Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bed Stuy: Do or Dine

While it's still far to early to write a proper review of "Do or Dine," the newest spot to open in the western reaches of Bed Stuy, after two meals I feel like I have at least the bare qualifications to give a preview.

We first checked out Do or Dine on what was supposed to be their opening night. It turned out that proprietors Perry Gargano, Luke Jackson and chef Justin Warner (along with his partner in the kitchen George McNeese) spent the day building a deck rather than preparing for their grand opening. I fully support their chosen priority, since the deck catches a cooling breeze on a hot evening and the freshly spray-painted walls drew my eyes each time I zoned out of a conversation.

The food is playful and promising and much of the braintrust previously worked in the front of house at the Modern. Having never been to the Modern, I'm completely and utterly unqualified to draw any comparisons whatsoever (read on anyway!)

Described as an American Izakaya to The New York Times, the comparison seems close, especially since the food pairs very well with alcohol (or after you've had alcohol). As of last week it's still BYOB, but they expect a liquor license soon. Then, Luke, along with a Pegu Club alum will create what he described as an "out there" cocktail list. Like I said, this is an early post (a second may soon be necessary).

The decor more than matches the playfulness of the food. While everyone has pointed out the disco ball, I like the semi-hidden sign the most (but it's hard to ignore the above-mentioned graffiti murals outside). They've also done an excellent job with the tiling and the bar itself, having essentially tore down and rebuilt the place on their own.

This dedication shows in the food.

Shitake mushroom carpaccio with slivered triangles of parmesan was a little heavy on the lemon, but displayed solid technique and was well-plated. By the second visit, it had disappeared from the menu, which seems to still be in flux.

"Nippon Nachos" were essentially fried dumplings. The pork filling was a little lost, but the dumplings were expertly fried and topped with a sheet of melted cheddar cheese. Wasabi caviar (like at Russ & Daughters) in the sour cream sauce was an impressive surprise.

Lamb belly with cumin and lime was a rendition of the classic Chinese dish of cumin lamb. I hate to call something lip-smackingly good, but I very clearly remember licking the mixture of lamb fat and cumin off my lips (and off the plate). We got a second order.

On our next visit, the lamb had morphed and was now served on the bone with a gigantic piece of crispy, rendered fat attached. I'd like a bigger portion, because I could eat these all day.

The lamb paired well with a Domaine Barmes Buecher Riesling Tradition 2008 brought by a friend. Luke, a former captain at the Modern, expertly handled our wine. This is what will bring me back to Do or Dine. While at first glance everything is loose and fun, the service and the food is underpinned by serious professional training at a highly respected restaurant.

We had no idea what to expect when we ordered "Egg" with tempura fried bacon. The description was a little off, as the eggs themselves were coated and fried, then sliced to look like breasts and topped with Sriracha nipples (I was told was the effect they were going for). If so, these are two pairs of old and veiny breasts. Flipping over the eggs revealed a bacony, deviled interior.

Wasabi shumai with pork and coconut makes for more good drinking food. They could make these with shrimp, since the coconut shrimp combination is already a proven drunk food winner.

"George's Steak Tartare" with espresso aioli, some kind of chili oil and waffle cubes displayed a keen balance of flavors, but the quality of the steak itself, topped with a raw egg, could have been slightly better.

On both trips we ordered the duck breast with sansho (apparently a Japanese spice related to Sichuan peppercorn), fennel and kiwi. The duck breast was served medium rare without asking and the skin was as crisp as I could possibly hope. Awesome. Interesting combination of flavors, with the fennel providing a powerful backbone and the piquant kiwi adding a sweet and sour note while not overpowering the flavor of the duck. My friend paired this with a Domaine Fenouillet Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 2009, another strong choice.

We would have been idiotic to pass over "A Fish and Some Chips," especially since it turned out to be the best dish of the night. A whole branzino is cut in a crosshatch pattern and fried, providing for extra crunchy bites. The head and collar, as always, provided the choicest bits. The fish was topped with a shallot and yuzu mixture, but I feel like an aioli (like the excellent espresso one earlier) would have made the dish complete. Regardless, it was the best dish of the night.

To finish, we split a black sesame root beer float. I wish they'd put some of those black sesames on the lamb belly like the Muslim Lamb Chop at Fu Run. Nothing odd about three dudes sharing a root beer float, right?

They also have Snickers Ice Cream Bars if you're so inclined.

Once they get their liquor license Do or Dine promises to be open until 4 AM, truly filling a need in the area for a drunken late night snack or a just a normal dinner with friends (which normally includes a fair amount of drinks). Along with its neighbor Sud Vino & Cucina, Bedford Avenue is pulling the dining center of Bed Stuy to the west (even as I'm moving to the opposite end of the neighborhood). Still, I won't hesitate to Do or Dine.

Do or Dine
1108 Bedford Avenue (between Lexington Ave and Quincy St)
Brooklyn, NY 11216
(716) 684-2290
Do or Dine on Urbanspoon
Just a Facebook page.


  1. Thanks to give us nice information but according to me Do or Dine is located on Bedford Avenue between Lexington and Quincy, a mere stone’s throw from other Bed-Stuy newcomers Sud, SCRATCH bread and Black Swan.

  2. Hi there,
    We’re working on a story here at The Daily Meal on America’s best nachos. Do or Dine’s nachos are being featured! I would love to use your photo for the piece. Please let me know as soon as possible. You can email me at jbruce@thedailymeal.com. Thanks so much!

    Jane Bruce
    Photo Editor
    The Daily Meal