'Beet' happening: The coconut shrimp is a highlight of the menu at Park Slope's Beet.
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

When Beet opened in October, I thought,
"Oh, great. Just what Park Slope needs, another Thai restaurant."
The neighborhood’s two main dining boulevards, Fifth and Seventh
avenues, are already quite well served by Thai eateries.

But Beet’s uber-hip decor set it apart from the rest. Touches
like the deep red walls that curve over the top of the ceiling,
the curved modern lamps, and a border of mosaics behind the tables
create a modern backdrop for dining.

It’s a setting one is more accustomed to finding in less family
oriented neighborhoods like Williamsburg – but it provides a
good excuse for ordering one of the many specialty cocktails.
I’d start with the crisp, fresh "Bolini," sparkling
wine served in champagne glass made delicately fruity thanks
to a touch of pear liqueur. Slivers of ginger lend the drink
a jolt of heat. The "Arigato Martini" had an intense
litchi nut flavor that I also loved (only professionalism prevented
me from having a third).

Beet is the second restaurant opened by Pat Rodsomarng. The first,
Mango Thai, opened in November, 2003 on Seventh Avenue. Beet’s
cuisine is more experimental than Mango, with French touches
and some unusual pairings.

My dinner there had its highs – with some dishes carefully cooked
and complexly flavored – but there were a couple of downers,
too. A few plates held either over- or under-salted creations,
and in some cases the spicing was tame.

The "coconut shrimp" is an example of the kitchen at
its peak. A generous portion of cleanly fried, crisply battered
crustaceans were light and crunchy and brightened by a red curry
and plum dipping sauce. It’s disappointing when something with
such finesse is followed by "grilled flank steak salad,"
a dish with too many off notes. The first flaw is slightly overcooked
meat marinated in overpoweringly salty chili-lime juice. Beneath
the beef was a mix of lettuce and under-ripened tomato wedges.
I tried wrapping the meat in the greens and topping it with a
sprig or two of basil and mint, but the herbs did little to tame
the seasoning.

Lemongrass and lime were assertively sour in the "tom yum"
soup, although the shrimp, mushrooms and slices of green and
red peppers were cooked to just the right degree.

The kitchen team turns out two fish dishes that could be improved
by more assertive seasoning. The huge prawns in the "jumbo
shrimp and scallops with brown butter sauce" were tender
and sweet, and the scallops as large as a baby’s fist. Although
both were nicely caramelized, the rich sauce that accompanied
them could have used a pinch more salt and something tart to
brighten its flavor.

Under the "wow" section of the menu, is a large filet
of steamed red snapper served in a banana leaf and splashed with
Panang curry sauce. The fish is moist and meaty and the deep
green leaf it sits on makes an attractive presentation. If only
the coconut curry sauce had more oomph.

There is one signature dish that shows up often as a special:
"French rack of lamb with ratatouille and mint leaf jelly."
It features six grilled, smoky lamb chops, each with a thin,
impossible not to chew, band of charred fat. They’re accompanied
by a stew of just-crisp-enough, forcefully seasoned, eggplant,
zucchini, peppers and onions that stand up to the meat. Dabs
of pungent pesto intensified the musky lamb and lent a welcome
tart note to the stew. Deep green spoonfuls of mint jelly make
a natural partner with the lamb, but struck an off chord with
the vegetables.

As an American diner, I bring certain expectations to the dessert
course. One is that whatever concludes the meal possesses a bit
of sweetness. After tasting the dense coconut rice pudding, my
diner companion said, "Think of it as a cheese course."
I tried, but salty pudding just doesn’t do it for me. Neither
did one-dimensional fried spring rolls filled with bananas and
drizzled with honey. A squiggle of chocolate – not traditionally
Thai, but little about Beet is – would go a long way towards
improving this dessert.

From the outside, the eatery resembles any other, self-consciously
stylish outpost. The waitstaff is warm and admirably graceful
even as they dart to the tables with their arms stacked with
plates. Yes, there were a few flaws in the meal, but I believe
this place can evolve into more than just another Thai place.


Beet (344 Seventh Ave. bet. Ninth and
10th streets in Park Slope) accepts American Express, Discover,
MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $8-$17. The restaurant serves lunch
and dinner seven days a week. Delivery available to surrounding
neighborhoods. For information, call (718) 832-2338.

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