Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bed Stuy for some fantastic comfort food.
Fan Fried Rice Bar, a counter-service spot offering Taiwanese comfort food, opened in the spring on a unremarkable, mostly residential stretch of DeKalb Avenue in Bed Stuy. It's a small place, with four tiny two-tops, eight chairs, and room for a few people standing on line to order. If you're seated on the inside, good luck getting out if anyone is at the table next to you.
The aesthetic is straightforward, black-and-white minimalist, no art on the walls, no cutesy menu chit chat, no tchotchkes or plants on the counter. It's clean and bright and proprietor Paul Chen greets you with warmth and enthusiasm.
Chen is a Taiwanese native who moved to Brooklyn about five years ago to work in the fashion and beauty industry. When he and his partners decided to take their lives down the restaurant route, they looked in the East Village and Lower East Side for a place, but rent there was insane. Chen lives in Bed Stuy, and so DeKalb Avenue it is.
The menu at Fan Fried Rice Bar is modest, but there's enough variety here to keep things fresh and interesting even after multiple visits. I've tried two of the ten types of fried rice, and both were terrific. The Numb Numb Pastrami features big, chewy chunks of peppery beef tucked throughout a mound of crisp-fried rice, scallions and peanuts adding additional texture and flavor. This wasn't nearly as spicy as promised (and it was only a little bit numbing), but the red chili oil in a crock by the register helped add some punch.
The Bone In Porkchop "entree" was also pretty pleasing. You get a sizable hunk of tender, fatty pig served on top of eggy rice, which was fried to a much fluffier finish than my previous meal. Whether this was by design or accident I don't know, but I did like the version with more crunch a lot more. You can also order a boat of Popcorn Chicken, which is decent enough, but doesn't bring a whole lot to the party.
The vegetarian sides make wonderful complements to all the carbs and meat. Definitely get the remarkably bright Taiwanese Golden Kimchi, which is sweet and tangy (thanks to carrots, ginger and rice vinegar) and much less funky than its Korean counterpart. The Cucumber Salad is also refreshing—the sliced seedless gourd is crunchy, juicy, mildly fiery, and served refrigerator-cold. And for some legitimate heat, try the cold Mapo Tofu, spooned straight into your mouth or dumped all over your rice.
This place would be mobbed if it was in the East Village. The food is great, the prices comfortable, the owner a decent human being. If you don't live right near here, definitely stop in for a snack the next time you're biking by.
Fan Fried Rice Bar is located at 525 DeKalb Avenue between Skillman Street and Bedford Avenue, and is open Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday. (929-290-2197; fanfriedricebar.com)