Restaurant Check-In: New Zealand Comfort, New York Style02.14.2012
Ah, Park Slope: the much-stereotyped land of grown-up hipsters, baby carriages, odd bars with bocce courts, and…killer New Zealand-style burgers? Take a closer look, Manhattanites, because this neighborhood also happens to be tastefully high-end in its own unique way: here lives an artisanal cocktail bar with thoughtfully turned out, locally sourced small plates (Blueprint on 5th Avenue) and, as we discovered recently, a cozy restaurant owned by a high-caliber chef straight from the land of the Kiwi bird. Indeed, Chef Mark Simmons (of Top Chef fame) brings the unique comforts of New Zealand cuisine to New York with Kiwiana, his first and only solo project.
Kiwiana’s seared diver scallop atop Berkshire pork belly, squash puree and broccoli.
It was a drizzly Saturday at noon on our visit, with the brunch crowd in full swing. The space, of modest size and lined on either side with tables and benches, fairly buzzed with twenty- and thirty-somethings, a few with their toddlers in tow (of course). Service is easygoing, friendly, and warm, and the food’s quality quickly took center stage.
Cheddar and lime scones arrived with coffee, freshly baked in-house: warm, moist, and crumbling just enough, as a scone should. With butter and fresh strawberry jam smeared on top, this starter is one we could have eaten all day (and is perfect for a hungover belly to start with, as this writer discovered). Chai-spiced French toast arrived steaming hot and nicely seasoned; accompanying berries complimented the rich maple syrup and dense, yet light, whipped cream.
As delicious as the first two dishes were, the following two showcased Chef Simmons’ technique and New Zealand aesthetic: that day’s special, salmon eggs benedict, featured perfectly poached eggs, a smoothly creamy hollandaise sauce, golden-toasted brioche, and, most of all, a sublimely prepared slab of Stewart Island salmon, tenderly flaky, moist, and savory. Simmons’ Kiwi Burger, though, stole the show–ground lamb, softly gamey and cooked to a tender medium-rare, came topped with a sunny-side up egg. Thin slices of surprisingly sweet and tangy pickled beet nicely cut through the otherwise overwhelming richness of the lamb and egg. A brioche bun and crisp-on-the-outside hand-cut fries arrived well-done, crisp on the outside and warmly tender inside.
Those who reside in Manhattan, which has plenty of exceptional brunch places of its own, may be wondering why we’ve suddenly focused on a restaurant that’s a good 30-40 minute subway ride away. Trust us, however, when we say that the trip–and subsequently down to earth, yet expertly done Kiwi-laden experience–is well worth it.
Kiwiana, 847 Union Street, Brooklyn | 718-230-3682 | Tuesday-Sunday, 6:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Saturday -Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Brunch entrees $10-$16 (cash only), dinner entrees $15-$29. kiwiana-nyc.com