Since the Voice‘s Fort Defiance review ran, owner St. John Frizell has added a proper dinner menu, so we headed to Red Hook to check it out this weekend. Frizell is a master of coziness and simplicity–he knows what would hit the spot, and serves it without fuss. When the weather was hot, he slung plates like blue fish rillettes and deviled eggs, along with refreshing cocktails like a cucumber-infused Tom Collins in a huge frosted glass. It was just exactly what you wanted–but it was difficult to piece together a dinner from the small plates offered in the evening. Now the nighttime menu features a handful of hearty, main-dish-sized plates, which change every few days.
On Friday night, we were tempted by the rabbit stroganoff but ended up ordering the creamy pumpkin soup topped with stewed black kale and crisp, inch-long shards of bacon, along with the frisee salad tossed with almonds, figs and yogurt dressing. We also tried the crunchy-skinned Spanish mackerel (Frizell seems very aware of sustainable fish issues) with braised celery. All of it was cooked and seasoned with care, warming and satisfying to eat.
The cocktail menu has been re-vamped for cold-weather drinking, offering more brown spirit concoctions (like a very good Manhattan) and “Hot Helpers,” including Irish coffee, and a ridiculously delicious Kentucky nightcap–steamed milk, bourbon and vanilla.
Earlier last week, Doree Shafrir Twittered that Fort Defiance was nearly empty, and speculated about whether the restaurant could survive the long Red Hook winter. But happily, on Friday night the place was hopping, with every table and bar stool occupied.
365 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn