Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DeKalb Was German, But Loved the French

I have found my role model for this blog.

Anthony Bourdain.

Who is he, you ask? Well, let me tell you, on the MattyReed Bad-Ass Index, he falls right underneath Mike Rowe and solidly above that bald guy on the travel channel who eats "exotic" (read: reproductive organs and non-mammalian) foods. He is an unapologetic drinker and connoisseur of the unpretentious. Street food in Mexico? He'll eat it. And smoke a cigarette right after... while wearing a Ramones t-shirt. He showed me that great meals are not found exclusively in red carpet restaurants. You just need to know where to look and go where the locals go. Abhor the convenient.

So why is he my new role model? Answer: he is a traveller, a food critic, and heavily opinionated (and quite intelligent). I consider myself two out of the three (I'm not really opinionated. I just try to come across that way in this blog so you guys have something to laugh/think/scowl about). And if two outta three is good enough for Meatloaf, it's good enough for me.

My point: I am going to try and do restaurant reviews and general New York City living posts for a while. Let's see what happens. My first review:

I spent most of yesterday bumming around the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, looking for apartments (to no avail). A few of my friends live in the area and after spending a fair amount of time there, I have come to be really quite attracted to the harmonious blend of urban-hipster cafes dotted amongst the plethora of multi-ethnic restaurants. People there seem to want the diversity and really embrace it. Christ, now if that mentality can only spread to the whole fucking world! I digress...
It was around 3pm and my tummy started a' rumblin'. Briefly surveying the area, I spotted a restaurant that a friend of mine had suggested before but I had not yet had the chance to go inside: Le Chez Oskar (211 DeKalb Ave.)

Walking past the outdoor seating (I was already sweating my balls off in the humidity), I headed for the air-conditioned interior and was greeted with a wide open dining room, sporting a dark wood bar and subdued, earthy murals and paintings. With splashes of color thanks to the creative arrangement of red and blue parasols on the ceiling, the waiter on duty told me to sit wherever I liked. I love that. Nothing can bum me out like being placed in a cramped area of a restaurant, just so the patrons are all in one area for the waitstaffs' convenience.
I chose a seat on the side, ordered a Kronenbourg beer from tap ($6... we're in NYC after all) and looked at the menu: a nice selection of salads, crepes, burgers, and a few full entrees. There seemed to be a North African influence in the fare, demonstrated by a few couscous dishes and the presence of spiced lamb (not quite French).
When in Rome... yeah yeah... when in a French cafe, order a crepe. That's the test. I asked the server for his suggestion: ham and Swiss cheese crepe with a bechamel sauce ($8.50). Bring it on.

Wow. These aren't your standard Boulevard St. Germain nutella banana, paper-thin crepes. These were more galette than crepe. A bit more pancake-y, yet still light enough to let the filling carry the flavor. And there were two! I didn't expect that. A pleasant surprise, to say the least. After partaking in the offered fresh cracked pepper, I dug in. Wonderful. It was real ham, moist, and not that crappy, jelly deli, thin sliced ham. The Swiss was not over-powering and seemed to linger in the background, nicely complimenting the experience. I'd almost say the Swiss was neutral, but that would be a really bad joke. Add a perfect amount of creamy bechamel sauce (just a few teaspoons on top, no more), and I had a really great lunch. Just to mix it up, it also comes with a mescalin salad on the side. I could have used a little less of the vinaigrette dressing, as the greens start to wilt from the vinegar over-exposure.

Overall, a great place to bring a date or a business colleague. The interior is conducive to conversation (at least during the day) and with a Curtis Mayfield record playing, I could see myself coming back here often.

Okay, yeah, this is way too long for a restaurant review, but I'm just practicing at this point.

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