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Wu Pops Up with Brunch in Williamsburg

December 12, 2012

It seems like pop-ups are the latest trend of 2012.  A store here and a restaurant there, like a flash in a hot pan, here one second and gone within a New York minute.  Restaurant pop-ups are a great way to test out new concepts or dishes on a very critical New York crowd.  With less to lose, chefs are less inhibited and what emerges are food that come out bolder and better than ever.  The latest of these that I found myself at was Wu Pops Up, a Chinese influenced brunch held in Williamsburg Brooklyn.  Wu Pops Up is the brainchild of Jonathan Wu, a Per Se veteran and temporarily housed at Pinkerton Wine Bar on the edge of the gentrified hipster neighborhood.

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The Fall Chinese brunch is a semi prixe fix menu, with a family style starter and your choice of one of three entrees.  Reservations are made via email and with seating at either 12pm or 2pm, it was not difficult to secure a reservation for four.  MD and I arrived a little ahead of the rest of party and luckily, Wu Pops Up included a nice short list of classic brunch cocktails as well as bottomless coffee.

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When the rest of our party arrived, the friendly server briefly explained the menu and brought out the family style starters, delicata & kabocha squash and steamed veggie buns.  The delicata and kabocha squash (as well as parsnip) were steamed and drizzled with a vinegar based dressing with finely diced century eggs and aged soy bean curds and chives.  The eggs and curds were a nicely salty contrast to the delicate sweet squashes, not a bad way to sneak in ingredients that often have diners running in the other direction (looking right at you both, the century eggs and salty bean curds!).  When you eat the three vegetables separately, you could really taste the subtle differences in flavor.  And the market veggie steam buns?  While they had a great seasonal filling, supplemented by meaty shiitake mushroom, the dough was a little too dense and dry for me.

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With the four of us, we were able to sample all three of the entrees offered.  Jonathan continued to exert a heavy Chinese influence on the main dishes, starting with a Chinese crepe filled with pungent black bean chili paste, soft scrambled eggs and cilantro.  I often make a version of this dish at home with scallion pancakes as the wrapper so I was pretty critical, finding the eggs a little too well cooked.

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The Anson Mills rice middlins with dried corn puree, a take on the ubiquitous congee found at so many breakfast tables, worked beautifully.  The success was equally attributed to the toothsome slightly sweet middlin and corn puree as well as to the toppings.  A slight twist from traditions, the salted kale, aromatic beef and seasoned egg with pickled sunchoke played harmoniously with each other and the base.

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I was pretty happy with my choice of the rice middlins, eagerly digging in but that feeling was quickly replaced with jealousy when I tasted the sesame flat bread with cumin rubbed pork belly.  The little flat bread made by an artisan baker in New York was the perfect package to deliver the big bold flavors of the rich fatty pork belly.  The bellies had been rubbed with a spiced and warming cumin coriander mix and cooked until they fell apart in your mouth.  To contrast the warm flavors of the sandwich, Jonathan served a crunch refreshingly spicy raw bakchoy salad with tart fresh cranberries.  All you can think about as you finish the last bite was that why is the sandwich not twice as big.

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Since Wu Pops Up is not a permanent institution yet, there was not much to offer post brunch in the way of sweets.  Just a little stroopwafel with coffee sweetened with condensed milk in the way of desserts.  Dipped into the coffee to soft and melt the caramel center, these were just sweet enough to conclude a lovely brunch.

As we were wrapping up, Jonathan stepped out of the kitchen to thank every table individually for coming to brunch.  He was quite young and very eager to chat, about the dishes served as well as about his future projects – late night eats in Chinatown anyone?  Many times, chefs use the pop-up business model to launch something more permanent and I really hope this is one of those.  But in the meantime, another visit to Williamsburg for brunch for the sesame flat bread with pork belly or a bowl of rice middlins will have to suffice.

Wu Pops Up http://wupopsup.tumblr.com/

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