Easy Eating

The Brooklyn puts a fusion spin on mainstream eats.

THE BROOKLYN

1212 Second Ave., 206-224-7000

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and Sun.; till 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. The logo at the top of the menu reads, "Seafood, Steak, and Oyster House"; the slogan at the bottom, "The Freshest Ideas in Northwest Cuisine." Really? Fresh ideas and a surf-n-turf menu orientation don't often go together. But since new owner-manager Alon Aleshire invited chef Kevin Reardon into the kitchen, the venerable Brooklyn has turned into something rare and delightful: an inviting, unpretentious restaurant with a menu unthreatening to the unadventurous eater and innovative enough to appeal to discriminating palates. I'd be tempted to call the Brooklyn's offerings "Comfort Food Plus," if Aleshire didn't hate the C-word so much. Nothing signals anything special in the way of food when you enter the Brooklyn. Everything—the dark paneling, the high banquettes and tall, upholstered bucket chairs that line the long open kitchen—screams "mainstream steak house." The main items on the menu don't correct that first impression: There are New York steaks, a double-cut pork chop, barbecued baby back ribs, a roast chicken, pan-fried oysters. It's only when you read the small print that the Brooklyn's ambitions betray themselves. The pork chop ($22.59) is rubbed with coriander and fennel before it's roasted and served with a rhubarb-apricot chutney and cherry-juniper demi-glace; the filet mignon ($30.99-$36.99) comes with a lemon-thyme bordelaise sauce, the chicken in a chanterelle crust glazed with roasted-garlic sauce. Imagination takes center stage on the seafood fresh sheet; when we dined at the Brooklyn in early October, individual dish descriptions read like fusion run rampant: ono ($21.99), "sesame ginger seared and served over citrus hoisin and mango-ginger puree with buckwheat soba noodles and a lobster-nappa cabbage wrap"? Scallops ($23.59) "encrusted with porcini mushrooms and served with a saffron risotto cake and charred vine-ripened-tomato vinaigrette garnished with dandelion- fennel salad and pepper-cured bacon"? OVERDONE? ON PAPER, perhaps, but based on what we did have, I'd order either like a shot on a return visit. My choice was marlin ($21.99) grilled in a honey-lime-cilantro coating. It was moist and tasty on its own, but rose to greatness when matched bite by bite with the surrounding fiesta of sauces and sides: charred tomato salsa, avocado drizzled in paprika oil, a custardy goat-cheese cassava cake, and an Anaheim pepper stuffed chile relleno-style with nuggets of roast corn and mashed potato. My companion's monkfish ($23.99) was flavorful enough, but its glory was rivaled by the accompanying mousseline of smoked sea bass, a shallot-chanterelle confit, and a succulent potato-chive-and-asiago "cake" drizzled in essence of lobster and vanilla. Reardon's recipes speak the language of fusion but achieve a different and more interesting end: His ingredients don't meld but rather celebrate carnival together. The Brooklyn's entr饳 are ample enough that you really don't need to order appetizers, soup, or salad. Which is a shame, because if you don't, you'll miss the lovely, fragrant cilantro-battered fried calamari ($7.99) with their Vietnamese-inspired sweet-and-sour dipping sauce; the Manila clams ($8.99) in a voluptuous stew of their own juices reinforced with white wine and redolent of saffron and curry powder; or the romaine salad ($5.29), tossed with the best mainstream Caesar dressing in town. (The Brooklyn's "New England-style" clam chowder—cup $2.99, bowl $4.99—is a delicious cream-of-vegetable soup, but what it has to do with clams, my palate at least couldn't tell you.) Although luncheon-priced and -portioned versions of dinner specials are available, lunch has its own star turns: You can have your delectably beer- battered plate of fish and chips straight or half-and-halved with the cilantro-battered calamari ($9.99); the Tillamook-cheddar-topped Brooklyn burger ($9.99) has an herb-flavored bun as well worth devouring as the meaty filling; and the pulled-pork barbecue sandwich, a little sweet for many tastes, is rendered superappetizing by the side of blue-cheese-laced coleslaw that accompanies all three sandwiches. DINNER SERVICE at the Brooklyn is lively and attentive, even during the frenzied period when happy hour overlaps with mealtime. Curiously, it's nowhere near as efficient or agreeable at lunch, perhaps because Reardon isn't standing guard personally at the intersection of prep area and serving area. Bread is promised as you take your seat but may not arrive at all, despite repeated requests, until your main dish is already in front of you. And those repeated requests may be met with a hostile glare rather than snap-to-it service, even when the waiter station contains half a dozen apparently idle chatterers. Oh, well; you can fix lax service more easily than a lax kitchen, and Reardon's kitchen is anything but. The Brooklyn also excels in an area where cooking gets you nowhere: The oyster bar tries to maintain a baker's dozen of varieties during the season, from chubby Pacifics from California to tray-raised Kusshis from British Columbia. A dozen will run you $16.99 to $17.99; $17.99 will bring you a sampler of all 13. Folks who don't like their oysters clammy will enjoy the pan-fried variety ($10.99), light and fresh in their corn-flour breading and contrasting nicely with a chile-corn salsa. That last touch is typical of the Brooklyn: The flavor and texture contrast pushes the envelope of conventional cooking, while letting you focus on the goodness of the ingredients more than the ingenuity of the chef. Comfort food, no; but food anyone can be comfortable with, definitely. rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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