Wednesday, November 26, 2014

St. Anselm

What do you do when you have a very successful Belgian-style bar, by-the-pound barbecue restaurant, and high-end grocery in Williamsburg? Right – you open a place devoted to the grill! Joe Carroll and his wife, Kim, seemingly can do no wrong in Brooklyn, beginning with Spuyten Duyvil, branching out with Fette Sau and Spuyten Grocery, and now, they have relaunched St. Anselm, next door to Spuyten Duyvil.

The original concept called for high-quality sausages and sliders to be served along with beer and wine. And they were good… really good. However, for a variety of reasons (including a recalcitrant community board regarding a beer/wine license) that idea was scrapped, and while the red tape was dealt with, St. Anselm was reborn in its new incarnation, a restaurant full of interesting menu choices — and quite a bit of smoke.

Of course there’s beer, in the form of four taps. This is a blurry picture of a smoked Berliner Weiss — not the most normal of style mergers — which at 4% abv, quenched the thirst while not saddling me with unnecessary inebriation. The night was still young, after all, and this beer captured the essence of the restaurant.

The menu is divided into various sections, so of course my friend and I chose a bunch of different things. This is his “Smalls from the Grill” selection: salad topped with grilled haloumi, a Middle Eastern cheese; it had a texture and consistency more like… well, meat. It was proclaimed unbelievably good by my friend; I had a bit and was suitably impressed, myself.

My eggplant three ways fared less well. While yes, there’s a deep-fried chunk of Montrachet and several small slices of Japanese eggplant to go with the standard eggplants, these were fairly bland and forgettable, save the pleasant smokiness from being on the grill.

Of course, I looked forward to those items chosen from the “Bigs from the Grill” section. This lamb chop is topped with a big chunk of “mint gremolata” butter. My companion greatly enjoyed this, no gameyness — I had a chunk that was delicious — and the butter really added something to the dish, so creamy, but he seemed to be peering at my plate on a regular basis. Why, you may ask?

This, this beautiful homage to worry-free dining. The ham steak with redeye gravy. Oh lordy. Do you see the sheen from the gravy, created with pan drippings, strong coffee, and probably a lot of things I’d rather not know about? So rich and charred and smoky and… words cannot express the beautiful marriage between redeye gravy and ham. That thick slab of hammy goodness, a good dose of smokiness, fork-tender… just heaven.

A big bowl of grilled shishito peppers was brought alongside. The char and attendant smokiness did these well; they retained a lot of heat, which, considering they don’t start very spicy was vital. Lots of flavor, and definitely a bowl to share.

Fried mashed potatoes? Oh, you better believe we need to try this. This wins not just for the concept, but because it was lightly flavored with truffle oil, too, and that tasty sweet goodness permeated the dish.

After we’d finished our first beers, we decided that we ought to be drinking the wine, mainly because it was on tap and rather inexpensive. So, lambrusco, a sparkling red, was obtained — I highly recommend any lambrusco you can currently get, as the market will shortly be oversaturated with bad versions of this wine style, but at St. Anselm, a very tasty version was on-tap. You can purchase various quantities at once (like you can with the beer at Fette Sau), and the serving vessels are science room surplus. While our carafe size came in a beaker, larger amounts would have arrived in an Erlenmeyer flask. Something to think about when you decide to order.

In case you couldn’t figure it out from my descriptions, St. Anselm is a big recommend. The portions are huge for the price, at least on the normal dishes — there is a $65 lamb chop and occasionally a $75 ribeye for two, but otherwise the Bigs are under $20 for the most part. I get the impression that the menu will be changing on a regular basis as well. This visit was the second day back for St. Anselm, and yet the service was attentive and the food arrived at a fine clip. I can’t really think of a reason not to visit, so… yeah, give St. Anselm a shot!

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Comments

19 Responses to “St. Anselm”
  1. TT says:

    hipsters. is that a reason not to visit?

    • BeerBoor says:

      It is not. Surprisingly, Spuyten Duyvil doesn’t get very hipstery either, and honestly, that back yard at Spuyten (shared with St. Anselm, though I’d eat indoors every time) is quite excellent, if smoking-friendly. Fette, yes, gets very hipster, but you aren’t passing that up, are you?

      Really, the food is just that good that you’re doing yourself a disservice not to check it out.

  2. Redeye gravy! Also, fried mashed potatoes are available at Hill Country Chicken, and they’re terrible. So it’s nice to see someone did it right.

    I want to go to here so badly.

    • BeerBoor says:

      I had a bit of those fried mashed potatoes, and I agree. St. Anselm’s blow the doors off HCFC.

      Save lots of room, and hit Fette Sau after? Then a couple at Spuyten as a nightcap. It’s the perfect night out in a 200-foot diameter circle.

      If you’re the type of person who likes Knitting Factory, well, that’s just next door, too.

  3. Ben says:

    Your dining companion from this trip (me) and the lady have since visited twice and had a very good meal both times. The patty melt for around $12 is excellent; and the whole grilled trout was a big win, as were grilled long beans, spinach gratin, and oh, by the way, homemade vanilla ice cream with caramelized pork cracklins. Also, the lambrusco, called BrooklynBrusco, is made by the local Red Hook Winery, probably with grapes from Long Island or the Hudson Valley. Having it again on our last trip I was reminded of how much it tastes like a fruit lambic, maybe a framboise or kriek. Nice write-up.

    • BeerBoor says:

      Ah, right, I forgot how we noticed how lambic-y tart that wine was! It’s definitely worth a carafe/beaker every time.

      I can’t believe you didn’t invite me along. I feel unloved. But at least now I know the spinach gratin is another good choice for sides.

    • Did you just say “homemade vanilla ice cream with caramelized pork cracklins”? I THINK YOU DID. I think I also just fainted for a minute. It’s on!!!

      PS Speaking of, BeerBoor, I’ve always wondered why you both never name your friends/companions in your post or at least give them a nickname. Easier to keep track of, I suppose, but people feel unspecial! ;)

  4. Hungry says:

    Shoot, I wasn’t too impressed by Fette Sau. It wasn’t bad per se but I wasn’t jumping in joy either. Hmmm…what to do…

    • BeerBoor says:

      Clearly you need to revisit Fette Sau, and have the pork belly, though I’d guess you must have wanted that and somehow didn’t like it much. It’s probably my favorite barbecue in the city thus far, and that’s saying something.

      But St. Anselm is a completely different restaurant; the only similarities are the owner and the attention to good beer.

      • Hungry says:

        Oh you know I had the pork belly and it was too fatty for me. I needed it to be rendered a bit more. And my piece was overly charred. But you know me, I’ll always give a place a second chance. And even a first one.

  5. T.C. says:

    That gravy puts further shame to the blurry beer.
    Mmm fried mashed taters.

  6. chakrateeze says:

    If you like red-eye,you’ll love what my grandmother called “hair of the dog” gravy. Which incorporates ham juices (or sausage or bacon) and whatever booze you have on hand. Beer works great, but Jack’s a little better ;)

    Tracie

    • BeerBoor says:

      Heresy! Though I’m fairly certain ham juices are incorporated into the gravy, I’m so not a brown-spirits fan, and I think that caramelly-vanilla sweetness added to the gravy would have detracted. The ham’s caramelization was just so good!

      • chakrateeze says:

        red-eye gravy is just ham drippings and coffee. Trust me, I’ve made it often enough. But if you add a little onions and green bell pepper and sub a little beer, you’ll be PLEASED with the flavor.

        Tracie

        • BeerBoor says:

          Okay, I’m all for adding peppers and onions, I just don’t see what adding beer would do that I wouldn’t get from, you know, drinking that beer alongside. Just keep the brown spirits away from my gravy! Don’t make me cry!

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