SEA’S BOUNTY - Brooklyn Paper


Fresh fish: Barracuda restaurant on 71st Street and Third Avenue, featuring Atlantic baby grilled calamari with lime dressing, is a seafood lovers' mecca.
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

If fresh fish is your fancy, consider stopping
in at Barracuda on the corner of 71st Street and Third Avenue
in Bay Ridge.

But don’t go there looking for a romantic
interlude, or a quiet tete a tete. In fact, don’t go there in
search of anything other than fresh fish, unless you have a hankering
for a drink and a wide-screen TV.

Clearly the focus at Barracuda is on the
seafood and owner Willy Borodin attributes his broad knowledge
of fish to his Crimean roots.

"I grew up near the Black Sea, where
there are lots of fish," he told GO Brooklyn. "I learned
how to select the best fish – through touch, smell, by the eyes
– you can spot good fish once you’ve worked with them for a while.
I probably ate fish every day when I was growing up." Borodin
has always worked in the restaurant industry, first in Russia,
then in Manhattan, where he arrived eight years ago. Borodin
met his partner, Chef Mike, who declined to give his last name,
through mutual friends three and a half years ago, and the two
have been working together ever since. Chef Mike hails from Lithuania
on the Baltic Sea, also a big fish-eating locale.

"I’ve always loved to cook,"
Chef Mike said. "I’ve cooked since I was a kid." When
he left Lithuania, Chef Mike came to New York and went to the
New York Food and Hotel School, then worked in restaurants in
Manhattan and Long Island. "Willy and I started talking
and pretty soon, we knew we had the same idea. We wanted to start
a seafood place."

Borodin and Mike know their seafood. Barracuda’s
menu offers an impressive selection of both the expected – salmon,
flounder, catfish, sole, trout, mahi mahi, mussels, scallops,
crab, lobster, clams – and the less expected – both Prince Edward’s
Island and New Zealand mussels, crayfish, lake sturgeon and Chilean
sea bass.

"I go to the Fulton Fish Market three
times a week," Borodin said. "They have wonderful fish
there." Frequent trips to the market and buying small amounts
of fish at a time are Borodin’s secrets to consistently serving
only the freshest fare. Borodin’s philosophy on fish preparation
is: the simpler the better as the flavor of fresh fish speaks
for itself.

All of the fish entrees are "prepared
to your liking, broiled or pan-fried, grilled or blackened"
and the shellfish are served with drawn butter and "secret
ingredients," according to the menu. The utter simplicity
of this approach might go a little farther if the restaurant
itself had more to offer in the way of ambience, but Barracuda
is unpretentious to a fault.

Its unassuming, dark exterior gives way
to an equally unassuming dark interior with hints of a low-budget
’50s rec room. While the eight-seater bar along one wall offers
the usual spirits, the dining area on the other side is a series
of faux wood tables, topped with fake flowers, lightweight cutlery
and paper towel napkins. The back area has two large sofas and
a huge TV on high volume hanging from the ceiling.

There are a few noteworthy dishes from
the selection of soups and "Hot and Not" starters.
In fact, all the soups (mainly fish chowders and gumbos) are
thick and spicy with a hint of New Orleans.

"Emeril Lagasse is my favorite chef,"
said Chef Mike, and the influence shows in some of his most interesting
dishes. His fusilli Creole with crayfish tails and andouille
(Cajun-style sausage) definitely brings Lagasse’s cooking style
to mind – plenty of onion, garlic and smoky sausage flavor.

The Atlantic baby calamari grilled with
lime dressing were tender with just enough kick from the chopped
garlic and lime juice to add interest without overwhelming the
delicate flavor of the calamari. The steamed mussels, cooked
to perfection, had a nicely balanced sauce of roasted garlic,
tomatoes and white wine.

For dessert, we sampled a warm, tasty mixture
of apples, prunes and figs with hints of lemon and covered with
a crispy granola-like topping, called Dessert Barracuda, which
was not too sweet, but satisfying like a deep-dish apple pie.

Other dessert offerings include white chocolate
bread pudding and strawberry creme brulee.

I applaud Barracuda’s efforts to serve
fresh fish, simply prepared, but I feel Chef Mike’s talents are
underplayed. More separation between the TV area and the dining
area would be a great improvement, as would more attention to
decor. On the other hand, this is a very relaxed atmosphere where
you would have no qualms about bringing young children, infants
or a group of friends.


Barracuda Seafood Restaurant [71st Street
and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 833-3759] is open every
day and serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Visa, MasterCard,
Discover and American Express are accepted.

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