Spring is in the air — and on our plates — thanks to the seasonally inspired fare at some of Brooklyn’s best market-driven restaurants. From Berkshire pork to fiddlehead ferns to that ultimate chef’s obsession, the ramp, here are our picks for spring’s dining musts.
iCi: You’d be hard-pressed to find an item at iCi that isn’t made from scratch: smoked and cured meats, jams and jellies, pickles and pastas are all produced inhouse. And come spring, iCi makes good use of its long list of local farm partners. Violet Hill provides the chickens for pot pie with spring vegetables, citrus butter, and sauteed market greens, and Red Hook’s Added Value Community Farm brings the veg for seared squid salad with shaved spring radish and preserved meyer lemon.
iCi [246 Dekalb Ave. at Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 789-2778].
Kevin’s: The seafood-happy, BYOB restaurant’s real draw is Kevin Moore himself. Spring signals the start of clamming season, when chef-owner Moore heads out to bring in the catch of the day. Another good bet is his grilled Montauk striped bass in lobster broth with a panko nori rice ball. But don’t forget to leave room for dessert! A friend of Kevin’s grows the rhubarb in the strawberry rhubarb pie with fresh whipped cream.
Kevin’s [277 Van Brunt St. between Visitation and Pioneer Streets in Red Hook, (718) 596-8335].
James Restaurant: Bring on the specials! This Prospect Heights restaurant is offering beef and lamb burgers and slow-roasted pork sliders for half-price on Mondays, and three-course seasonal dinners for $25 on Sundays. The menu changes weekly, but confit of Berkshire pork belly with sauteed ramps and creamy polenta, and spring onion soup with young garlic, boar lardon and pecorino romano are bound to make an appearance.
James Restaurant [605 Carlton Ave. at St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 942-4255].
The Good Fork: Spring means that chef-owner Sohui Kim can “stop pretending to be excited about cooking with root vegetables.” She’s more than excited about the season’s fresh ramps (what chef isn’t?), which she plans to combine with house-made ricotta as a stuffing for fresh tortelloni. Also not to be missed: an avant garde take on Caesar salad, featuring asparagus, anchovies, and a poached egg, and an Indian spiced samosa with fresh garden peas and homemade labne.
The Good Fork [391 Van Brunt St. between Coffey and Van Dyke Streets in Red Hook, (718) 643-6636].
Henry’s End: Kangaroo, pheasant and buffalo lovers may flock to Henry’s End for the Wild Game Festival, but warmer weather still warrants a pilgrimage. Shrimp gets paired with asparagus and meyer lemon, and chicken cuddles up to morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and (shocker!) ramps. Thanks to the open kitchen, you can watch chef-owner Mark Lahm put the sunshine on your plate.
Henry’s End [44 Henry St. between Cranberry and Middagh Streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 834-1776].
Rucola: Boerum Hill has plenty to get excited about come spring, not least of which is Rucola, a new restaurant featuring “a seasonally changing menu of carefully sourced, simply prepared food” that’s looking to open this month. Even better, the restaurant is introducing a new kind of CSA program to the neighborhood, in which participants are notified online about what’s fresh on the farm for that week.
Rucola [190 Dean St. at Bond Street in Boerum Hill, (347) 746-0120].
The Grocery: Huband-and-wife team Charles Kiely and Sharon Pachter wear many hats when it comes to running their 30-seat restaurant. This includes sourcing the freshest ingredients for the Grocery’s ever-changing menu. Pan-roasted squid with North Carolina shrimp and ramp stuffing and spring onion and ginger pan sauce is about to be added to the roster, and the $40 “Green Plate Special,” a four-course vegetarian tasting, is sure to offer the season’s best. Whatever the weather, we hope they never stops offering chocolate fig cake!
The Grocery [288 Smith St. between Union and Sackett Streets in Carroll Gardens, (718) 596-3335].
Petit Oven: The space may be diminutive, but the flavors are anything but in this market-driven French/American restaurant. Chef-owner Kat Plozaj takes her inspiration from the bounty of Bay Ridge’s own Greenmarket, as well as from local farms, and her $35 three-course prix fixe on Wednesdays is a definite steal. The a la carte isn’t too shabby either; cabbage wrapped salmon with celeriac potato and beet horseradish vinaigrette and miso spiced pork belly with ginger bok choy and coconut rice cake are currently up for the tasting.
Petit Oven [276 Bay Ridge Ave. between Third and Ridge Avenues in Bay Ridge, (718) 833-3443].