Despite good press, Xixa (241 South 4th Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-8860) — the second Williamsburg restaurant from the team behind Traif — remains somewhat hidden on a frightful corner in the shadows of the on-ramp to the Williamsburg bridge. It’s lucky that chef Jason Marcus’s polyglot cuisine, which pairs ingredients like sriracha and burrata cheese with Mexican influences, carries enough ambition to overcome the setting.
Dark, maroon planks zigzag across a wall behind the bar, ropes are strung across the ceiling, and the dim light from multiple chandeliers make everyone looks better. This is not Southern Williamsburg of discount beer-and-shot combos; instead, the young and successful scoop up guacamole-laced nam prik num and and sip one-and-a-half-ounce pours of Alipus mezcal ($12). The earnest amuse bouches; the oversized, angular plates; and the price point may be just what those shopping for condos on the waterfront are looking for.
But no matter the depth of your wallet, the spicy shrimp gorditas ($7) should not be missed. Listed under the “breads” section — which contains any dish made out of corn masa, like tostadas and sopes — they arrive crisp and hot. Two freshly fried corn rounds as dainty as French macarons are split then stuffed with a cool salad of pearlescent rock shrimp tossed with aioli, slivers of scallion, shiso, and puffed rice. Feathery tufts of nori adhere to the fish, which is also dotted with seasame seed. That thick smear of black that runs underneath is not mole poblano but sesame paste, nutty and even sweeter than the crustacean. Each pocket is a one-bite affair. Better order a second round as soon as the first reaches the table.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.