in Manhattan, including Semma and Dhamaka. Park Slope has the distinction of being the first Brooklyn neighborhood with a restaurant from the group. The focus at Masalawala & Sons is East Indian home cooking, specifically that of the seaside city Kolkata. (Mr. Mazumdar’s father, Satyen, who grew up there, is the restaurant’s manager and the older gentleman shown on its menu.)

Like its predecessors, Masalawala & Sons is nearly impossible to get into (though the patio is reserved for walk-ins) but if you manage to snag a table inside, expect seafood like tiger prawns served in a coconut, and biyebarir, fish fried in a rich, buttery batter and smothered in cilantro and chile. (You’ll find lamb, chicken and some vegan and vegetarian options as well.) There’s also a small Indian grocery in the restaurant if you’re looking to do some shopping.

There are other newcomers of note if you can’t get into Masalawala & Sons. Alma Negra, on Fourth Avenue, is serving Mexican food in a style not unlike that at nearby Claro. Lore, a fusion-leaning restaurant on Seventh Avenue with dishes like lamb meatballs with aji amarillo and sea bream ssam, also looks promising.

And then there’s Bangkok Degree, a spinoff of the beloved Thai restaurant Dek Sen in Elmhurst, Queens (unfortunately now closed). Located down the street from the Park Slope Food Coop, Bangkok Degree has favorites like massaman curry (one version includes some very nontraditional prime rib), pad Thai and drunken noodles available for lunch and dinner. But it’s the “traditional grandma dishes” section of the menu that shines. What do Thai grandmothers enjoy? Pork belly with ginger and peanuts, egg noodles in curry chicken broth and a classic tom yum soup, of course. Not such a bad way to spend one’s social retirement, right?

  • Ignacio Mattos’s newest restaurant, Corner Bar, isn’t particularly original, writes Pete Wells. But the classics at the chef and restaurateur’s bistro inside the boutique hotel Nine Orchard are “virtually flawless.”

  • Openings: Two Staten Island brothers bring Mediterranean flavors to Midtown Manhattan with White Olive; gluten-free and vegan barbecue comes to the Barclays Center by way of Pure Grit BBQ; and another dining option, Essex Pearl, is available to Midnight Theater patrons in the Manhattan West complex.

  • The Mexican restaurant El Cholo, a Los Angeles mainstay for celebrities and students, turns 100 this year. Its longevity is a testament to the loyal staff and the family behind the its traditions and flavors, writes Kevin McKenna.

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source: nytimes.com