Un bagel? Qu’est ce que c’est un bagel?

Un bagel? Qu’est ce que c’est un bagel?
Photo by Tom Callan

Talk about chutzpah: a Bulgarian guy thinks he can teach Brooklynites about the bagel — and not even a New York bagel, but a Montreal bagel.

Ignat Kostov is behind the counter at B&B Empire Bistro on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street, cranking out a north-of-the-border delicacy that’s peculiar in these parts.

The key is a touch of honey — and a $100,000, custom-made wood-fired oven that is supposed to give the bagels a smokey char that Canucks swear by.

Local curiosity seekers — and Montreal natives — have been beating a path to Kostov’s door, but the general consensus from Brooklynites and Quebecois is that these bagels need some work (see sidebar).

“Frankly, it’s closer to a New York bagel than to a Montreal bagel,” said Noah Bernamoff, whose Mile End Deli on nearby Hoyt Street began the current Montrealification of Brooklyn. “These aren’t charred enough, flat enough or sweet enough to deserve the Montreal label. They have some work ahead of themselves.”

Bernamoff’s smoked meat — what Montrealers call pastrami — is every bit as good as the New York version. But when it came to his native bagels, he didn’t even try to make them himself.

“I recognized that I did not have the skill or the tools to possibly match the supremacy of the ultimate bagel,” Bernamoff said.

Even without solid Montreal rue cred, Kostov has something more important going for him: location. He’s one of the few bagel stores in the area. And nothing beats a fresh bagel.

B&B Empire Bistro [200 Clinton St. between Atlantic Avenue and State Street, Boerum Hill, (718) 858-6358] is open 6 am to 8 pm.

Ignat Kostov is making hand-rolled Montreal-style bagels at his new B&B Bistro on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights. For now, the bagels look better than they taste — but maybe that’s just a Montreal thing.
Photo by Tom Callan