151 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
For her most recent birthday, I met Myna near where she works in Brooklyn and treated her to dinner at Red Gravy, a cool, definitely-not-traditional Italian bistro on Atlantic Avenue, at the very southern tip of Brooklyn Heights. Fun fact: Brooklyn Heights was, once upon a time, the only place in Brooklyn that one could live without regularly having your sneakers borrowed from you while you were still walking in them or your car radio liberated from the confining shackles of your dashboard. Nowadays, it's but one of many (very) expensive places in the borough. Atlantic Avenue, once home mostly to a prison and a series of dilapidated brownstones with pawn shops on the first floor, is now home to condos, bistros, and boutiques... and a prison.
The interior epitomizes the Brooklyn bistro aesthetic. Bare brick walls, vintage (or vintage-style) chandeliers, raw wood beams across the ceiling, comfy booths, top shelf liquor at the bar, dark-but-not-too-dark lighting. When I arrived it was deserted, but this was an early dinner. While the other would-be diners were out at happy hour someplace, not to arrive for another hour, Myna and I were just sitting down. Peppy New Orleans style jazz played over the stereo. It gave a funky fun vibe to the place and I liked the contrast against the Italian menu. It lets you know you aren't eating at a cliche. Our waiter was somewhat stiff. It was as though he was waiting a table at Le Cirque. Every word was pronounced crisply and there was, unless I'm imagining it, a slight nod of his head with each selection we made, as if to imply "Of course, sir. Excellent choice. I will tell the chef forthwith." I don't know why that stuck with me. He was a good waiter though. No complaints.
For her appetizer, Myna chose the Octopus, grilled with yogurt, cilantro, fennel, and beans. Half of the dish was delectable, and half was just okay. This is because half of the octopus was grilled until it was tender and perfect, and half was undercooked and too chewy. Red Gravy could have had a real winner here if only the tools they used displaced the heat more evenly. I have a thing for raw food. Part of me feels like it's the one adventurous thing this particular coward can do, part of me remembers reading an article once upon a time saying that people who eat raw food and food that fell on the floor have healthier immune systems than people who don't because, over the aggregate in small doses, the body is more used to fighting off intruders, and part of me just thinks it tastes good. So I tried Red Gravy's Crudo, thinly sliced raw fluke with peach, basil, and lime. This was for sure a winner. Even Myna, who typically avoids the raw stuff, liked it. The fish was fresh and tender and the combination of lime and peach, which I wouldn't have thought of pairing it with, worked extremely well together.
Myna's entrée, sticking with the seafood theme of her meal, was the Calamari & Scallop, pan seared scallops, stuffed calamari, and a side of mixed chickpeas with scallions and peanut. She enjoyed it, although I wasn't the world's biggest fan of the stuffed calamari. Don't ask me why because I can't put my finger on any good reason. I just wasn't. The scallops, on the other hand, we very good. I was torn between two options, and the waiter recommended the Berkshire Pork Chop (not the most Italian dish on the menu, I warrant) served with a gooseberry peperonata, polenta, and basil. While the pork chop itself was well made and tasty, it was fighting for control of the dish with the salsa-like relish that rested atop it. In retrospect, I maybe should have gotten the quail. I always enjoy quail. In addition, we ordered a side of Broccolini, sauteed in garlic. It was delicious.
For dessert, we ordered a couple of coffees, an Affogado, and the Plum Tart. The most recent time that we tried the Affogado, it was oddly at the Australian restaurant Burke & Wills. The Burke & Wills affogado, with its brownies and cream, was far better. This version was a let down. I mean, it was pretty much just ice cream with espresso poured over it. An Americano in a bowl. The plum tart was pretty good, though I can't say I was blown away by it.
Two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts with coffee, a bottle of wine, plus tax and tip, came out to about $200.