When it comes to boldface dining in Carroll Gardens—that is, the places that make it into the highly competitive "Brooklyn" listings in the weekly glossies—it's often an Italian affair (think Frankies 457 and Lucali). Doug Crowell and his chef, Ryan Angulo, are looking to change that perception when they open their seasonal American bistro, Buttermilk Channel, today in the shadow of the BQE.
"I'm happy to take the Frankies spillover," says Crowell of his new neighbors, adding that Caputo's fresh mozzarella and Esposito's Italian sausage will be integrated into a Brooklyn-kissed menu honed by Angulo—formerly of Stanton Social and Picholine.
Ethnic bar snacks (fresh mozzarella, kebabs) and charcuterie (house made head cheese) complement upscale comfort staples like duck meat loaf and fried chicken with cheddar waffles. And that boring bistro standby, the plat du jour, is hardly a crutch—pork cheek schnitzel and braised rabbit with vanilla bean and egg noodles makes us wish it were Monday and Thursday every day of the week.
As he finished an 80-plus hour week, we stopped by the restaurant this past weekend to speak with the humble, media-shy chef. We'll see how long Angulo stays out of the spotlight.
Your background lies in both fine dining (Picholine) and shareable bar grub (Stanton Social). How did you merge the two when creating the Buttermilk Channel menu?
Stanton Social does a lot of the reinvented American dishes. But as far as technique goes, the menu here is more classic French. Take our duck meat loaf. The jus is made the same way you would do it at Picholine for a $40 game dish, but it's with a comfort dish-meat loaf!
It seems like your buttermilk fried chicken and cheddar waffles is angling to become a signature dish of the restaurant...
When I was at Stanton, I was playing around with the idea. It started as chicken with a chestnut waffle, and then as the season changed it became cheddar waffles with maple syrup and balsamic. It's still on their menu and still extremely popular. They sell like 60 orders a night.
What local Carroll Gardens purveyors are you using?
We're using Esposito's hot and sweet sausage. They're up the street. And Caputo's, I just spoke with them today, they are going to make us boccichini every day.
How will Buttermilk Channel stand out from the 30 others on Smith Street's restaurant row?
There's some good restaurants over there, but ours is comfort food [pause]...my version of comfort food. Our plat du jours are a little more thought-provoking than other American bistros. It's not your typical cassoulet on Wednesdays or steak frites on Fridays. We took time to figure out a funky and cool thing we could do really well. Like whole roasted leg of lamb from Jameson Farm in Pennsylvania, or pork cheek schnitzel.
So you're about to open your first NYC restaurant. Excitement? Nerves?
All of it, but I feel pretty confident about the menu. I've been here a couple months doing whatever it takes to get things done: polyurethane-ing chairs, painting. It took a week to scrub the kitchen.
Did you feel like Gordon Ramsay on "Kitchen Nightmares" when you started scrubbing?
No, because Gordon Ramsay comes in with five other people to clean it for him.
Photo by Jori Klein