Posts tagged dumplings

More Neighborhood Newcomers: Ghenet and Eton

Hot dogs, ribs, potato salad—I ate more than my fill of these good old American favorites on the 4th of July. But then I spent the rest of the weekend embracing America’s multicultural spirit, trying out a few new ethnic restaurants in the neighborhood.

Ghenet: Because I had been to this Ethiopian restaurant’s Manhattan location before, I was more than excited to hear of its new Park Slope outpost. The rest of the neighborhood must have felt the same way, as Ghenet’s intimate dining room was packed on Saturday night. After taking our seats next to the intricate metal screen surrounding the room, Jim and I started with the tasty sambusa, two small packets of crispy pastry dough stuffed with ground chicken and served with a spicy dipping sauce ($6). Next came our combination platter of five dishes served on a sheet of Ethiopia’s staple bread called injera ($31.95). We received another plate of this spongy bread on the side, and used it to scoop up our sega wett, tender bits of beef in a thick sauce of exotic berbere spices. The dish was a comforting yet light stew, perfect for a summer evening, and although the seasoning included red chili peppers the heat was not overwhelming. Instead, the heat factor was taken care of by the spicy mushrooms, one of our four vegetarian dishes. I preferred the creamy and buttery yellow split peas, dipping my injera into them again and again. Vinegar-tinged collard greens and pureed beans rounded out our meal. In Ethiopia it is customary to eat only with the right hand, but at Ghenet it’s difficult to keep yourself from diving in with both. 348 Douglass Street at 4th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn  T: 718-230-4475

Eton: On Sunday afternoon during the Wimbledon rain delay I strolled over to Eton, a tiny new dumpling house in Carroll Gardens. I didn’t want to miss the match, so I took two sets to go: one group of pork and beef dumplings, and another of lentils, mushrooms, and tofu ($3.50 for each set of five dumplings). While I waited for my order in the cheerful yet spare dining space, I chatted with chef Eton Chan about how the dumplings are first pan-seared in cooking spray and then steamed. They are trans-fat free and actually pretty healthy. Back at my kitchen table, I quickly realized these were not your typical take-out dumplings. The dough was delicate yet sturdy, sheltering the compact, well-balanced centers of meat and sweet vegetables. The flavors can be enhanced by condiments such as the house soy and ginger black vinegar. I have to return and try the third dumpling option of chicken with mushrooms, as well as the extensive shaved ice menu; I’ve got my eye on the lychee and green tea flavors. And when the weather gets colder Eton will start offering hand-pulled noodle soups. For once I can’t wait for winter weather. 205 Sackett Street at Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

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Dim Sum at Pacificana Restaurant

Dumpling Soup at Pacificana Restaurant

I looked over the banister at the crowd of people waiting for dim sum at Pacificana, a vast Chinese restaurant in the heart of Brooklyn Chinatown. At noon on Sunday the place was packed, door to door, up and down the stairs leading to the restaurant’s lobby. A harried, petite woman stood in the center of the antsy crowd, simultaneously hugging a podium and holding a microphone, shouting numbers as tables became available. I jostled my way closer in order to hear the numbers, which were more often than not announced in Chinese.

Finally I heard it: “148! 148!” I frantically waved to Jim, our friends Dave and Rachel and their three-year-old son Joseph, and ran through the red-and-gold decorated dining room after the host. We settled into our small table, armed Joseph with magic markers and chopsticks, and waited for the carts of steaming dumplings, buns, and other treats to approach.

Luckily a dumpling-laden cart and its friendly female driver soon cruised by our table. After our hour-long wait, we were ravenous, and dove right into dumpling heaven: fried balls of shrimp encased in a spindly, airy crust; bacon-wrapped shrimp dumplings; sweet, soft pork buns; delicate fried dumplings filled with even more pork.

Assorted dumplings at Pacificana Restaurant

According to the Food Lover’s Companion, dim sum means “heart’s delight” in Cantonese. It’s a pretty accurate description for me, as Chinese dumplings are one of my favorite foods. But as we learned at Pacificana, dim sum dishes include more than just dumplings. I pointed wildly at the cart serving razor clams in a brown, spicy sauce in order to procure a plate of them for our table. We picked them apart as best we could with our chopsticks, and I concentrated so intently on my food that I barely noticed when Joseph threw a chopstick at my head. Neither did anyone else; Pacificana may be busy and bustling, but it’s also extremely child-friendly.

After resting for a few minutes, we started in on our second wave of food. Fried rice was passed around the table more than once, as we all ate small bites with our various dim sum. Silky, cool rice noodles in soy sauce provided a moment of peaceful comfort in the midst of our feast. We next sampled two small bowls of broth, each hosting a massive dumpling whose flavor developed with the addition of pickled ginger. Rachel and I delighted in a sweet, fried eggplant dish, while Jim and Dave ended the meal with spicy shrimp-stuffed peppers.

As we walked the three long avenues back towards the car, Joseph exclaimed, “What a fun day!” I couldn’t have agreed more. Supposedly Pacificana serves dim sum every day of the week. I’m envisioning a sick day from work pretty soon. Just don’t tell my boss.

Pacificana Restaurant, 813 55th Street (at 8th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11220  T: 718-871-2880 (I couldn’t keep track of how much each dim sum item cost, but our entire bill came to $56. Pretty darn reasonable, if you ask me.)

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