Thursday, June 21, 2012


Roberta's is no newcomer on the scene, but she certainly hasn't lost any of her buzziness.  I even felt like one of the cool kids just knowing I was on my way there: Roberta's has a certain cache that doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon.  The rooftop garden, an infamous bread program, the tattoos, the handlebar moustaches...   That said, I wished all of the food would have lived up to the hype. Because while most of what we had was great, the pizzas themselves (what most people come for) left my socks unmistakably intact... although the $175, 75-day aged Wagyu certainly loosened their elastic (more on that later).

But people don't come to Roberta's for a pedigreed steak that could serve the Brady Bunch in full (plus Alice); they come for the pizzas.  So we got a few, none particularly life-altering, although the thin, charred crusts are a thing of beauty.  The puffy, blistered "rinds" are chewy and pliable, tapering towards the center in genuflection to their toppings.  The Fennel Frontier sported the vegetable, sliced and all but raw but for some residual softening from the heat of the oven.  A zippy pawlet cheese and italian sausage joined the fennel to a good end flavor-wise, but the heavy toppings caused the crust to sag under their weight.  A special pie with caramelized onion held up better, but the amount of allium seemed skimpy.  The hefty InVolto caches tomato, peppers, three cheeses and sopressata to achieve perfect tomato-saucy pizza flavor, albeit with a heavier crust and folded up like yogi.  These are all great pies, don't get me wrong.  I guess I got my pizzexpectations up a little too high.  Order a few amongst a group of people as great as the ones I was with and you'll come away happy.
Asparagus Salad

Which seems to be what most people do here at Roberta's, making the meagerly sized salads more noticeable.   They even look skimpy on the plate.  Six ribs of Treviso tinged with epoisses and a sprinkle of crunchy breadcrumbs comprised a salad with too few leaves for everyone at our table to get one.  Unfortunate, because the bitter lettuce made fine friends with the pungent cheese and peppery arugula that accompanied it.  Still a little spartan but by far my favorite of the night was an asparagus composition, with raw and grilled spears alike atop smooth, creamy dollops flavored of aged gouda and decorated with fresh, earthy pea shoots and oniony Tinkerbell crowns of fried shallot.  For this, I wished there weren't so many mouths at my table.
Combo Plate

Many of them, however, were fixated on the Combo Plate, though. It featured a trio of charcuterie and as many cheeses with a crusty hunk of baguette- which for Roberta's being known for their bread, was good-but-not-revolutionary.  The best cheese on the plate was a profoundly creamy and salty-sweet Caveman Blue from Oregon... a cheese so good that I fell for it even before I realized its provenance, so my hometown bias could not have played a part.

Celtuce Salad
One ingredient that did hold its own in flavor and novelty, however, was the crisp Celtuce- a succulent celery/lettuce combo with a slight bitterness and earthy sweetness, attributes amplified by grapefruit and almonds, and a flurry of bonito atop for salinity.  This was the kind of excitement I was expecting from Robeta's: strange, humble vegetables  most like grown on the roof, and expertly assembled in simple yet unerring compositions.  You can find it here, but not every time.

The options from the Kitchen section of the menu rekindled the buzz, though.  Squid with meyer lemon, chili and scallion was tender and bright, and a soft shell crab bronzed golden and crisp luxuriated in a creamy yogurt sauce and a flurry of whole-leaf herbs.   Seared sea scallops channeled Daniel Humm with a raw carrot furl and rapturous yogurt sauce, studded with zesty capers and chopped pistachios.  

And then came the Grand Finale, like the timballo in Big Night.  This steak, a 33 ounce Wagyu T-Bone, three inches thick and bloody as Foreman in the eighth round.  Wallowing in its rich juices were a braise of mustard greens and plump morels- finally in an abundance that would leave no eater bereft.  The meat was rich, fatty and fork-tender.  I, preferring my steak more cooked, tended to the  peripheral morsels which enjoyed more heat and salt, while the rare-ivores delved within, and those seeking the real results of that 75-day age plunged close to the bone, where the real gaminess was hiding.   Funny thing is, is that I think they must've been waiting for us, with this steak.  Typical dry-aged meat hangs around for a month, maybe plus... I've seen two months before, max.  But 75 days?  Were they just holding on to this behemoth cut, waiting desperately for a group both big enough (and with pocketbooks to match), to snatch this baby up?  I can imagine them in back "Yeah, it's sixty days now.  But wait!  We can hold on another day.  Maybe tomorrow..." Then 61, 65, 70... finally, probably hours before they thought they might have to divvy the thing up for crostini or something WE show up.  And we did it justice.

Wrapping up (because after an indulgence like that, you just can't forgo dessert), we shared a small cherry semi-freddo with nutty chunks of sesame granola, and a green strawberry shortcake (the Californians amongst us claiming was SO '90s, although I'd never eaten such a thing).  Novel, again, perhaps the green ones were, but they couldn't make up for the angel food cake- a personal pet-peeve of mine, because definitively angel food cake is NOT (or at least shouldn't be allowed to stand in for) true shortcake, which should either be pound cake , or ideally, a biscuit.  All this hoo-ha about Roberta's exceptional breads should've been able to bandy up a a decent biscuit.   At any rate, no dessert could've really topped out that steak experience (at least not in such close juxtaposition), although both we tried were inarguably lovely.  Just that steak was a tough act to follow.  Now, you'll probably never be able to get it, that steak, there at Roberta's, but it does show you what is possible here.  You might love the pies there or just like them, and you might have to order your own individual salads, but there is also the chance of something magnificent arriving on your plate as well.  You'll just have to go to Roberta's and find out.

  • 261 Moore St Brooklyn,NY
  • Morgan Ave stop on L train
  • Open Daily 11a.m.-Midnight
  • delivery hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-11pm Sat-Sun noon-11pm
  • 718-417-1118

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