In January, chef Shanna Pacifico left her post at Back Forty West after a seven year run working under greenmarket pioneer Peter Hoffman. Last month, she opened her first solo venture, Pacifico’s Fine Foods (798A Franklin Avenue, 917-966-2670), with Kristi Banister of High Horse Saloon and chef Roberto Aita, who also left a kitchen that had earned him acclaim (Williamsburg’s Fiore) to open a restaurant bearing his name (Clinton Hill’s Aita). Steps from the Franklin Avenue subway station in Crown Heights and down the block from neo-Caribbean stunner Glady’s and charming New American canteen Mayfield, Pacifico’s serves market-driven food with a South American bent. This past weekend, it launched brunch service.
The modest room bathes in natural light during the day thanks to a windowed façade. It’s a sea of monochrome and wood, with a small bar opposite the kitchen in back. Dinner at Pacifico’s shows its South American stripes in offerings like a daily ceviche, pork-filled yucca fritters served with aji pepper aioli, and a seafood stew with clams, mussels, and Pollock fish in a peppery coconut milk base. For the time being, brunch appears to be devoted to the greenmarket (and American breakfast), with French toast and steak tips with eggs.
I haven’t met many great bowls of edamame, but a share plate of blistered English peas was brimming with smoky sweetness, the pods rendered soft and pliable. Seasoned with lemongrass and mint, they almost make you forget that Pacifico has an affinity for pigs — at least until you see that her signature pork nuggets have made the trip to Brooklyn from Back Forty. In Manhattan, they’re made from the pig’s jowl. Here, the chef uses parts from the head, trotter, and shank. They’re every bit as good as the original.
The menu is split between ‘brunchy things’ and ‘lunchy things,’ with items ranging from $7 bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits to a $16 burger. A stack of thick sweet corn pancakes was doughnut-like in its execution, with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior dotted with actual corn kernels. Crowned with strips of tender, just-cooked bacon and served with bourbon-maple glaze, it’s an outstanding plate of flapjacks. Edging into lunch territory is a crab-stuffed baked tomato topped with poached eggs and spiced hollandaise over wheat toast that could’ve used an English muffin. There’s also a tangy bowl of cucumber and buttermilk gazpacho with toasted almonds that’s lighter than the Spanish ajo blanco soup it references.
If you’re going to pay $15 for a grilled chicken sandwich with French fries, it might as well be this one, which comes slicked with mayonnaise and would be indistinguishable from other chicken sandwiches were it not for the kitchen smoking the bird, which adds enough flavor to keep things interesting, and plenty moist. It also helps that the fries are fast food-style and top notch. For the same price, there’s a plate of chicken chicharrones, the sole South American dish to make it onto the brunch menu. The bone-in fried chicken chunks sit alongside a large, flaky biscuit, both submerged in pools of Tabasco honey, two tastes of the south separated by hemispheres.
The only real faltering step came in the form of that grass-fed burger, requested medium rare and delivered well-done. Pacifico has great butchery skills, and I’ve enjoyed many a grass fed burger at Back Forty and Back Forty West, so I know the kitchen is capable of putting together a ground beef sandwich.
You can sip on a decent brunch cocktail, including a rhubarb French 75 and a mezcal shake that counters the booze’s smoke with plenty of citrus. Bloody Marys get a boost from seriously pungent mix, with chunks of horseradish peeping through the tomato juice. A super-sized version, the ‘Nate Wisco,’ adds a bacon-wrapped shrimp, olives, and a cube a blue cheese to the glass. As far as stunt Bloodys go, it’s actually fairly tame. It might even make you like brunch.