The first thing that drew us to this seemingly remote restaurant in this semi-industrial part of Brooklyn was the rear courtyard, as spotted on a review website. Too bad for us, I discovered when I called to make a reservation, as the leafy courtyard wasn’t open every day of the week. Inside would have to do. Probably a good thing as the humidity in NY this time of year is a bit of a killer. The second drawcard was the look of the food on the restaurants website.
3rd Avenue in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighbourhood may not be the first place you’d look to for an impressive feed, but if you’re in the know, it’s well-worth the journey.
The Pines menu comes broken down in categories of “Share”, “Market”, “Pasta” and “Protein”; with quite vague descriptions of dishes such as lamb neck – kasha | fava | hyssop
I knew we were in for a treat.
We order the bread (6) to tear into; an impressive pile of buckwheat baguette, semolina bread and Italian filone. A clumsy-yet-intentional smear of soft caraway butter is wiped onto the same plate; there for some delicious dunking.
For those of you that follow my IG feed, you may recognise this next plate of food. One that stopped me in my tracks, caused many pleasured groans, and almost instantly became one of the best things I’ve eaten.
Foie gras rhubarb | pistachio | brioche 24
To be honest, there isn’t a great deal going on when you look at the plate. A generous lump of foie gras, roughly chopped pistachio nuts, slices of compressed rhubarb and warm buttery brioche. It was the simplicity that made it a winner; a combination of creamy liver, crunchy and tart rhubarb, more crunch from the nuts and slightly sweet brioche to smear everything on.
Cabbage smoked jowl | sheeps milk | huckleberry 12
Once again the simplicity made something like cabbage shine. Warm chunks of cabbage, a few hunks of smoked pork cheek, sweet and sour berries and a creamy sheep milk dressing.
Octopus guanciale | pickled pepper | melon 19
Tender and naturally sweet tentacles of octopus huddled alongside rolls of fatty guanciale, salt-cured pork cheek. The pickled pepper component is the bright red sauce that’s similar to sriracha, with a comparable chilli heat. Chunks of compressed santa claus melon bring a sweet juiciness to the plate.
Pork shoulder corn | cherry | almonds 28
I’m not convinced we were given shoulder as the meat resembled pork fillet, but still, it was cooked to pink perfection. A sweet corn purée covers most of the plate with pork, fresh cherries and pan-wilted Chinese broccoli leaves. A light scattering of chopped almonds add some crunch.
The stomach was getting a tad full thanks to the beers I’d been drinking, but there was a little room left for something sweet.
Cherry bark sorbet 9
Not my choice, which I was a little grateful of after I saw the reaction from the other half as he got the first taste of the sorbet. Everything else on the plate was wonderful; balls of tobacco panna cotta, fresh cherries, chocolate bark and mint. As for the sorbet, it was as bitter as radicchio and had an intense raw almond kernel flavour. A flavour that didn’t marry with anything else on the plate.
Tahini ice cream 8
My selection, however, was delicious. Sweet ice cream made with nutty tahini, candied garbanzo (chickpeas), chunks of sweet halva, cilantro jelly and a sprinkle of coriander seeds.
I’ve gotta say, this was one impressive meal. Chef Angelo Romano really knows his stuff. The food reminds me of what I’ve eaten at Sydney’s sixpenny restaurant. Modern approach, thoughtful and unconventional.
Open from Thursday to Sunday is a more low key component to The Pines, not all that far from the main restaurant. In fact it’s mere metres away in their own backyard. Backyard at The Pines is somewhere to kick back beneath shady trees and umberella’s, swig on cold beer and nibble on a few edibles.
What drew us back to The Pines to try the backyard was the menu sample they have up on their website. Think foie gras with marcona almond, mandarin & brioche or jicama with sea urchin, coconut & smoked jowl or burrata with scallop bottarga, celtuce & black garlic.
Can you see why we wanted to go back?
Getting there and finding a chalkboard menu with food that sounded nothing like the website menu was disappointing, to say the least. I understand it was a sample menu online but the style of food was the complete opposite. Of course we stayed as it would have been a waste of time catching the subway and walking there. A few rounds of beers and, to be honest, some food that didn’t excite either of us.
Padrón peppers (5) with lime zest & salt. This is actually a decent beer snack and the occasional spicy pepper was well appreciated.
It sounded promising on the chalkboard, but the hot dog (7) with kimchi & Kewpie mayo just didn’t deliver. The sausage was average and the kimchi was far from the real thing; with flavours so toned down they were barley noticed. If I was Korean I’d have been horrified.
Lamb bacon (5) sounded intriguing enough to order, and as tasty as it was I found the pieces a little jerky-like in texture. I liked that it was served with sheep yoghurt; a nice match to the smokiness.
I find it difficult to resist when there’s grilled corn (5) on any menu, so here we have it. Very lightly grilled cob with mayo, grated cheese and cayenne. Juicy as hell, delicious, spicy, but not enough cheese. That’s just personal as I love grilled corn when it’s under a mountain of cheese.
The Pines – 284 3rd Avenue, Park Slope