My neighborhood's changingagain. Former bodegas offer designer coffees along with the de rigueur mangoes, real estate brokers patrol the streets, and there are now white folks at my bus stop. Increasingly, dinner no longer means BBQ shoved underneath bulletproof glass barriers, as the gentrification of Brooklyn marches resolutely down Fulton Street. Lucian Blue, the latest restaurant to bring Manhattan style across the bridge, looks as if it were blown over from Soho by some summer squall. The outdoor café is a favorite roost of local denizens and besuited business types, who loiter over sunflower martinis before heading home.
Stood up on my first foray, I had plenty of time to peer around the dining room. The decor is '50s chic or Memphis moderne (the Italian movement, that is), but the stark lines and bright colors work well together and create an airy space where tables are set comfortably apart. Sensing my discomfort at singularly occupying the largest table in the house, the dreadlocked waitress sympathized, then presented a menu that mirrored the hood's transformation. On it, dry-aged sirloin, truffle oil, and couscous vied for pride of place with neighborhood necessities like black bean soup and curried shrimp with pigeon peas. I resolved to test the kitchen's mettle with the classics and ordered grilled chicken tenders with a barbecue dipping sauce ($7.95). They were as named but slathered with a sweet goo that had a pleasant hint of five-spice powder. The salmon with jasmine rice pilaf and asparagus ($15.95) played off the creamy sweetness of the fish with the glaze's acidulated tamarind bite, and the grain was an interesting conceit. A lemon sherbet topped with raspberry puree ($5.95) was nothing special, but enabled me to brave the heat, vowing to return with a more faithful friend.
It was tattoo night on my return: I almost walked into a wall while staring at the adorned biceps of the maître d' and noticed my waitress displayed a sizable ankh, her dreads now covered with an Erykah Badusized gele. C.P.T. prevailed, and I watched the room fill as I waited. A large group could have passed for the Spellman chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, while an adjacent four-top featured the Caribbean equivalent of Eurotrash all babbling away in French about Paris and Pointe-à-Pitre. My eavesdropping was ended by my guest's arrival and we set to ordering. I indulged in grilled asparagus and portabellos ($7.95) enhanced with a drizzle of truffle oil and shavings of aged Parmesan, a creditable version of the classic. My companion's crab cake, moist and dense with crustacean, topped a mass of mesclun mixed with shreds of mango, cucumber, and carrota Waldorf salad with an island twist. Keeping on the cultural path with curried shrimp ($15.75), she pronounced the prawn spicy and delicious. I delighted in a perfectly done steak scented with fresh thyme ($17.95), big enough for next day's lunch, and served on a fluffy couscous that was ideal for soaking up drippings. Sated, I sipped my peppermint tea as my friend scarfed down her mounds of mango gelato ($5.95), and we left musing on the buppification of Brooklyn.
LUCIAN BLUE, 63 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, 718-422-0093. Open for dinner Monday 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and brunch Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Major credit cards. Limited wheelchair access.
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