“Are we there yet?” my sister Melissa asked, as we crawled along the dark streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn, last Saturday night on the B77 bus.
When we finally got off the bus at Van Brunt Street, Melissa and I, plus Jim, Melissa’s boyfriend Nedim, and her friend Jenny strolled the cobble-stoned block until we found the Good Fork. Diners from all corners of the city have ventured out to this transportation-challenged, waterfront neighborhood for chef Sohui Kim’s Korean-inspired comfort food since the restaurant opened in March 2006. Kim, who previously cooked at Savoy and Annisa, owns the restaurant with her husband Ben Schneider.
Van Brunt Street was once rumored to be Brooklyn’s next restaurant row. But since the pioneering bistro 360 recently closed, not much has come in to take its place. Sure, there’s still the popular bakery Baked, and wine bar Tini, but our evening in Red Hook found the majority of storefronts dark and quiet. The Good Fork’s facade was the lone beacon of light on its side of the street.
After shrugging off our winter coats, we settled into the restaurant’s small, rustic back room and started with the pork and chive dumplings, their delicate wrappers unveiling interiors of gentle flavors ($6). My sister has been obsessed with scallion pancakes lately, so we ordered this side dish as an appetizer ($6). Crispy and fresh, they had us fighting each other for the last one. The meaty diver sea scallops, served with bacon, scallions, sunchoke gratin, and a balsamic reduction were clean and salty, appropriate for our night by the Red Hook shipyards ($12).
Next I focused on my main dish of “steak and eggs” Korean style, a grilled, juicy skirt steak topped with a glorious fried egg, served with spicy kimchee rice ($19). (Note to vegetarians: this dish can be made with tofu instead of meat for just a few dollars less.) All of the food I tried, such as some wonderful tempura onion rings from Jim’s burger plate ($11) and a spoonful of cool, fresh lentils from Melissa’s seared duck breast entree ($20), were fresh and clean in their flavors, employing the best seasonal ingredients around. Some even came from Red Hook’s Added Value Farm. The dessert options also showed support for the neighborhood, with Steve’s key lime pie on the menu ($7). I’m a big fan of Steve’s, but I went with the creamy buttermilk panna cotta and blueberry sauce ($7).
After we staggered out into the night, satisfied and happy with our meal, we wandered across the street to LeNell’s, an amazing liquor and spirits store. What seemed to be a crowded tasting event was also a book signing with David Wondrich, author of the new book Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. While I waited for him to sign a copy, someone even spilled their drink on me, always a sign of an adventurous Saturday night.
Did I say the culinary excitement was dying down in Red Hook? As you can see, I was wrong. I’d hop on that B77 bus any day for another meal at the Good Fork. Who knows what else will happen along the way.
The Good Fork, 391 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn T: 718-643-6636