Yesterday, we took ourselves over to upper Smith Street to check out Bien Cuit, a brand-new French bakery and café. Zachary Golper, who owns Bien Cuit with his wife, Kate Wheatcroft, used to be a baker at Le Bec-Fin, a Philadelphia restaurant that knows from good food, so between that and the promise of many tarts, we were pretty excited.
There are indeed plenty of tarts at Bien Cuit, and they’re all tiny and beautiful. We managed to restrain ourselves and bought only two, about which we will write more tomorrow. Bread-wise, we weren’t quite in the mood for an entire loaf, so decided to try it as part of a sandwich.
The bakery offered two, one of which involved lots of high-quality meat on focaccia. Since we don’t eat meat, no matter how high-quality it may be, we went for sandwich No. 2, which featured roasted zucchini, chopped black olives, and garlic spread, all neatly contained between two thick and crusty slices of miche, a long-fermented bread made with a blend of rye and wheat flours.
To be honest, we initially had our reservations about this sandwich, called the Athens, for the simple and admittedly childish reason that we usually hate zucchini. But we love garlic and olives, and, as we quickly discovered, we love what Bien Cuit does to zucchini, which is to roast it to perfection, season it with salt, and then partner it with ingredients that amplify and complement its mellow charms.
And that combination of a mere three ingredients somehow creates something wonderful; honestly, we can’t remember the last time we ate such a damn good sandwich. And that may be in part because at a time when every sandwich maker seems intent on cramming no less than 15 different components, 10 of them condiments, between bread, Bien Cuit just has the good sense to leave well enough alone, and rely instead upon proper seasoning and balanced flavors. And upon an excellent roast garlic spread that was neither too mellow nor too strong, and that we could eat straight from a jar, if given the chance.
As for the bread, it was also superb, a more than worthy foundation for what we’re now tempted to think of as one of the best sandwiches, vegan or otherwise, that Brooklyn has to offer.
120 Smith Street, Brooklyn
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 21, 2011
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