By Laura Shunk
By James A. Foley
By Billy Lyons
By Laura Shunk
By Eve Turow
By Scarlett Lindeman
By Robert Sietsema
By Lauren Mowery
300 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, 718-384-5800
118A Eldridge St.
New York, NY 10002
96 Chambers St.
New York, NY 10007
Region: Financial District
50 Central Park S.
New York, NY 10019
Region: West 50s
87 Utica Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11213
Region: Crown Heights
206 Knickerboker Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11237
105-29 Metropolitan Ave.
Jamaica, NY 11434
Williamsburg's best bistro offers French-Caribbean cuisine with some exciting and unmodified Haitian elements thrown in. Succulent pork "ribletts"delicious by themselvescome sided with a blistering Scotch bonnet sauce called ti-malice, and spice-massaged pork loin is regaled with a dark gravy spiked with Guinness. Compulsory at every bistro, steak frites has here been enlivened with an au poivre coating, and there's also a whole grilled fish of the day for those who like their food more straightforward. Sit in the relaxing front room, or better yet, pick the rear room for its dramatic views of the BQE. $$
(new) LA PIAZZETTA
442 Graham Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-349-1627
The guazzetto alone would be enough to make me return to this new Williamsburg Italian: mussels, clams, and scallops in a light tomato sauce laced with garlic, white wine, olive oil, and parsley. Croutons brushed with garlic and olive oil ring the bowl and gradually absorb the extra broth. Every detail of this Neapolitan favorite is perfect. We also enjoyed the featherweight potato gnocchi clumped with mozzarella. The soaring skylighted dining room, which appears to be a converted auto body shop, is oddly exhilarating. Only the wine list falls short. $$
MA'S SOUL FOOD CAFÉ
1551 Fulton Street, Bedford-Stuyvesant, 718-221-0235
An evening's stroll down Bed-Stuy's Fulton Street reveals a culinary scene in decay, as franchise restaurants like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Popeye's muscle out the family-run eateries that used to characterize this noble street. In defiance of the trend, newly opened Ma's offers a traditional menu of soul food staples. The fried chicken is particularly goodfresh and moist, with a modest coating of flour, letting the skin do the crispness work. The mac and cheese and corn muffins are also particularly fine, though the tepid and undercooked ribs are a disappointment. Neighborhood kids flock to the ice cream counter. ¢
643 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, 718-609-1841
There are now at least 10 Siamese cafés in Williamsburg and its northern suburb of Greenpoint, and in the latter locale we find Moon Shadow. Prepared for disappointment, I was impressed with the sharpness of the flavors and the freshness of the fixin's, even at off-peak hours. The luncheon special ($5.75, served until 4 p.m.) is a delightful tuck-in, featuring a spring roll and peanut-dressed salad in addition to a choice of main dishes. Otherwise, rice-sided entrées like Massaman curry and red snapper filet with tamarind sauce run $7 to $12. $
Southeast corner of 46th Street and Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, no phone
Just south of the park called Sunset Park is a hopping new Mexican neighborhood, and at the corner mentioned above, two opposing sheds selling snacks have recently appeared. Bright red Rico's is emblazoned with the come-on "Tamales Oaxaqueños," offering a changing selection. Foremost is the chicken mole tamale, wrapped in a corn husk and rife with poultry and thick inky sauce, while chicken with rajasroasted green-chile stripsis another triumph. Wash them down with arroz con leche, a sort of liquid rice pudding, or champurrado, a chocolate-flavored corn beverage. ¢
TAQUERÍA LA ASUNCIÓN
206 Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick, no phone
Bushwick hosts quite a few micro taco spotsplaces that make it seem like you're sitting in the cook's home kitchen. At Asunción, a baby crawls on the floor, and apart from the deep red walls and a shrine to the Virgin up near the ceiling, there's no attention paid to decor. Known to the locals simply as "mole," the chile-and-chocolate sauce is fabulous: slightly coarse-textured and a little oily, so that a bright umbra forms around the edges, and thin enough to moisten a plate of soft corn tortillas and a big serving of riceafter you've eaten the tender poached chicken. Weekends only. ¢
143-05 45th Avenue, Flushing, 718-463-8621
Sri Lankan food debuts in Queens with this new luncheonette, serving the brooding, spice-laced "black curries" (pick lamb); mellow, coconut-laced fish curries (pick kingfish); and breads like appams (weekends only) and outsize rotis that make Ceylonese cooking delightfully unique. The dosai are particularly good, and, outflanking its Staten Island brethren, Bownies also serves additional vegetarian South Indian specialties like curd ricea glorious tart sludge flavored with black mustard seed and curry leaf. Also don't miss puttu, a loaf of crumbled brown rice snowed with dried coconut. ¢
EDDIE'S SWEET SHOPV
105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills, 718-520-8514
One of the chief summer pleasures of Queens lies in discovering and investigating antiquarian ice cream parlors. Founded in 1909, Eddie's seems untouched by modernity. The hardwood stools at the long counter were not designed to accommodate the adult buttkids won't mind. In several flavors, the Cokes are concocted from syrup and soda, the 22 flavors of ice cream are made on the premises, and the soda jerk is well versed in the arcana of freezes, floats, sundaes, and malts. Very highly recommended. ¢
71-03 Grand Avenue, Queens, 718-429-0101
This combo Indian-Indonesian restaurant might be called the "Miracle of Maspeth" for its unusual menu, odd location, and semi-elegant dining room. Find plenty of South Asian dishes unavailable elsewhere, like chicken sabjee (boneless poultry in a mellow yellow sauce loaded with green vegetables), and Malai curry (lamb chunks bathed in rich coconut sauce). The Indonesian dishes are pallid by comparison, but desirable in the context of a broad-ranging meal with many dinersso bring your friends. Breads are a strong point, though the addition of sugar to several proved somewhat unnerving. $