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GOOD & LOUD • Brooklyn Paper

GOOD & LOUD

At Dish, chef Jack Woo's "Crazy Avocado" appetizer features spicy tuna topped with avocado and flying-fish roe ("tobiko").
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

Entering the Japanese-French fusion restaurant
Dish, in Bay Ridge, I was struck by two things: the beauty of
the place and the intensity of the music.



Visually, the wide corridor of the space, lined with a row of
tables and illuminated with serene, recessed lighting, invites
diners to relax. It’s a setting in which to be left alone with
one’s quiet thoughts while sipping sake and consume sushi, or
gather with friends and chat companionably.



However all of that is rendered impossible when music is piped
into the room at a deafening volume. I’ve complained about the
level of sound in eateries in this column before, and I’m aware
that my opinion may sound like a rant. But, I have to ask Michael
Izzo and Henry Arena, the owners of these high-decibel digs:
can’t a restaurant just be a restaurant? Do you think diners
will run screaming from your place, complaining that the atmosphere
isn’t hip enough, if the music serves as background ambience
and the food takes center stage?



Behind Dish is a garden that, had I been wearing earplugs, could
be described as tranquil. Its two rows of candlelit tables face
a cascading wall of water that ends in an elegant, rectangular
pool. But again, a throbbing instrumental piped from speakers
over the waterfall repeated itself in a nightmarish loop. (The
waiter was accommodating when I asked that the sound be turned
down.)



If you want to avoid an aneurysm, don’t pair the music with the
lava lamp-green apple martini – a toxic mix of apple vodka, apple
schnapps and melon liqueur that smells like gasoline and tastes
like runoff from Chernobyl. A delicately flavored, golden-colored
mango martini is a better choice. Before diving into the Bible-weight
menu, we traded the apple concoction for an equally lurid but
easier to swallow "Saketini." Made with sake and gin,
it was another drink that glowed – this time with an unearthly
sapphire haze.



Our waiter Calvin, who has been with the restaurant since its
opening in December, is a fan of chef Jack Woo and his Japanese
fusion cooking. (Before Dish, Woo worked for the Sushi Den in
Colorado and Migita Sushi in Brooklyn Heights.) He steered us
away from standard sushi, sashimi and tempura – "Tempura
is tempura where ever you have it," said Calvin – to more
esoteric dishes that showcased the chef’s experimental nature.




Of the four appetizers he suggested, three were enjoyable (if
excessively rich, a flaw that cropped up several times during
dinner); one didn’t work at all.



A pile of crunchy, tiny fried shrimp were mixed with spicy, peppery
mayonnaise. They made great eating if you kept your intake down
to five or six; more than that would be like spooning up an entire
souffle.



Another dish I appreciated for its salty sweetness was the retro
throwback of huge sea scallops wrapped in bacon and served on
skewers – a luau favorite circa 1965. It’s a clever idea: the
bacon crisps while it’s on the grill and helps protect the fish
from drying out over the heat. Like the shrimp, it’s not a dish
you’d want if you craved something light and clean-tasting.



And Japanese? No.



I wouldn’t use the word "crazy" to describe my reaction
to the "Crazy Avocado," but I liked it well enough.
Tiny beads of salty red caviar saved little rolls of raw, velvety
salmon, covered in creamy slices of ripe avocado, from being
cloying.



The one blooper: Buttery slices of yellowtail in a delicate soy
marinade scattered with rings of hot jalapeno peppers; the heat
obscured the delicate sweetness of the fish. Without the fiery
distraction, the dish was perfection.



We didn’t leave behind a single drop of our miso soup. Miso is
as ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants as the iceberg lettuce
salad is to their American counterparts, so you’d imagine it
would be a no-brainer for a kitchen to master. Not so. I’ve tasted
countless over-salted, too thick versions and sipped just as
many that were as thin and tasteless as gruel. Woo’s, with its
pronounced, nutty barley flavor and silken cubes of tofu, was
as soothing as a bowl of mother’s chicken noodle soup.



Too bad that winner was followed by a flop. Dish’s rectangles
of rib-eye steak, which is a forgiving cut due to its high fat
content, should have sauteed up nice and tender, but instead
this version arrived stringy and inedibly tough. The red wine
sauce (there’s the French touch) was reduced to a mineral rich
meatiness – certainly worthy of carefully cooked beef.



We fared better with "chicken yaki udon" an oily, yet
appealing, platter of pan-fried noodles mixed with slices of
moist chicken breast and a garden-full of crisply sauteed peppers
and greens.



Woo doesn’t skimp on the dessert round-up: a choice of five ice
creams in flavors such as green tea and red bean; chocolate mousse;
pineapple cheesecake; the lychee and passion fruit mousse; and
tiramisu.



Someone at another table tried the fried ice cream ball jazzed
up with a side of shooting flames. Blazing fried ice cream? There’s
something Mel Brooks would appreciate.



Dish reminds me of "The Nanny" actor Fran Drescher.
She’s gorgeous to look at and, and even enjoyable to watch for
short periods – but that voice!

 

Dish (9208 Third Ave. between 92nd and
93rd streets in Bay Ridge) accepts American Express, MasterCard
and Visa. Entrees: $10-$25. The restaurant serves dinner daily.
For reservations call (718) 238-2323.


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