As you approach Sunday in Brooklyn, the scent of red-cedar embers permeates the air before you’ve even reached the threshold. Chef Jaime Young’s hearth — a holdover from when this space was home to seasoned restaurateur Taavo Somer’s wacky and at times wild Isa — stays ceaselessly busy under its new suzerain. By the time the former Atera chef de cuisine and co-owners Adam Landsman and Todd Enany unlock the door to their three-story Williamsburg complex each morning, the kitchen crew’s long been industriously roasting Japanese sweet potatoes and smoking salmon and wobbly hunks of peppery black cod pastrami.
The fish are served side by side during lunch, on a plate heaped with sweet, chunky radish and green-tomato pickles in old-school appetizing fashion, alongside sourdough toasts and an unconventional dollop of nutty rye sour cream. Landsman and Enany, ex–Major Food Group (Parm, Carbone, the upcoming Landmark Rooms in the old Four Seasons) consiglieri, wanted their restaurant to evoke the days off they’d spend enjoying their Kings County neighborhood. “The name is a state of mind,” Landsman tells the Voice. While that might be a verging-on-saccharine marketing pitch, their pointed service, and items like Young’s familiar yet distinctive smoked-seafood platter, unquestionably get you there.
So do butter-pat-crowned stacks of malted pancakes draped in a hazelnut-maple praline sauce so thick it looks like melting caramel, and a spectacular sausage-egg-and-cheese sandwich flush with spicy gochujang aioli and shoestring fried potatoes. Whether you’re coming for weekend brunch or stealing away for a weekday meal, Sunday in Brooklyn is uniquely suited to playing hooky. Just try getting anything done after finishing a Sundae Coffee cocktail, which tempers cold-brew coffee, rum, and allspice dram with a shot of vanilla cream. Shoestring fries also perk up a roll layered with roast beef marinated in Worcestershire sauce, but the choicest potatoes by far are Young’s “Long Island home fries,” a nod to the chef’s upbringing that mingles onions, green peppers, and plenty of paprika. “Cooked on the griddle until golden and sometimes even well-done,” he affirms. In much the same way, his Long Island patty melt is another hometown hero, the ground beef pressed between griddled rye bread and peeking out from under a deluge of swiss cheese, fragrant yellow mustard, pickles, and caramelized onions. Weekends bring velvety sausage gravy over dense maple-cheddar biscuits (sold on their own during the week) and a decadent steak-and-eggs plate with hot-sauce-hollandaise-drizzled rib eye.
Daytime is also when Sunday in Brooklyn shows off its dining room’s many acute angles to go with its angularly cute waitstaff and shabby-chic patrons. Much of the design was inherited from Isa, and I’m glad they kept the dramatic firewood wall and “urban chic” ultra-cozy vibe. They’ve settled right in while staking their claim with a market area across from the open kitchen, where you’ll find takeaway grain bowls and those roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, as well as pastries, including a suspiciously cake-like carrot “bread” spread with dense gingery cream cheese. The stylish cold cases also hold rows of pickles and other condiments that showcase Young’s “low waste” ethos, which is another way of saying that he’s constantly looking for ways to repurpose. So broccoli stems take a brine bath, and soured plums are sold whole or as tart jam. Funky sambal changes color depending on whether they have red or green cherry bomb peppers, but what sets it apart is the inclusion of thick-stemmed fermented celtuce, which the chef says “has the flavor of aged meat or charcuterie.” On his menus, the chunky chile sauce anoints Japanese sweet potato chips for a fun bar snack and ignites a voluminous mezcal bloody mary.
At dinner, a squat, old-fashioned furnace roars away under dimmed lights across from the jagged natural-wood bar in the main dining area, helping Sunday in Brooklyn perfectly channel the type of urbane lodges that have popped up around the Catskills in recent years. The evening menu straddles a similar refined-rustic edge: Shavings of ham and lamb tongue are crisped up in the wood-fired oven for an appetizer, and juicy pork loin chops — aged and tenderized for two months in a mixture of pasty sake lees and koji (the bacteria responsible for miso) — get a last-minute roasting before joining soured mustard greens and hazelnut Dijon mustard on the plate. Petite honeynut squash come dressed with nuts and seeds and a smooth scoop of cultured cream cheese. And whole Boston mackerel are charred on the wood grill and dressed with lemon juice and earthy fig leaf oil, then laureled with a colorful, refreshing salad of raw sunchokes, pickled Hungarian wax peppers, and both pink and green meat radishes. Both the mackerel and that black cod, offered alone as a starter, make an excellent case for eating more fatty fish.
Dessert’s a streamlined affair, no more than three or four options on any given night. You won’t walk away disappointed from tangoing with thin slivers of burnt honey tart lashed with sheep’s-milk cream and curls of quince. Nor will you likely be able to resist finishing the orbs of fried sourdough doughnuts piled next to creamy whipped beeswax honey and a cup of peach jam. Still, no one will fault you for holding out for a walnut-speckled sticky bun, which you can snag on your way out.
Sunday in Brooklyn
348 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-222-6722
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 14, 2017