Ha Noi is a new Vietnamese restaurant that opened in the old Second Helpings space this weekend. I stopped in yesterday for my first meal, and it was quite good. I was disappointed that they don’t have a vegetarian version of the crispy spring rolls, but the fresh summer rolls were nice and fresh, and the peanut sauce was delicious. I also got the tofu bun, room temperature rice noodles with fresh carrots and lettuce, topped with crispy tofu. The noodles were really excellent. The staff was also very accommodating — bun usually comes with fish sauce, but they offered me a variety of different sauces instead. Oh, they also serve banh mi, bringing the total number of Vietnamese sandwich places within four blocks up to three. The rest of the menu is so extensive, though, that I don’t see why you’d want to order the sandwiches at Ha Noi. There were the usual newly-opened problems: they sent me my app, then my entree… and then my app again, and I had to ask for my check multiple times, but I’m sure they’ll iron those problems out. I’ll definitely be back.
Ha Noi — 448 9th St, Brooklyn
I visited Rome with my family before I was a food blogger, and I spent a half hour or so just a few yards away from Forno Campo de’ Fiori without even knowing. Forno (the Italian word for “oven”) is known for Roman-style pizza — rectangular pizza served by the slice.
When I heard that there was a Campo de’ Fiori pizzeria here in Park Slope (just a few blocks away from grilled pizza spot Fornino), I knew I had to try it. Rumor has it that they are affiliated with the Roman bakery, and that they even get their dough shipped in. On a cold November afternoon I stopped by for some Roman pizza for lunch. I got two slices: the traditional margherita ($2.50) and an eggplant slice ($2.90). The price of a regulare New York slice here in Park Slope is $2.50, so those prices aren’t really that outrageous. The margherita was fine, a bit overly crunchy, but the eggplant was really something special. Despite the fact that the eggplant was sliced paper-thin I could really taste its distinctive smoky flavor, and it was topped with some milky parmesan cheese. The servers were super friendly and attentive, and the pizzas came out on a cool wooden plank. These Roman-style pizzas aren’t going to replace NY or Neapolitan pizza in my heart, but the next time I’m on 5th Ave with an urge for a quick slice, I’ll be happy to stop by.
Campo de’ Fiori Brooklyn — 187 5th Avenue, Brooklyn
I work on 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, where there is no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat. The trouble is that so many of them are mediocre, or even bad; there are only a few in the area that are actually really good. Recently three new places opened up, and I’ve tried all three of them on your behalf.
First up is Crespella, an Italian inspired creperie and coffee shop (crespella is the Italian word for a crepe). They had a sign outside advertising a gluten-free crepe, made with chickpea flour. I don’t have a gluten allergy, but it sounded pretty good to me. For $7.50 I got the chickpea crepe stuffed with ricotta, spinach, and mushrooms. They make the crepes to order, pouring the batter on to the round crepe griddle. In my case they flipped the crepe after it browned on one side, and then spread some ricotta onto it. Then a layer of cooked mushrooms, and a handful of fresh spinach, a squirt of oil, and some salt and pepper. Then the whole thing was folded up into a package, and some more ricotta and mushrooms went on top.
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My friends and I started a club, a steak frites club! I don’t remember the details of how we started this nor how the conversation started but who cares. I love this kind of club. Seem like my friend had this pretty much planned out in her head. She already had a list of possible places we should hit up. The first place we were going to try was Convivium Osteria in Park Slope. Sadly it was closed on the Sunday we wanted to go and wouldn’t open on Sundays until after Labor Day Weekend. So then we decided to go to the new Moutarde, Le Bistro de la Rue. It’s sort of the old Moutarde except they re-did the whole interior, which everyone complained to be uglier than the old interior.
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Way back when I did my tasting of pizza along the L train, I had a really good Neapolitan-style pizza at Fornino in Williamsburg. I was excited to hear that there was a Fornino opening near me, in Park Slope, a few months ago, and on a recent Friday night I met up with my friends Jeff & Eva to check it out.
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I know it’s not really fair to judge a restaurant on the second day it’s open, but since I work a block away from the new Park Slope Eatery I figured I’d have lunch there. I walked into what was one step removed from chaos, aka the lunchtime rush. When I ordered the falafel, the guy behind the counter looked confused and ended up consulting the menu board behind him. I asked about stuffed grape leaves, and he said, “Grape what?” before directing me to ask someone else. I didn’t bother. My falafel was fine, though not quite hot or crispy enough. The best part about it was that it was topped with tzatziki, a yogurt sauce flecked with dill, rather than the standard sesame tahini.
I love how me, Howard and Matt all hate this bar, well I don’t really hate it as much as they do. On the weekends before 5pm it’s basically baby town. Parents bring their kids while they have a refreshing beer. One time we even saw a kids party with 10 or so kids running/crawling around. Now the manager decided to put up a sign that said “No one under 21 after 5pm” thaaaaaaank goodness. But that still doesn’t make Howard and Matt like the place any better. For some reason this place gets REALLY LOUD AND WE KINDA HAVE TO YELL. Since this is the only hip looking bar in the area (Farrell’s at the corner is anti-hip) this place gets full quick. And now that they started serving food, hot damn, its harder to get seats.
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