At times, it’s hard to determine whether North Brooklyn’s popularity is a blessing or a curse for its restaurants. The tourists disembarking from the Bedford Avenue L train station seem to be drawn to only a few notable names in the neighborhood. For everyone else, it’s hard to stand out from the ever-increasing crowd, especially if you’re not on one of the main thoroughfares. But locals do have a few spots off the beaten path, perfect for great meals, that won’t break the bank. One of them lies two blocks east of Bedford, on a relatively quiet corner: Fat Goose.
Fat Goose has been quietly gaining a neighborhood following for a few years. Located on Wythe Avenue and North 8th Street, the restaurant strives to focus on seasonal fare with innovative twists. But being off of Bedford means the crowds have yet to really “discover” Fat Goose—a blessing and a curse. What they’re missing out on is chef Charles Winhoffer’s compelling New American menu which incorporates Middle Eastern and Asian influences.
Chef Charles joined the Fat Goose family earlier this year, fresh from stints at two of Queens’ acclaimed restaurants: Long Island City’s Crescent Grill and Sunnyside’s Salt & Fat. His career—which also included time in culinary school, at the famous Le Cirque and Brooklyn’s Anella—has amply prepared him to create a menu that uses high-end flavors and techniques in an accessible environment. The first trick is to produce as much as possible in-house. This means baking four different kinds of bread, soaking grilled peaches in bourbon, and letting a kimchi experiment take up space in the walk-in for four months. Charles also shows off his talent by utilizing as much local produce as possible. This allows the seasonality of the menu to shine and guarantees that the menu continues to evolve.
It’s things like that kimchi where Charlie elevates the everyday dining experience. His is fermented in pea dashi to make it more vegetal before being served on mustard greens with raw rutabaga, smoked Greek yogurt, Mandarin oranges, toasted almonds and dried Persian limes. The same kind of process goes into his chicken dish (here’s the recipe). A crispy half chicken and brown-butter-roasted baby carrots sit atop Beluga lentils, that are partly pureed with Ras el Hanout. All is topped off with flavorful Aleppo powder. Then, everything is covered tableside in hibiscus jus, chicken stock cooked down by four times and cut with dried hibiscus. “For me, it’s about building flavor upon flavor,” he explains.
And he doesn’t revert back to tradition when it comes to brunch. Yes, there are the riffs on pancakes and omelets, but the real standout includes an ingredient rarely seen on weekend menus: foie gras. But instead of a torchon and toast, the foie gras has been cured, rolled in salt, and hung until it becomes firm enough to shave over fresh persimmons spiced with pink peppercorns. A dish light enough for breakfast, but hearty enough to cure your hangover.
Serious thought also goes into the wine list. Coming from the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, it is inevitable that Charlie knows about wines. But he likes to look further than local vino for his list. Currently, the focus is towards Old World white with a bit of acid, as well as richer reds. His personal taste for South American vintages is seen in the appearance of two Argentinian reds (yes, one’s a Malbec). Those who like to start off their meals with a cocktail won’t be disappointed either. Grilled peaches in bourbon? Yes, please. After they are dipped in bourbon, they’re put through an in-house juicer and mixed back into the bourbon. This grilled-peach-infused bourbon goes into the Peachy Pal, a small ode to the last days of summer. And just like summer, it’ll be gone before you know it. Hot Buttered Rum has already made its appearances on the drink menu, and we’re sure Charlie is experimenting with rum, spiced in-house naturally, and bourbon. Be sure to belly up to this bar for your wintery cocktail to weather the cold, dark days ahead of us.