Wednesday: A Fulton Street Mall Original (aka the “Souvlaki House Discovery” Post)

When a restaurant has been in business 37 years, I’m probably going phototo order the house specialty. So when a restaurant’s named after a certain specialty and it’s been around that long … done and done. It’s the quickest decision of what to order that I’ll ever make. (I can be notoriously slow in deciding.)

Such is the case with the Souvlaki House, an authentically vintage counter diner-style restaurant, complete with swivel-top stools, a couple of older cooks in white smocks and white caps and an exterior sign bordered with blinking, old-fashioned light bulbs. The Souvlaki House has an undeniable charm — such a contrast to the neon and the bling and the fast food restaurants that otherwise characterize the Fulton Street Mall area in downtown Brooklyn.

photo-1So of course I had the souvlaki (gyro). To make the sandwich ($6), thin slices of meat were shaved off a vertical rotating spit and tucked into a pita along with iceberg lettuce, onion, tomato and white sauce and/or hot sauce. Damn, this thing was stuffed full of meat— I’ve never had a pita sandwich so heavily stacked for the carnivores. In fact, I couldn’t even come close to finishing it.

… Although that could have had something to do with the fries, which are the epitome of perfect deli fries. They’re cooked to order, meaning the frozen fries go straight into the frier only when you order them, bubble away for a few minutes and are served on a small paper plate ultra piping hot and still just greasy enough that if you salt them, the salt will stick a bit. (Sometimes salting fries can seem so futile.) And for $2!

photo-2Fair prices, good food, some old-fashioned charm: All in all, you can see why these guys have been around forever and a day. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

TIP: Souvlaki House does a number of American basics, too. I’d totally do a BLT ($4.25) and side of fries and call that lunch.

Souvlaki House, 158 Lawrence St., between Fulton and Willoughby streets, 718-852-0443

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Monday: Really Solo Dining at Curry Spot (aka the “$13.95 Feast for One” Post)

photo-6I really want the Curry Spot, a new Indian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, to do well.

The food is great, the restaurant pleasant enough and the $13.95 two-course meal special — your choice of appetizer and entree, basmati rice, one naan bread and an assortment of condiments — competes with some of the best dinner values I’ve seen around lately. You’re in and out and stuffed and happy for a $20 spot.

photo-9But they’ve got to do something to pick up the pace. On Monday night, between 6:15-7:15 pm, I was the the only diner in the entire place. It broke my heart, just a little (not to mention, it was mildly awkward). At least a couple of delivery and take-out orders came through.

I mean, they are new. According to the grand opening date printed on the take-out menu, the Curry House just opened in mid-August. I only discovered it yesterday; I spotted the strings of festive, multi-colored flags fluttering across the sidewalk from a distance and took a chance on this lonely block off Camden Plaza.

photo-13And I’m here again. The $13.95 special stuck in my head. And guess what? It’s even better than advertised.

For starters, it comes with five Indian condiments to play with, rather than just the two listed. I eventually figured out that this is because the mango chutney and ratia (yogurt & cucumber sauce) are the only ones you’d otherwise have to pay for, the other ones are complimentary for everyone. Still, the delight of five condiments showing up at the table!

photo-12Also, I upgraded to garlic naan without charge (I was expecting to see an additional charge on the bill, there wasn’t one) and I was served a small side salad and a small taste of the yellow lentil soup (the Mulligatawny soup?) that wasn’t listed as being a part of the special.

I’m not sure, everyone dining in might get the soup and salad — they weren’t much more than tastes — or I was given just a touch of special treatment, you know, being the only diner in the whole place. But I suspect that’s just the sort of people that the management at the Curry Spot are; they genuinely want to take care of you.

photo-8For my appetizer I ordered the vegetable pakora: an assortment of deep-fried vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms and cauliflower spears) and three vegetarian fritters, deep-fried balls of sweet potato, Indian spices and I’m not sure what else. Very tasty — and the perfect appetizer to engage the condiments.

photo-7It is called the Curry Spot, so I had to try the house curry with lamb. Before the end of the meal, I was sopping up the curry sauce with my naan, just so good. The curry is a savory one, lightly spiced and vaguely gravy-tasting (in a good way), the opposite of something like a korma sauce, that classic cream-based sauce made with roasted almonds and cashews.

I am definitely coming back to try another variation of the $13.95 special. Next time though, I’m going to bring friends.

Curry Spot, 151 Remsen St., btwn Court and Clinton streets, Brooklyn Heights, (718) 260-9000.

Dinner: A Meal of Miniatures (the “More Excellent Lamb Chops” Post)

This is what happens when I’m left up to my own devices (and I have no specific agenda): I play. I mean that in the kindest, most creative way possible; no disrespect for any food here.

So on this occasion it began with more of the Australian lamb loin chops that we had the other night (someone went a little crazy with the ordering from Fresh Direct). They really are just such perfect miniature T-bone cuts!

photo-4photo-2 I was in the middle of cooing over their miniature perfection when I realized that we also had some new potatoes, also miniature! Add to that two cobs of corn that needed to be cooked (which, while full-sized, could easily be chopped into mini-cobs). Then I remembered the baby spinach in the fridge that needed to be used up (baby-sized!), and, while I was in there, I discovered the end of a container of cornichons — little, tiny pickles — just perfect for garnish.

photo-1At this point, I had my sights set on the finish line: Would you, could you, mock up a small plate of a little bit of each of these goods and have it pass off for real size, due to that slight-of-hand deception? …

So, what do you think? I think the only thing that’s throwing off this photo is the size of the kernels of the corn — monstrosities!

Really, this meal was just begging to be made, which is sort of how I feel about staring in the fridge sometimes. Sometimes, a meal leaps into your arms, and sometimes, you’ve got to coax it a bit.

One is not better than the other, although I think that the former has a greater tendency for disappointment, while the later will surprise infinitely more.

For a zoomed-out, macroscopic photo of the entire feast of food we ended up making, see after the jump: Continue reading “Dinner: A Meal of Miniatures (the “More Excellent Lamb Chops” Post)”

Sunday: Meet the Rolls-Royce of Lamb Chops (aka the “FreshDirect Discovery” Post)

Flown in from the sheep-rich plains of Australia, these flavorful, juicy chops have just a hint of earthiness and a velvety texture. These are the Rolls-Royce of lamb chops. Leaving the bone in lends a flavor boost that stands up to seasonings and marinades. But lamb loin chops are great with just a little salt and pepper. …
photo-4I couldn’t put it better myself. In my humble opinion, these little charmers — essentially, they’re little lamb t-bone cuts — don’t need a single thing, other than some olive oil and a few minutes under the broiler.
I didn’t do the cooking tonight, but I will be signing up for FreshDirect so I can order them myself. The petitness of the cut, the huge flavor, so reasonably priced — this is meat I can manage. (The exact inverse reaction I had walking into Whole Foods a few weeks ago, all geared up to buy a porterhouse steak (on sale), until I got to the butcher counter, saw its size and lost my nerve.)
photo-3Anyhow, the lamb loin chops (sliced into strips) were the last and crowning bit to a lovely salad that, as I describe it, couldn’t decide from whence it came: spinach, a sweet balsamic glaze, Feta cheese from Greece, sprouts and sprouted beans, Australian lamb, proper English mint sauce.
It was pointed out to me that the Greek are a big fan of lamb, but I wasn’t buying this salad as a wholly Greek-inspired salad. It had a little bit of everywhere, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense possible.