When Mango Mama was visiting us in Brooklyn a couple weeks ago to help us set up our new apartment, Empanada Boy and I wanted to take her out for some of the borough’s best fare. We took her to one tasty dinner at Mango Lassie favorite DuMont in Williamsburg. A few days later, when we planned to meet my cousin Leftover Girl for dinner, we decided to try Dean Street, a new gastropub in Prospect Heights helmed by Nate Smith, former chef de cuisine at the highly touted Spotted Pig. I have never been to the Spotted Pig, but it is probably the most hyped restaurant in New York, which set the bar high for Dean Street.
The best thing we ate all night was the gentlemen’s relish bar snack. It consisted of little toasts, spread with oily anchovy paste and topped with a slice of boiled egg. I also enjoyed the housemade pickles, although I would eat a pickled carburetor. In truth, these were not actually as good as the pickles Mango Mama and I make ourselves. The highly anticipated burger, made with ultra-gourmet LaFrieda beef, was served on a brioche bun. It came with cheese or bacon, but nothing elseâ€” no signature sauce, no grilled onions, no pickles, no other vegetables of any kind. This would, of course, be fine if the meat spoke for itself. Instead, we found it rather bland and unremarkable. It did not stand up to the decadent, delicious burger I had ordered at DuMont. Despite the youthfulness of this restaurant, I would already pronounce this burger overrated.
We also ordered the cockles, cooked in a seasoned broth and mixed with mint, parsley and other herbs. The cockles were tasty, and the broth was nice, although not very distinctive. My only real complaint about the dish was the large size of the herbs. Evenly distributed minced herbs would have been preferable to the whole leaves of mint and branches of parsley that were clumped around the dish.
The third main course selection we sampled was the housemade tagliatelle with lamb ragu. Wide ribbons of fresh pasta topped with a hearty lamb can’t really be bad, but Mango Mama pronounced it only “fine.” She gets a better version of the dish at Bastas in Portland. It was another dish that wasn’t offensive, but could have been revelatory and wasn’t.
All in all, the food at Dean Street fell short of the admittedly lofty expectations we had for it. I can think of many other Brooklyn spots that would have done more to bolster the borough’s culinary cred. Hopefully, this is not the final word on a restaurant with considerable potential.
755 Dean St.
Brooklyn, NY 11238