Rising labor costs and exorbitant rents in Manhattan have forced more and more restaurateurs afield to seek brighter epicurean pastures on the outskirts: Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn are saturated with chefs who can take risks and do what they know best — serve inspired and affordable dishes with gusto.
We heard the murmur on the street and followed our nose and taste buds over the Hudson River. Streets is an eclectic eatery in the heart and soul of Williamsburg and is becoming a destination spot for nomadic foodies and locals in the know.
The casual décor is industrial with recessed wood tables, hemp rope suspended shelves and floating orb light fixtures that glow like retro street lamps. There is a bright mural with cultural icons dominating one wall creating a festive dining hall.
The omnipresent hipsters, business people, artists, workers and professionals mingle with an increasing international crowd whose palates are craving something new, fresh, healthy and worthy. Perhaps a dish that reminds them of their childhood or motherland. It’s an urgent desire for more nutritious food and far away from expensive burgers, corporate chain alimento and run-of-the-mill pub grub. They file into Streets on a regular basis. The reasons for this are as plentiful as its global smorgasbord: Quality ingredients, imaginative combinations, a passionate chef, healthy options, flavors, attentive service, remarkable cocktails and on and on and on…
Executive Chef Ron Stevinson oversees a dedicated team with a menu that is as vast as the concept of Streets itself — think international delicacies found popular on the avenues from Rabat to Waikiki, Bangkok to Port-of-Spain, Cape Town to Guadalajara and beyond.
While some philistines think the menu is “all over the map” and should be confined to one exceptional bite, they are obviously missing the point. Streets serves up international cuisine from all over the globe but with their own twist; an homage to the melting pot culture of New York and the country.
Here is a taste of what we discovered.
Peri is a Swahili word for chili pepper that grows in various places like Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The Peri Peri Wings is a traditional dish that Streets elevates to a sublime level. The house-made glaze has a sweetness and heat that will make your unwavering dedication to Buffalo Wings fly away forever. The preparation of chicken makes the meat so tender that it literally falls off the bone.
For a tasting appetizer, we recommend the Two-Way Street Tapas — there is a wide assortment of smaller portions of which you choose three. On this particular night, the chef recommended the Mexican Street Corn, Mini Bake ‘n’ Shark and Thai Duck Salad. The corn is like nothing we’ve ever experienced even in Chilangolandia — sweet, tender and roasted to perfection, it is served with citrus mayo, chipotle spice and packed with rich cotija cheese. The amount of cheese on the cob was abundant and the final outcome is like finding an Aztec goddess. The Thai Duck Salad is made with crispy duck confit, orange chili glaze, green papaya and coconut water. It’s a simple dish and acceptable for a light lunch but pales in comparison to the other options. It was not my favorite.
The Bake ‘n’ Shark is a popular dish from the islands. This sandwich is a mini-vacation to paradise: Think Trinidad. A seasoned and fried spiny shark crescent filet is placed between two perfectly toasted buns with fresh coleslaw, sliced tomatoes and lettuce. It is served with several condiments: Mango Chutney, Tamarind Sauce and something called Shadon Bennie that offers enough heat to make you loosen a neck tie, take off a jacket or remove a garment. It’s not a 3-alarm, red-faced heatstroke but robust and along with the other sauces and ingredients creates an enjoyable combination of flavors, textures and épicé.
Sylvia Lindsay Alexander is the on staff Caribbean expert for seasoning, preparation and culinary traditions.
I popped a pork belly in my mouth and the flavors exploded with sugarcane vinegar, soy sauce and black peppercorns. If you are a bacon fanatic, this is about as close as you can get to hog heaven.
Chef Stevinson circled the dining room checking on all of the tables. I overheard only compliments. When he approached me to inquire about my experience thus far, I boasted about the savory chicharrónes (above). He smiled and quipped, “They should replace popcorn with chicharrónes in the movie theaters.” I agree.
The entrée selections run the gamut. The menu offers something for everyone from a Japanese Bento Box, Argentine Churrasco y Papas and Jerk Pork to Singapore Chili Lobster and Fresh Fish in a Banana Leaf (above). The latter is the catch of the day, moist, white and flaky with a pineapple & ginger puree dipping sauce. In one word: Delicious. It’s also noteworthy that Streets offers a large selection of vegetarian dishes like Dahl Bhaji, Vegan Udon and a Turkish Mashup, just to name a few. As I evesdropped on the surrounding tables, I witnessed a room of diners, both young and old, ignoring their smartphones and actually discussing their enjoyment of the gastronomy.
Before you leave, the waiter will announce the evening’s dessert list and there will be a wide array of traditional sweets like churros, apple pie, chocolate confections, Napoleons and flan. I chose the Tres Leches (above) on this evening and it did everything but disappoint — smooth cream, moist vanilla cake and perfectly toasted meringue with a hat of mint and black berries. Kudos to the pastry chef, Sade Serrano, for perfecting this decadent triple treat.
There is one more must-have. I recommend that you pair your dessert with Streets Dream-cicle cocktail. This smooth libation is made with Liquor 43 from Spain, Vodka, orange juice and vanilla ice cream. It’s a boozy dessert. They are also known for their signature cocktail called Streets Painkiller and made with Rum, Sorrel, pineapple juice, Crème de Coco and nutmeg.
Chef Stevinson has been working on a new creation to celebrate 2016. On New Year’s Eve, Streets offers a fabulous feast for all revelers. In the spirit of global cuisine, the chef makes a dramatic statement with a prime-cut steak from South America, lobster tail from South East Asia and a European inspired risotto.
This review may be gushing but don’t just take my word for it, listen to the buzz on this biz. Upon exiting the restaurant I overheard a group of Millennials conversing and breaking bread.
“Every time you turn around in Manhattan, a bank takes over a family restaurant. Oh you can find a decent meal in Soho, The Village or midtown but be prepared to dig deep into your pockets if you want something of quality,” said one diner to her party. “In Times Square expect nothing more bilious than that guy with the bleached hair on the Food Network who slobbers over a deep fryer.” They all laugh in agreement while sharing various plates and toasting the occasion.
Brooklyn, NY 11211