Thursday, April 21, 2005

Restaurant 8: Rose Water

LOCATION: 787 Union St. Park Slope/Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
DATE: April 20, 2005
FOOD: Meze Plate: Romesco Dip (Red Pepper Dip), Italian Hummus, Garlic White Bean Dip, Mediterranean Olives, Housemade Grilled Pita; Restaurant Week Menu: Salt Cod Cake with Pea Shoots and Charmoula; Pan Roasted Pollock with Braised Yukon Gold, Sauteed Asaparagus and Marjoram Puree; Rhubarb Crisp
PRICE: $33.00

There’s something magical about a warm spring evening in Brooklyn, a vacation (if only temporarily) of sorts from the crowded chaos of Manhattan. Traveling to Park Slope for the final night of Brooklyn Restaurant Week, I was surrounded by blossoming foliage and vibrant breezes. Such beach inspired weather seemed appropriate for Rose Water, which combines Mediterranean and eclectic American influences to produce a cuisine worthy of any culture.

It’s always a good sign when a restaurant doesn’t offer a contrived, parsed down menu for a restaurant week. The idea behind such promotions is to bring in customers, not drive them away. For many like myself, a restaurant probably only has one chance to impress. Rose Water did so.

Everything tasted incredibly fresh. I split an order of the Meze plate (its composition changes nightly) to begin the meal. The three dips on the plate were familiar but far from the Greek restaurant standard hummus. Rose Water mixes flavors from Italy, Greece, America, even northern Africa and the Mid-East. The Romesco dip tasted like a recently picked red pepper, sweet and mild, with a hint of black pepper spiciness. The Italian hummus and garlic white bean dips had similar appearances but entirely distinct flavors. The garlic was especially delightful, bold and strong, fearless of being too garlicky. Grilled pitas accompanied the meze and the fact that these were homemade, shows Rose Water knows what they’re doing.

The Restaurant Week menu presented three selections for each course and the variety was wonderful. Danny opted for the cold asparagus soup to start, while I went with the salt cod cake. This dish was much saltier than a crab cake, but gave a similar type of wholesome satisfaction. The fresh pea shoots inflected the flavor of the cod in the way crackers enhance clam chowder. Following the cod was my entrée, the pan-roasted pollock, an adeptly seasoned piece of white fish that would have fit a seaside café’s menu. I loved the braised Yukon gold, a big block of a potato soufflé, which came lightly dusted in chives and avoided the au-gratin over creaminess of so many potato dishes. And any dish with asparagus makes me smile, especially when the chef doesn’t mask the flavor of the vegetable, instead letting it speak for itself.

Finally, the rhubarb crisp. If my mom taught me nothing else, it is to love rhubarb and strawberry desserts and to tell anyone who will listen why “Friends” is one of the worst pop phenomenon of all time. Couple this with my lifelong courtship of anything cobbler and you can see why Rose Water’s granola covered strawberry-rhubarb cup was such a tremendous find in a city of overly chocolate sweets. For me, ice cream melting atop a delicious cobbler will always be one of life’s enticements. An idea: What about a wedding cobbler? Or is that just the bride’s father?

Rose Water serves the type of food you wish your mom could make, the type that makes you feel better just to look at. Balanced, unostentatious entrée plates are served using local organic produce and meat whenever possible. The menu offers a limited, but enticing selection of savory fair. The exposed brick walls, dim lighting, bookcases filled with books and wine bottles, combine to form a relaxed dining atmosphere, almost like the kitchen of someone’s home. The staff’s politeness only adds to the charm of Rose Water, a restaurant perfect for a mid-week Mediterranean holiday.

RATING: 8.1/10

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