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Porchetta in Brooklyn


robert40
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  • 2 weeks later...

Porchetta is a very good, welcome addition to the Smith Street strip in Brooklyn. I would probably not recommend that anyone take any long subway rides to eat there -- but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for something in the neighborhood.

The big news about Porchetta, obviously, is that its chef is Jason Neroni, who very ably replaced Wylie Dufresne at 71 Clinton Fresh Food. For some reason, the fact that Neroni replaced a chef who's since gone "molecular" at a restaurant at which neither of them cooked anything in the slightest bit "molecular" has caused some to hype Porchetta as "'molecular' comes to Brooklyn." It's not that at all. If anything, Porchetta is sort of like Lupa (but less primitivist) or maybe a more downscale A Voce. In other words, it's an Italian restaurant with nothing "hypermodern" about it in the least bit.

Having gotten that out of the way, the food here is very good. Probably exceeding what you'd expect of neighborhood Italian.

A Voce is actually not such a bad reference point. The food at Porchetta is not overly complicated, but it's not simple in the hearty gutsy manner of a Lupa. It's a refined simplicity. And if, at the reasonable prices charged here, Neroni can't avail himself of the kinds of ingredients Andrew Carmellini uses, almost everything we had at Porchetta was exceptionally well-prepared. We've been talking in the BLT Burger thread about whether that place is a waste of Laurent Tourondel's talents. Porchetta illustrates what I think is missing at BLT Burger: here's a very talented chef cooking food that doesn't seem to stretch him -- but it's all so well done (both in terms of technique and the intelligence behind the dishes) that you very much appreciate the difference he makes.

We started out with some flatbread (which oddly wasn't flat), with grilled tallegio and duck prosciutto. It was good, albeit soggy -- maybe a few more seconds on the grill would have been in order.

Pastas were very good. My date seemed to love her spaghetti with clams and guanciale (this is the kind of place that puts pork into as many dishes as possible), and it looked very good from across the table. I enjoyed my orrechiette with sausage and a well-seasoned but slightly gloppy gorganzola sauce (what was in that sauce that made it orangeish, BTW?).

The star dish appeared to be my date's segundo, two fried red mullets (they weren't really red mullets, actually, but something similar with a name I've never heard before). They were fried lightly and greaslessly, and were well nigh perfect. They came with a very large side portion of componata/tomatos/other unidentifiable stuff. Jerking my knee, I reflexively ordered the pork belly with mostarda (or, as my date called it, "a plate of fat"). We're all getting a little sick of pork belly, I'm sure (although at least some of us seem incapable of declining to order it), but this was a really well-prepared version. You know how pork belly can tend to be mushy? This wasn't.

Service on this Sunday night was stressed. They were clearly understaffed. On the other hand, the owner -- who couldn't have been nicer -- came over and personally apologized to us for the glitches -- and then comped us our bottle of wine, a gesture so out of proportion to any slight inconvenience we experienced that I can hardly comprehend it, although I certainly appreciated it. (The wine list, by the way, features reasonably-priced bottles -- perfect for a restaurant of this level.)

Jason Neroni is a very good cook, and this is a very good, solid restaurant. I think that anyone would be happy to eat there. If you need a dining option in this area, this is now near the top.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Looking at the reviews linked by Eater, I think we're seeing an interesting backlash against this restaurant. I think it has to be the result of the hype attaching to Chef Neroni. If this place had simply opened, without all the press, I can't imagine anyone would think anything other than, "this is a well above-average neighborhood Italian place." I think all the hype has raised some people's expectations above what this modest kitchen is able to (and could be reasonably expected to) produce.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Had a really good time eating dinner here last night.. This was a part of an eating binge I happened to go on last night.. I started my night eating dinner here around 730.. The place was almost half full when we arrived.. I was super impressed with the food.. The pace of the meal was almost close to being annoying but, with how well each dish was prepared, I understood the waiting.. If I thought my food or order was just sitting around the back, I would have been annoyed.. But I really like to think that a lot of care went into each dish.. Our waitress was really friendly and informative..

We went with the 4 course route.. We each order from an appetizer, then a primi, a secondi, and dessert.. I stared with baby brussle sprouts with pork belly, fried egg, and a mustard sauce.. It was perfectly done.. Every thing on the plate was delicious on there own.. The sprouts carmalized on top, yet still held its shape.. The pork belly was done with such care.. Thats why I didnt mind the waiting time.. If it had come to my table and it was just ok, or slightly less perfect, I would have been annoyed.. There was nothing haphazardly done on the plate..

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Tripe Sicilian Style. I absolutely loved this dish. This was the best tripe dish I have had... The sauce was almost like a curry, you could tell the African influence to the Sicilian.. It was a dark sweet and sour sauce.. There was cardamom, piquilo peppers.. The tripe was in little strips done very well.. I would love to make this dish into a sandwich.. My buddy ordered the gnocci and it was really impressive.. Perfectly little airy gnocci in a truffle sauce.. When i go back, I am getting any gnocci dish this man is willing to make..

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We both went fish for our main courses.. Really we got pretty drunk waiting for our food to come.. I think I was able to finish two glasses of wine while waiting for our fish.. But hey, I was in no rush.. Or actually I was, my girl's flight was landing at 10:30 and we were meeting for dinner at Fatty Crab... I was really looking forward to this dish.. I only like fish dishes when they are prepared perfectly.. Meat can be a little more forgiving, but if fish isnt perfect, its almost bad.. Mackeral comes out crispy and perfect! Served with fried artichokes, in a thick garlic "soup" with a citrusy pesto layered on top..It was called a gremolata by our waitress.. Whatever you call it, it was that extra pop that made the dish.. One of the better fish dishes I have had since Bouley..

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By dessert I was pretty much whacked.. :biggrin: There was coffee and the Glens showing up.. But from what I remember there were enjoyable..

Here is an olive oil cake with pistachios baked in served with a poached and some gelato.. As good as it sounds... Enjoyed it , we ate every bite..

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This was another dessert and I liked it better then the olive oil cake.. There was bannana and other things. :rolleyes:

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I really appreciate the high level and quality of cooking that is going on here.. The attention to detail and execution is very impressive.. Despite the comforting, dark and relaxed vibe of the food and restaurant, its beening done with the utmost care by an amazing chef..

35 minutes later I was sitting down to start another big meal at Fatty Crab..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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I don't really get it. The knives seem to be out for this place. But, really, what's the problem? Well, pacing CLEARLY seems to be a problem, and they're going to have to do something about that. And sometimes Chef Neroni's dishes are a little too clever for their own good: a few less ingredients (and most particularly less sweet ones) would be better.

OTOH, I completely agree with Daniel that standards of preparation are high. And the hits are, well, hits. For the money, and the neighborhood, you couldn't expect better.

As I said in my own review, I think Porchetta is a victim of its own hype.

PS -- Yeah, I always go to Fatty Crab for another full meal afterward, too. Daniel, are you even human???????

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Yah it was a fun night, and a tough morning.. :biggrin: Sneak, rereading your review , its nice to see we agree.. To be honest, I didnt know that this place was or is getting bashed by people.. But if there was something bad to say its the pace.. And only having been there once and not having read another review besides yours, I didnt realize that it was typical of Porchetta.. If they dont want to change, its fine by me.. I just would take that into consideration the next time I go.. Because its not like the service is poor or bad, its really the time it takes the food to come out of the kitchen... Recently I was at this restaurant in Atlanta, Buckhead Diner.. I ordered scallops with risotto and 10 minutes later, my dinner was ready.. Now, I rarely order risotto for this reason and it was re-enforced that night.. It was clumpy and hard.. Yes it came quickly, but I would prefer it not have come at all. Now if I ever see risotto on the Porchetta Menu and have nothing to do for an hour, I would happily order it then, go home, take a shower, change my shoes, come back, and be very excited for it.. :biggrin:

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It got really bashed on Mouthfuls, and I think Chowhound, too. Frank Bruni gave it a very lukewarm write-up in Diner's Journal. I don't recall Bruni's complaining about the service, but people on Mouthfuls and, I think, Chowhound complained like crazy. Frankly, I attributed the service glitches to opening-period jitters. If they're still having that problem, I really do think they need to do something to correct it.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I haven't been to Porchetta, but could it possibly be the victim of unrealistic expectations? Diners who know Nerone's background at two-star 71 Clinton may be expecting a more refined experience than Porchetta is designed to deliver.

In today's BruniBlog, the Frankster is talking about portion sizes, and he has a nice compliment for Porchetta:

But servers can certainly tell diners ordering a first course of pasta or many sides if they’re bound for more food than they may be able to eat. To the credit of the restaurant Porchetta in Brooklyn, a server did precisely that during a recent meal. My companions and I ordered pasta dishes as first courses, and she said, “That’s going to be a lot of food.” A lot of food is what we wanted, so we forged ahead, but I was grateful nonetheless for the advisory.
That suggests he's making return visits, and a review is probably imminent (within the next 2-3 weeks).
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I haven't been to Porchetta, but could it possibly be the victim of unrealistic expectations? Diners who know Nerone's background at two-star 71 Clinton may be expecting a more refined experience than Porchetta is designed to deliver.

In today's BruniBlog, the Frankster is talking about portion sizes, and he has a nice compliment for Porchetta:

But servers can certainly tell diners ordering a first course of pasta or many sides if they’re bound for more food than they may be able to eat. To the credit of the restaurant Porchetta in Brooklyn, a server did precisely that during a recent meal. My companions and I ordered pasta dishes as first courses, and she said, “That’s going to be a lot of food.” A lot of food is what we wanted, so we forged ahead, but I was grateful nonetheless for the advisory.
That suggests he's making return visits, and a review is probably imminent (within the next 2-3 weeks).

I dont know.. I thought portion sizes were average.. But thats a great catch Oakapple about the review..

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That suggests he's making return visits, and a review is probably imminent (within the next 2-3 weeks).

And sure enough, Porchetta is tomorrow's NYT review. Eater predicts two stars, on the grounds that when Bruni visits an outer borough, that is often the outcome (Dressler, Sripraphai, Al di La, Spicy & Tasty).
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That suggests he's making return visits, and a review is probably imminent (within the next 2-3 weeks).

And sure enough, Porchetta is tomorrow's NYT review. Eater predicts two stars, on the grounds that when Bruni visits an outer borough, that is often the outcome (Dressler, Sripraphai, Al di La, Spicy & Tasty).

4000-1 on four stars!!!!

If I can get to the Times critic before deadline, we can make a fortune. I know he enjoys the racetrack.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I had seen that.. Its way off... You would think it would be more like 10 to 20 thousand to one..

I wouldn't take it too seriously—it's just something Eater does every week for comic relief. I believe 15,000 to 1 is the highest the 4-star odds have ever been. The reality is, for a restaurant like Porchetta, the odds of 4 stars are basically infinity to 1. Edited by oakapple (log)
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I had seen that.. Its way off... You would think it would be more like 10 to 20 thousand to one..

But I'll take 4000-1 to one if it's a sure thing. Need to think of a sting and get a beard to make the bet and pigeon to accept it.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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One of Bruni's better performances today: Porchetta, one star.

I considered this paragraph inappropriate:

Mr. Neroni circulated an e-mail message that beseeched friends and fans to vote for him as best up-and-coming chef in the James Beard Foundation awards, and the Web site Grub Street, owned by New York magazine, got a hold of it. Neither the quoted portions of the e-mail nor the reports of it specified how his supporters were supposed to flex their wills or what effect that flexing might have.
It's the kind of thing that people will be reading about Porchetta long after this ephemeral incident should be forgotten. It is totally incidental to the review.
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