Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do or Dine

Back garden

Writing about Do or Dine leaves us torn. On the one hand, we fell hard for its cockeyed cooking and crooked-grin atmosphere; on the other, this month-old Bed-Stuy spot is already fast becoming the hottest restaurant in town, and the more people hear about it, the more difficult it will be for us to get a table when we go back, which we plan on doing. A lot.

Though some people may balk at the wink-filled menu ("Et tu, Brute?" for the Caesar salad, "E666s" for the deviled eggs) and the lightheartedness of the guys running the show ("We're basically adolescents," our server explained, while a chef told a nearby table wondering about gluten, "Tell us what you want and we'll trick it out"), both reflect the fun-loving experimentation happening in the kitchen. The key to the restaurant's success so far, though, is that the food, for all its what-if-we? spirit, is never zany or ironic: these are extremely well-conceived and well-executed dishes. 

Shishito peppers with four salts (green tea, yuzu, seaweed, wasabi), Do or Dine

Asian touches, like Nippon nachos and pork sumai, abound: we started with a special, blistered shishito peppers. Eaten on their own, these crunchy, occasionally spicy beauties make a great snack. But the best part came on the side in the form of four blended salts --- wasabi, yuzu, green tea, and seaweed. The salts make this simple dish complex, as each flavor interacts slightly differently with the peppers, giving them more depth and character.

Tako Taco (octopus, goat cheese, tomatillo), Do or Dine

The tako tacos brought together octopus ("tako" in Japanese), tomatillo, and goat cheese to make a sweet, cooling plate, perfect for a hot summer evening outdoors. Octopus can be challenging to cook correctly, but these guys nailed it, leaving it as tender as could be. We pencilled in the octopus with deviled eggs, another appetizer, for our next visit. 

Heart attack (jalapeno pepper with chevre, salmon, and beet), Do or Dine

We can generally do without TGI Friday's-style anything, but our interest was piqued by the printed description of the "heart attack!" as "kinda like a jalapeno popper, but with chevre, salmon, and beet." A spot-on description --- the beet is tempura --- and it does sort of look like a heart. Though it wound up at the bottom of our rankings, we still enjoyed it, especially when the chevre started to pool inside the pepper. 

Foie gras donut, Do or Dine

Many people will have first heard of Do or Dine in the context of its foie gras donuts, which sparked an anti-foie gras petition and a pro-foie-gras-donuts counter-petition in the same week. We'll leave the ethical discussion aside and simply say this: if you eat foie gras, you need to eat this donut immediately. As in, lace up your kicks and grab your Metrocard now. A collaboration with Dough, ours was filled with a mix of rich liver and citrus jelly, a savory-sweet concoction that caused in us the sort of donut-induced pleasure coma normally known only by Homer Simpson.

Lamb breast with cumin and lime, Do or Dine

Our server said of the fatty lamb breast, "This is going to haunt your dreams." We should consult this guy for lottery picks: visions of it have been hounding us ever since. Roasted with cumin and lime juice, it lodges in the mind both for the punchy flavor and its terrific texture. So much lamb winds up a chewy monotone, but the way this is cut and served, you get crunchy crust and supple meat in every bite.

Do or Dine

When it came time for dessert, we thought over the frozen Snickers bar ("sourced from the bodega and served in the wrapper") and the worms and dirt (gummy worms with crumbled Oreos) but wound up choosing the mango mochi balls. The subtly flavored ice cream gets wrapped in a glutinous rice cake and topped with hickory-smoked salt, a delightful mix of refinement and brashness, kind of like the restaurant itself.

Melon mochi balls with hickory-smoked salt, Do or Dine
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