“It’s called ‘global comfort food’ because every single diverse ethnic group, we ate at home no matter what your background is,” says Smith-Malave, who is of Filipino–Puerto Rican–Italian heritage. (The chef is also openly gay, and was recently assaulted in Long Island in an alleged gay-bashing incident.) “There was something that you ate as a child that brings you home, that was a comfort to you,” she adds.
Here, “comfort” translates to a truly global menu of crab cakes with Dijon-herb remoulade, babyback ribs, mussels in coconut curry broth, and poached miso salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes. It’s a tip off to the chef’s food-centric multiculti childhood in Florida—she recalls growing up around “Floribbean” food and helping her father in the kitchen after her parents’ divorce—as well as to Fort Greene’s own diverse ethnic character.
“This place is a throwback to a time in African-American history where you had your affluent black Americans—there is still this glamour,” she says of the restaurant, with its dramatic gold drapes, burgundy accents and swirling ceiling patterns. “This neighborhood has an incredible history, a history of diversity,” she adds. “We’re trying to bring a spot [that’s] comfortable, approachable and without pretentiousness.”
The Speakeasy is located at 132 Greene Ave. at Waverly Ave., Fort Greene, 718-230-3520. Photo courtesy of josiesmithmalave.com