King’s CLAM BAR with Chef Bill Seleno: GRAND OPENING

18 Sep

For this story, we need to travel back to 12/12/12.  I had been chronicling Chef Bill Seleno on his quest to open up a new restaurant, The Keys.  Eater was posting about the story, and even made it “of note” in the most anticipated openings of the season.  On December 12th, there was paperwork. It looked like it was going to happen.  And then it didn’t.

The financial burden that the space was going to bring with it turned out to be much more than any new restaurant should take on and Bill just didn’t feel comfortable bringing anyone else into a space that started out with that much burden. The more they tried to make it happen, the more skeletons fell out of that closet, to the tune of likely doubling the anticipated debt. So Bill had to make the very tough decision to move on, even though he still believes in the concept and what it could have been. (And as far as I can tell, the space remains closed with no new tenants…)

I have been missing a location to have Chef Bill’s awesome food and was hoping for a triumphant return.  And now… it’s here:

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Sure that blue taped sign behind security bars doesn’t look like much, but there was magic brewing inside. Chef Bill invited me for a friends and family menu tasting a few weeks ago to check out his new venture, King’s CLAM BAR.

Bill returned home after a whirlwind adventure around the country traveling, consulting, and cooking.  When he needed a place to crash, his old friend Anthony Casagrande, whom he worked with at Guastavino’s 15 years ago, offered him a place to stay.  Anthony’s cousins lived upstairs and owned a local dive bar that needed some help. It took a few months to put the pieces together, but a concept of a casual clam bar seemed perfect for the space, so Bill met up with Steve (the current owner) and decided to make it happen as chef and partial owner.  Bill brought along Heather Carter, who was going to be part of The Keys project, and just a few weeks later I am walking from the Barclay’s center to check out Bill’s new restaurant. Heather will be running the beer and wine program for the restaurant.

With King’s CLAM BAR, Bill plans to make the food he loves to make.  It will be primarily sea food and will be as local and as sustainable as possible.  He is using Sea to Table as his sea food supplier and they are right at the Brooklyn docks, with the goal of having everything that arrives on your plate caught within the last day.  It’s a bit more expensive to go this route, but Bill’s commitment to “True Food” is a very important part of the restaurant.

The concept is to serve the fish barbeque style with a menu that allows you to check off what you would like.  The fish will be portioned into specific quantities (quarter pound/4 ounces) and then you can order as much or as little as you would like).  Bill plans to cook the fish itself very simply with salt, pepper, and lemon in a banana leaf so the core of the fish dishes allow you to truly taste the flavor of fresh fish.  Then the idea is to mix and match and create whatever flavor profile you would like by combining any number of the 6 sauces (hot and cold) and 6 salads (potato, cole slaw, etc.) available.  Some sauce ideas right now are Smoked Yogurt and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce, Pepperoncini and Tomato Scampi Sauce, Spicy Ginger and Cilantro Sauce, Black Garlic and Dill Cream Sauce (YES!), and Charred Jalapeno Tartar Sauce.

The menu will also have a section from the kitchen (which, by the way, consists of 2-3 induction stoves, a double tack oven, and a smoker outside… no easy task) which will include (my favorite) mussels with black garlic and charred rosemary, a shrimp, chorizo, and pepperoncini scampi, and seared scallops with potato and bacon.  There will also be the clam dip (which I really enjoyed, and hope they serve with bagel chips!), shrimp and lobster rolls, and a few fun things from the smoker, such as a pig roast and clam bake.

The entire meal is meant to be family style and very casual. The waiters will be casual but very knowledgeable, knowing the source of all their products, including their beers.

Bill served up some great food that night, including an incredibly flavorful shrimp cocktail (with homemade sauce), Granny’s New England Clam Chowder (made with a very old fashioned recipe that involved boiling the chowder so the bottom rises to the top), mussels (which were a version of the mussels that made me fall in love with Bill’s food in the first place many years ago at Albert Hall Tavern, which is sadly gone), a potato salad (which was incredibly delicious with bacon in it), ceviche, clam dip (awesome), and then some smoked pig butt sliders.

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It was all the Chef Bill food I absolutely loved.  Fresh, flavorful, with a little something special.

Tonight they will do the soft opening for the neighborhood to iron out some kinks with the system.  Most notably, Bill’s small, all-electric kitchen can’t necessarily pump out a ton of food all at once, so the food will come out as it’s ready.  Today will allow for the mishaps and the experimentation that is needed to allow it to be as good as it can be.  And then tomorrow will be the Grand Opening:

They will be serving dinner only at first and then expand from there. They will also have some special events like a patio pig roast and clam back with beer specials while the weather is nice.

The space is getting there. I’ve been watching their evolution on their Facebook page and cannot wait to drop by this weekend to see what they’ve done:

The patio out back:

Chef Bill at his newly painted red grill on the patio:

I cannot wait to have a home base to try all the food that Chef Bill is so passionate about. I have never been disappointed by a Bill prepared meal and I’m really looking forward to trying out his new restaurant.  Very excited for him.

The location is 622 Washington Ave between Pacific Street and Dean Street in Brooklyn. It’s four blocks from the Barclay’s Center and very close to the Clinton/Washington Street stop on the C train and all of the other trains that go into Atlantic Terminal.

See you there!

 

The Red (not so) Delicious and other Fruits

12 Sep

One of my favorite bloggers, A Girl Named PJ, did a link round up this week that included one that caught my eye: The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious

I have always wondered who actually eats these lackluster tasting apples and was actually just contemplating my husband’s choice to bring these home over all the other selections in Stew Leonard’s this past week.  The article is fascinating, and now I think I have to question if Mike was eating with his eyes in this case.  (side note: I don’t think he has eaten any of the apples he bought!)

I find it fascinating that so much of the food we eat shows almost no resemblance to the food our grandparents ate.  I distinctly remember my grandfather lamenting the demise of the bananas he grew up on, and it turns out, it wasn’t just the ramblings of a funny (and totally awesome) old man. The Gros Michel banana was nearly wiped out by a fungus in the 50s, so very few of them exist now.  So now we eat the Cavendish variety, which is just as susceptible to a wide-spread wipe out since they are all genetic clones.  Fascinating.

Rumor has it that the fake banana flavoring we know today is based upon the Gros Michel banana. And one of my favorite guilty pleasures is banana flavored runts.  So it makes me very curious about it.  And is it really known as “Big Mike” or is this a funny add-on in Wikipedia?

How do I get my hands on a Gros Michel banana?

And please… no more Red Delicious… it’s Honeycrisp season afterall!

 

Decoy: Peking Duck Dinner

10 Sep

One of my all time favorite things to eat is a Peking Duck meal.  Especially when I get to share it with friends. When that duck is cooked especially well, and the skin is crispy and the meat is succulent, and the hoisin sauce and pancakes and scallions and cucumbers all do the dance of love in my mouth… that’s heaven. I really enjoyed our meal at Peking Duck House in Chinatown a few years ago.

We have a friend who enjoyed Peking Duck as much as I do (maybe even more?) so when I saw that The Infatuation wrote very favorably about Decoy, a place I had been wanting to try, I quickly emailed my Peking Duck-loving friend and we made ourselves a double-date for the following weekend.

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The Peking Duck Dinner is a wee bit on the pricey side at first blush at $65 (woah… just went to the website and looks like they upped it to $78!). But let me tell you… if I could get that much flavor and food and awesomeness out of every $65 (or $78) I spent, I’d be a happy (and stuffed) person.

The Duck Dinner came with 4 small plates, 2 main dishes, and 1 fried rice or side dish.  Plus the duck, which came with duck consomme shots, 10 pancakes, and 3 sauces. And it all came with homemade pickles, decoy chips, and a few extra holes on your belt.

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The chips came out first. I am pretty sure they were fried fish skin of some kind but I don’t remember exactly. I just remember eating them and enjoying them. (And the restaurant was great about avoiding my allergy, peppers, throughout the whole meal)

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Then the pickles, which had a number of different items to choose from, including pickled pineapple.

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Our first selected small plate was Katz’s pastrami triangles.  Very enjoyable, but when you have something like Katz’s pastrami sandwich already being at the pinnacle of the dish, I say don’t mess with it.

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We then had dumplings, though for the life of me I cannot remember which kind they were!  They were good.

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And then the meal began to really ramp up. This was Sweet Potato Noodle Salad topped with Uni (it came with a $12 supplement charge).

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I loved this dish. And this was a few weeks before I had the epic uni experience of Nakazawa.  Usually restaurants are stingy with the uni, but Decoy piled it on and it was deeeelicious. The sweet potato noodles had a nice chew to them that gave the uni something a bit more dense to play off of.

 

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Our final small plate was the grilled wagyu beef pieces, marinated with fresh washabi. Now I don’t really love wasabit… but this steak was one of the best pieces of meat I have ever put in my mouth (yup… I said it).  It was tender and flavorful and just all over spectacular.  This was one of those dishes that as each of the 4 of us split it, I silently wished I were selfish enough to just pick up the entire dish and run down the street with it in hand just to make sure I got to eat every last morsel. (I didn’t… I could not deprive my friends and husband of such awesomeness)

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And then… out came the duck

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With 3 dipping sauces.

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And you think I remember what they were? HA!  Though I kept going back to the more classic hoisin.

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And an incredible picture of the pancakes.

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And lest we forget about the duck consomme shot!  We started with this as a palette cleanser, of sorts, to get us ready for the big duck adventure that awaited us.

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And then we dug in.  Each component of the dish was perfect, with the addition of crispy leaks and some lovely pearl onions to add to the classic other components.

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For our side, we went with soft and crunch vegetable fried rice.  It had goji berries on top!  A really, really great side that went quite well with the duck.

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And as if that was not enough, we still had 2 main entrees to go!

 

First, lobster with wide rice noodles ($10 supplement).   This was very delicious, however, it was covered in sauce which made for the most impossible shelling of the lobster.  We were at a communal table and I was really expecting to launch my lobster claw across the table in an effort to get out every morsel.

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And our last dish of the evening, the marinated and grilled Creekstone rib steak ($10 supplement).  Another amazing fete in beefery.  This melted in my mouth.  Not QUITE as good as the appetizer steak, but still an excellent execution of an excellent dish.

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I was really impressed with our meal at Decoy.  I felt like we absolutely got our money’s worth (even with those supplements and even with the increased cost on the new menu) and it was a great, fun meal to share with 3 other food lovers.  I think I may just need to take a trip back to get my hands on that steak appetizer again though.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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