A July 2004 trip
to Brooklyn by oldscratch
Quote: What follows are assorted restaurant reviews compiled during a summer spent sampling the fine dining of Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Maya and I were greeted at the door by a sign encouraging us to bring our own wine (the restaurant had recently opened and was still in the process of obtaining their liquor license), so we detoured to The Greene Grape, a wine store conveniently located just steps away. We asked the Greene Grape staff to recommend a wine appropriate for a meal at Veliis, and they smiled and enthusiastically suggested a medium-bodied Argentinean Malbec called Altos Las Hormigas. Of course, that meant nothing to us, but we were in no mood to refuse such a friendly recommendation.
Bottle in hand, we returned to the restaurant and Maya remarked that it smelled like a very good dinner party. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by this comment, but I liked the thought, and indeed, the restaurant staff treated us like familiar guests. Spotting the wine, our waitress brought over two glasses and a bottle-opener and skillfully uncorked and poured the wine while reciting the evening’s specials. After some discussion we agreed upon the following:
Overall, we found the restaurant to be warm and inviting and were impressed by the high ceiling and particularly grand pot rack hanging above the open kitchen. Moreover, we found Veliis surprisingly uncrowded and relaxed for a Friday evening and the service quite good.
Ack! One last important note: Veliis accepts cash only.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 8, 2004
773 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, New York 11217
Maya and I were inspired to try this new addition to Fort Greene's collection of French restaurants after learning that our upstairs neighbor had recently joined their kitchen staff.
We walked into Ici on a Saturday night and found the dining room completely empty—a discouraging start to the evening until we discovered that everyone was sitting out back. In Brooklyn one rarely has the opportunity to enjoy a quiet, summer meal in the company of fireflies, and the novelty of the experience showed in the serene looks of the patrons. More than half of these patrons spoke French, and our waitress confirmed that Ici had quickly become a favorite meeting place for Fort Greene's misplaced Gauls.
The patio was artfully lit by candles and bare bulbs and enclosed by a white picket fence, with fixtures like flower pots and candle holders appearing to have arrived straight from a Crate and Barrel catalog. Ici's menu offered a fairly limited number of choices, but from these Maya and I had no problem selecting the following.
Ici offered several bottles of wine, but only two reds by the glass. We decided to sample both, and actually preferred the less expensive of the two, a 2002 St. Chinian Rimbert ($6).
After the meal we considered dessert, but nothing appearing on either the menu or other diners’ plates interested us, so we decided to pick up some chocolate during the walk home. On the way out, we paused again in the still-empty dining room, this time to admire the whitewashed bricks and baskets of lemons. The dining room seemed just as well put-together and inviting as the patio, and we look forward to enjoying future meals at Ici both indoors and outdoors throughout the year.
A final note: Ici also serves lunch and breakfast.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2004
Brooklyn, New York
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 1, 2004
171 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, New York
It's seldom that I would begin an IgoUgo review by urging readers to avoid a restaurant at all costs, but Gia is not your typical bad restaurant. Most bad meals are easily forgotten with a resigned shrug of "lesson learned," but my bitterness towards Gia only grows. Please forgive me then if I abuse both Gia's reputation and the reader's goodwill by seeking catharsis with this review. So apologies aside, I might as well say it. Gia is two pounds of shit stuffed in a one-pound sack.
If only because of its small portions, minimalist décor, and glass façade, Gia has staked a claim as Fort Greene's "special occasion" restaurant. For this reason, I recently took Maya there for her birthday, and almost without exception, we enjoyed the food. Moreover, we were seated in front of an impressive, second-floor plate glass window and watched a romantic downpour gracefully wash over Lafayette Street. That said, the attention to detail and service at Gia sucked.
No matter where you dine, a trip to the restroom shouldn't require drying your hands with tissues. And even if a restaurant is "fancy," never is a single dinner roll wordlessly offered from silver tray preferable to a simple basket of bread. Such laconic service seemed to extend throughout Gia's staff and hit its curtest peak when our waitress explained a special we didn't recognize as simply "fish." Sadly, the only time the staff really spoke to us at all was when we were committing an error—once when Maya pulled her chair over to share a bowl of soup and again when they caught us still finishing our drinks five minutes before closing.
I should probably say something more about the food:
We ate all of the above with a 2000 Giesen Pinot Noir ($76) which, in truth, had much to recommend it.
Despite all my complaints, I can't claim that I walked out of Gia unhappy. My mood, however, had everything to do with the company on my arm. You see, even the worst meals are enjoyable with the right company. Happy birthday, baby.
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 8, 2004
68 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11217
I imagine one of the hardest parts of opening a new bar or restaurant is naming it, and perhaps that's why so many these days opt to assume the name of the space's former tenant. Or, more probably, it's simply the hip thing to do—Williamsburg, for example, is home to both Pete's Candy Store and Union Pool (formerly A-1 Pool and Pest Supply). Anyway, Fort Greene has it own restaurant named after a former tenant, Liquors, and Maya and I recently gave it a try. I'll leave it to the reader to guess the previous tenant.
I should add that a major reason we tried Liquors was an IgoUgo reviewer that described the restaurant's patio as her "favorite in Brooklyn." As patio fans ourselves, we arrived at Liquors and determined that she was indeed on the right track. Despite the remarkably unseasonable coolness of the August night, we found ourselves too cheered by the bright, big-bulbed Christmas lights strung across the patio to consider relocating inside.
The service at Liquors was very friendly. At one point our waiter overheard us discuss the weather and politely asked if he could add his two cents. (He too felt it was rather cold.) Throughout the night we were served by a variety of people, all of whom made us feel relaxed and comfortable. It's a good thing too, because the food, though certainly well-intended, consistently disappointed. I think the major problem is that the chefs simply overshot when it came presentation—for the most part, Liquors serves southern soul food, and it's a little strange to see such friendly food served in such an aloof manner.
We ordered the following:
Liquors was out of our first choice of wine, so we enjoyed all of the above with a Cudgee Creek Shiraz ($27.00). In sum, the dinner wasn't cheap, and it wasn't particularly good, but somehow it was one of our better dining experiences of the summer. All credit goes to the staff with whom I'd much rather share a drink than a meal.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 1, 2004
219 Dekalb Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11205
New York, New York