Remember your first college dinner party? The menu wasn’t totally cohesive, but was such a pleasant change from the cafeteria it didn’t matter. You all brought beer and listened to the coolest music over communal plates of grub. You laughed and idled away the hours on the back porch. Well, Do or Dine, a quirky new spot in Bed-Stuy, is the restaurant take on those halcyon days.
Opened by four friends—three of whom worked front-of-house at the Modern—this eatery embraces a youthful (but still professional) spirit of chance-taking rarely found in today’s often yawn-inducing dining landscape. At night, a disco ball splashes neon red and blue glimmers across the walls, while Girl Talk blares on the sound system. Graffiti art brightens up the enclosed concrete patio. Jokes and gimmicks run rife on the menu, but they’d be far more annoying if the food faltered more than it shined.
“E666S,” for example, indicates deviled eggs. One option ($5) comes tempura battered and adorned with a Sriracha nipple. The other ($9) arrives with baby octopus tentacles erupting out of a creamy yolk filling. While the cornichon garnish stuck inside the mollusks’ decapitated heads will elicit smiles, the first version proves more satisfying. Or maybe I’m a sucker for food cooked in big vats of oil.
You’ll find plenty of that here, like the Nippon nachos ($6), which combine the best of Japanese and Tex-Mex cuisines by topping crisp gyoza with cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, and masago-infused sour cream. Bizarre? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. If that doesn’t quell your dumpling desires, tack on an order of the delicious wasabi-spiked shumai ($6).
But most important in the canon of deep-fried delights: the famed foie gras doughnut ($11). Derided by animal activists, this sweet-salty ode to artery clogging takes velvety-smooth goose liver mousse and apricot preserves (Polaner!) and stuffs them inside a fluffy golden doughnut from nearby bakery Dough. Don’t pause to reflect on this gut-busting appetizer—just order it. Now.
Sure, a couple of the apps and small plates fall short on flavor, like the $12 “Maryland style” (read: Old Bay–spiked) jellyfish salad and a $10 grilled romaine riff on a Caesar. But you’d be silly not to pay homage to 1970s swinger parties with the salmon pâté ($8). Hell, it even comes with “bread blunts,” served right out of a cigar box. Alas, no actual weed in these starchy sticks, but you’ll lap up the lightly smoky spread as if you had the munchies.
Entrées are more prosaic, though the humor endures. “District D9NE” translates to a bowl of prawns—if you’ve seen the film, it’ll make sense—and clams in a light broth ($15). Not bad, nor is the sliced duck breast ($20) fanned over a bed of kiwi and fennel. But try the “a fish and some chips” ($16) instead. A whole sea bass is cooked till crunchy, crowned with a tobiko “roehawk,” served on a bed of fat spuds, and showered with yuzu and minced shallots. Told you the restaurant does fried food well.
One major caveat: There’s no air conditioning. And having died—I mean dined—there on the absolute hottest day of the year, this needs to be resolved. Though as we move into fall in a few weeks’ time, this might not be a pressing concern.
Two minor notes: One—Do or Dine is BYOB for now. While nearby bodegas can supply beer, options for higher-quality wine are limited. Two—dessert offerings should be better. To the restaurant’s credit, the black sesame–flecked root beer float ($5) converted my table’s avowed sassafras hater. But really—a Snickers ice cream bar ($3) served in its wrapper and cut into four pieces? Perhaps it’s the kitchen’s way of telling you that what you really need after your entrées is another order of foie gras doughnuts. Because, in fact, you do.
For more restaurant coverage, check out our food blog, Fork in the Road, at voicefoodblog.com.Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.