Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lot 2 - a Restaurant that's Worth the Trip

The other night a friend and I went to Lot 2, a new-ish restaurant in a very quiet (read - middle of nowhere) part of Brooklyn. I love this area, actually, the stretch of 6th avenue between the Gowanus expressway and Greenwood Cemetery. Disingenuous realtors call this the South Slope, but I think Greenwood Heights is more accurate. Anyway, this is a quiet residential stretch of town. There is a public school, a few bodegas, a furniture design store, a coffee house, and not a lot else - nothing that inspires a special trip. There used to be a destination-worthy BBQ place on 20th and 6th, but it closed last year. Now, in the storefront right next door, Lot 2 is open. And it's worth a special trip.

Here are some things you will NOT find at Lot 2:

  • A bartender sporting a little mustache and arm garters who looks like he stepped out of a 1890's saloon.
  • A discourse on butchering technique.
  • Anything that has been "deconstructed," any kind of "foam," or "gelée."
  • Attitude of any kind.
Not that there is anything wrong with those things - I enjoy them from time to time. But Lot 2 isn't about pretension or culinary pyrotechnics. Lot 2 is about excellent ingredients and simple but highly skilled preparation. The servers are very kind and competent, the space is attractive and homey, and the prices are reasonable. If none of this sounds special enough to make Lot 2 a destination, there is one other thing that might sway you: the incredibly high quality of the charcuterie. Lot 2 was opened by the guy who did the charcuterie at Grammercy Tavern, and charcuterie should be part of a meal at Lot 2. They also demonstrate a deft hand with pickles.

We couldn't decide on appetizers (called small lots) because we wanted to taste them all. So we did, almost. We began with the pork jowl, and this was utterly fantastic, the best plate of food I have been served at a restaurant in a while (grain of salt - I don't go out that much). Think of that ubiquitous pork belly, in terms of presentation - a large square of meat with a ribbon of crusty fat on top. But this is jowl, and the meat is meatier than a belly cut. The accompanying Brussels sprouts were very good, and there were little pancetta croutons, as if the jowl might not be porky enough. It is this dish that will make me walk all the way down to 20th street on a snowy night in January.

We also had cured lamb neck and cured pork neck served with house pickles and warm olives. The paper-thin slices of meat were subtly perfumed with spices, and although both were rich and delicious, we preferred the lamb. And because pork jowl and two kinds of neck really aren't enough in the way of charcuterie, we also had the lardo bread, a piece of crusty bread smeared with lardo butter and topped with Brussels sprouts leaves. This was the only thing we ate at Lot 2 that wasn't so great, and I suppose the owners felt the same way, as I notice that it is no longer on the menu. Although lardo still appears with the potato skins that come alongside the burger, in what I am sure is a winning combination.

We tried two salads, and both were excellent. Shaved fennel with radishes and walnuts was a perfect rendition of this dish, and it was a great companion to the charcuterie. My friend Clarke and I were essentially jousting with our forks over the last bites. Chicory with pickled pumpkin was also delicious - bitter greens with sweet and sour pickles, very refreshing. We enjoyed this salad with the one entree (called big lots) we had, itself a story. Let me tell you how difficult it was not to order the lamb ribs with chickpeas, olives, mint and lemon. But we ate the better part of a pig to begin the meal, and it just seemed excessive. So we ordered pasta - garganelli with cauliflower, mint, capers, and romanescu. As Clarke said, "This dish has no business being this good." It was delicious, truly. Garganelli are kind of like large penne with deeper striations to hold the sauce. The seasonings were perfectly balanced and there was a spark from red chili flakes, but it is the texture of this dish that really got me. The pasta (which I think may be home-made) was cooked until just tender, and the whole dish was tossed with toasted bread crumbs, which gave every bite just the slightest gritty crunch. A real winner, this dish.

And what about the wine list? It is small, but filled with interesting and inexpensive bottles that would be great to drink with this food. Savio Soares has a few wines on the list (Mouressipe from the Languedoc, Marcillet from Savigny-Les-Beaune, Héaulé from the Loire). Jeffrey Alpert has two fantastic wines here - the beautiful NV Benoît Lahaye Champagne Brut, mostly Pinot Noir from Bouzy, and fairly priced at $72, and the ethereal and gamy 2006 Ganevat Trousseau "Plein Sud" at $55. There are several interesting Italian wines too - you can see the list here. We decanted and drank the Ganevat Trousseau, and its progression from horse stable to rose garden with rabbits was perfectly harmonious with our food. If you are a beer person, they have several interesting craft brews too.

We ended our meal with two cheeses, both from Jasper Hill Farms. Bayley Hazen is their excellent Stilton-esque blue cheese, and the cloth-bound Cheddar made by Cabot Creamery and aged in the cellars at Jasper Hill. I still don't like the cloth-bound Cheddar. I didn't like it the first time I had it, and I've had it several times since then and I just don't get it. But that's just me - it is a high quality cheese that everyone else loves, so trust me, everyone else is probably right.

Lot 2 is well worth the trip. Go with a friend, go on a date, go for communal Sunday supper. Go check it out.

Lot 2
687 6th Avenue (near 20th street), Brooklyn.


TWG said...

Appreciate your passing on the delights of Lot 2, but what about the wine shared with Brooklyn Lady on your return?

Joe Manekin said...

Thanks for the info on Lot 2, Neil. Maybe next time I'm out that way will get to check it out.

Regarding the clothbound...I don't get it either. More creamy and less complex than I like in my cheddar. Oh well, more clothbound for all the clothbound heads out there, I suppose.

peter said...

Man. If only they had opened before I moved. That's my corner. Do they serve lunch?

Burgundiva said...

lamb? charcuterie? horse stable wine? gives me a excuse to head out to brooklyn. :)

Brooklynguy said...

hey TWG (Tom, right?) - we enjoyed a nice Meursault from Lafouge, the 07 Meix Chavaux. Quite nice indeed.

Hey Joe - you are literally the only person i know who joins me in this feeling on the Cabot Clothbound. are you coming again soon?

Peter - no, no lunch. but if you;re in town and working at your place, it would be sheer foolishness not to have dinner there one evening. and even more foolish were you not to invite me to join you. foolish are you?

burgundiva-no excuse needed. brooklyn is good.