Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Brooklyn for a solid Bacon Omakase tasting menu.
It may sound like a news flash from those peak-bacon years of the late aughts, but a pork-belly restaurant opened last week on the corner of Grand and Driggs, taking over (with slight renovations) the upstairs dining area of Beats Karaoke.
It's called Belly; it's run by restaurant first-timers Phillip Cho and Anna Lee, with chef Brian Crawford in the kitchen; and it features a nine-course "Bacon Omakase" tasting menu. Karaoke-ers, don't worry though: in Belly's basement you can still belt out "I Want It That Way" in the unchanged disco-lit warren of rooms down there.
Belly has a bar, a comfortable communal table (comfortable, that is, until a party of tipsy and hostile millennials join you), and a semi-separate room with generic folding chairs set at randomly-placed white tables, There are a few papier-mâché pigs around, but for the most part the bacon theme is downplayed, decor-wise. The staff is sharp-eyed and friendly and handled all aspects of my 90-minute meal exceedingly well. Dance classics from 1970s keep things lively throughout.
There are a handful of a la carte offerings available in the "white-table room" at Belly, but it's the $45 Bacon Omakase menu that greets you as you take your seat anywhere else. You are served a lot of food for that price, much of it good or better than good. An additional $35 gets you booze with every course, which seems like a solid strategy if you want to leave both full and drunk.
The best dishes I ate at Belly were truly outstanding, especially the Bacon Steak, a fatty pork slab expertly cooked—caramelized exterior, meltingly tender inside—and seasoned simply with a glaze of spicy/sweet gochujang. Almost as good was the Pasta Alla Belly, its thick noodles the perfect vehicle for the creamy kimchi sauce and loads of crumbled pig bits. Could have used a bit more fire maybe, but still pretty delicious.
I also liked the Bacon Sushi, which isn't as dramatic as it sounds—it isn't raw, for one thing—but is still a complex, satisfying bite or two of food, the sweet, thin-sliced pig draped over rice, torched right before serving, and topped with sichuan oil and wasabi. There was plenty of pleasure to be found with the Grilled Korean Bacon course as well, the miso-walnut sauce adding some welcome punch to the pork. The heavy Bacon-Eggplant Risotto was fine, though a bit of a slog coming in at course number eight.
Less successful courses included the bland Warm Bread with Kimchi Butter; the overly dry Bacon Carpaccio (drizzled, fatally, with truffle oil); the Bacon Schnitzel, whose dominant flavor was "fried"; and the forgettable dessert, a Hurricane Donut.
Four clunkers out of nine courses may sound like a poor percentage for any tasting menu, but given the relative low cost, the restaurant's fun atmosphere, and the strength of the best dishes, the Belly Bacon Omakase is a solid date option in North Brooklyn.
Belly is located at 216 Grand Street at the corner of Driggs Avenue (and above Beats Karoake), and is open weekdays from 5:30 until midnight, and on weekdays from 12:30 to midnight (888-777-0087; bellynyc.com)