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Off the Beaten Path in Bed-Stuy at Do or Dine

August 13, 2012

What comes to mind when you hear Bed-Stuy?  Maybe a little bit of Jay-Z or a little of the Notorious B.I.G.?  It is certainly not a culinary destination.  But ever since reading about Do or Dine, the team behind the controversial foie gras donut, I keep thinking about the donuts and imagining how it must taste.  Taking advantage of the fact that it was my birthday last week, I took MD along with me to try out this off-the-beaten-path restaurant.

Do or Dine was not easy to reach from midtown and after transferring from the E to the G train for a 15 minute ride (yes the train that most have probably not taken before), we emerged from the subway in a neighborhood that is not so familiar.  The streets are wider and the buildings are lower and off in the distance, we can vaguely see a few peaks of buildings in Manhattan.  I knew the restaurant cleverly blended into its surroundings but I had no idea how perfectly at place it looked from the outside.  Under the colorful awning of an West Indian and American diner, Do or Dine was there to welcome us.

Walking in and we found ourselves in a completely different world, a spinning disco ball and hip-hop filled world.  The dining room was composed with dark wood tables and faded patina table tops made from wall papers.  In addition to the dining room and a bar towards the back, Do or Dine also had tables out in the back yard.  We decided to sit inside by the kitchen instead and got to studying the eclectic menu. I started firing away dishes at MD and at first he took all the suggestions in strides.

“Nippon Nachos?” “Of course!”

“Foie Gras Donut!” “Sure”

“Shishito peppers!” “Whatever you want”

“Frog legs!”  MD took a pause at the suggestion of this particular appetizer but relented seeing that it was my birthday after all.

And in the end, partly thanks to my insatiable appetite for quirky dishes, we ended up with seven appetizers and one entree.

Shishito Quatro Sel was perhaps the most “ordinary” of all the seven appetizers.  But where do you find blistered shishito peppers served with four types of salt and oil?  Of the yuzu, hickory, wasabi, green tea, and the chili oil, MD and I both loved the smoky hickory salt and I was partial to the wasabi that snuck up on my nose.

Do or Dine’ s Nippon Nachos were starting to show some quirkiness.  Fried vegetable gyoza were topped with gouda, cheddar, and masago sour cream and finished with a scattering of pica de gallo.  As simple of a concept as this was, we happily devoured this Mexican Asian fusion dish.

Next was the dish that really brought Do or Dine to my attention, the foie gras donut.  What seemed like a powdered jelly filled donut arrived still piping at our table with its filling oozing out.  Now, I am not a typical donut person but there is very few things better than a fresh and hot donut.  Sure it might look like a dessert but this tasted of a savory dish and rightfully belonged in the appetizer section.  The dough was only the slightest bit sweet with an almost tart strawberry filling laced with foie gras.  Even though I was left wishing for a more pronounce foie gras taste, this was gone within seconds.

Continuing with the fried theme, the E666S was another that will raise your cholesterol above that healthy level.  These spicy bacon and culantro stuffed deviled eggs were fried for a golden shattering crust.  The inside was creamy and came with a punch of flavor from the bacon.  If only these weren’t so unhealthy, I would be downing a whole plateful all by myself.

The Eloteyaki was by far our favorite dish of the night.  An unassuming bowl of grilled corn was tossed with miso butter.  This summery dish was finished off with a dollop of mayo in the middle and ribbon of shiso leaves.   According to Justin Warner, a partner, who was working the floor that night, this was simply grilled and sauteed, with no reheating to really preserve that almost raw corn sweetness.  The sweet corn flavor with the savory umami miso butter was so addicting, we were both fighting over every last kernel.

Just to break up all the fried dishes, I added on a salad of garden sorrel, ikura and shiso.  The first bite of leafy green brought a surprise.  Instead of ocean that I was expecting from the ikura, a wave vanilla hit my nose.  Puzzled, I tasted another forkful.  When the vanilla ebbed, tart notes from the dressing and the bitter from the lettuce emerged.  I was so perplexed that I just kept on eating.  Finally, I grabbed Justin and found out that in fact, there was vanilla in the dish.  It was infused into the ikura!  After soaking store bought cured ikura in water to drain them of the salt, he soaked them in a vanilla solution to add in that exotic scent.  How creative!

Finally, the dish that made MD hesitate arrived.  The Leap Year Special consisted of two lightly fried frog legs in a spicy Dr. Pepper glaze.  Sweet and sour, there really was nothing not to like about these little drumsticks.  They had us licking our fingers and wishing for more.

Finally, we move onto the one entree that I had my eyes on, A Chicken and Woffals.  Do or Dine’s take on a traditional Southern dish, a brined and fried cornish hen was butterflied and perched on top of two golden brown waffles and sauteed spinach.  A quenelle of whipped chicken liver an pickled ginger topped off this beautiful plate.  Because of the brine, the meat remained incredibly juicy and the skin had a crunch without the oiliness of a typical fried chicken.  This reminded me of the fried chicken drumsticks that my Dad used to make me when I was younger.  Needless to say, we ate every last bit of this dish.

Dessert at Do or Dine was a simple course.  Justin came by our table after they cleared our plates and offered a Snickers ice cream bar.

“From the bodega around the corner.”  With that, we were sold.  Of course, they classed up this pedestrian dessert with slices of strawberry and powdered sugar.  It was my first time having the Snickers ice cream bar and boy have I missed out!

A happy and light ending to an incredibly cheeky and fun meal.  Both MD and I agreed unanimously that this was one of the most unique meals we have had in a while and couldn’t stop talking about it on our long subway ride back into the city.  Despite any reservations you might have initially with the menu, everything about Do or Dine worked from the laid back atmosphere of the restaurant to the approachable staff, especially Justin.  Despite his recent win on the Food Network Next Food Network Star show,  Justin was so humble and took time to chat with each table and was happy to answer any and all questions we had about the dishes.  And the food!  Everything, from the unexpected ingredients to the unusual preparation, pushed the envelope of what is conventional and expected.  It made me so excited that I am already planning on a trip in the near future with a few friends who will really appreciate this kind of food.

Do or Dine | 1108 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11216 | http://www.facebook.com/DOorDINE

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