“Confidentially,” Erica Duecy, who's in charge of Fodor’s restaurant books, said before beginning the good part of our conversation last night at Sushi Twist, so I’ll be keeping the conversation to myself.
She was on the record, however, in expressing her delight at the three city books that came out yesterday for Paris, London and New York. She said they looked awesome.
We sampled unfiltered sake and the restaurant’s version of a Caipirinha, and then, after some fried dumplings and Japanese pickles, settled in for sushi. The specialty house rolls looked very much like those of other sushi restaurants of the genre, containing all sorts of things mixed together, rolled in rice and then topped with stuff (a Philadelphia roll with salmon, cream cheese and avocado; a Dancing Eel roll with shrimp tempura and cucumber, topped with shrimp, avocado and tobiko; you get the idea). I know they’re really popular, but Erica lived in Japan and I’ve been trained on more straightforward sushi, so we had a salmon skin roll and otherwise headed straight for the nigiri sushi — and some scallop and fresh water eel sashimi. We did both seem to be in the mood for slightly atypical fish, so instead of tuna and salmon, we headed for mackerel, sea urchin, raw shrimp (tempura-battered shells on the side, of course), more fresh water eel and flying fish roe.
On the way home I stopped by Ocean’s 8, the fairly new restaurant part of a big Brooklyn pool hall called BrownStone Billiards. I thought maybe James the dancing bartender would be there.
To clarify, James doesn’t dance while tending bar. He’s an aspiring dancer who moved to New York from southern California and tends bar to make ends meet. He used to work at The Modern but determined that a lower-key place was more his style.
I met him in early June, just as the restaurant was opening, when I popped in to check it out and try the spaghetti and meatballs. Then I came back again just last Wednesday to observe weekly Karaoke Night, and he chastised me for not being there more often.
Though James is not really a dancing bartender, he is a singing one, being semi-forced by management and the audience to do a number on Karaoke Night (last Wednesday he sang “Mr. Brownstone” by Guns N’ Roses. Cute, right?).
Ocean's 8/BrownStone Billiards is a strange place. It’s in tony Park Slope, but on ghetto-y Flatbush, a really urban pool hall with all that implies, but also a sports bar with wide screen TVs and local microbrew. The karaoke singers included a couple of Park Slope lesbians (one sang Purple Rain with gusto), but most of them seemed to be from adjacent neighborhoods — African-Americans likely from Prospect Heights and Crown Heights (some with terrific voices, singing mostly R&B), white people with more of the blue-collar air of Bensonhurst, Sunset Park and Midwood than the urban-chic and privileged grunge of Park Slope (heartfelt Frankie Valli and Frank Sinatra; unbearable caterwauling of schmaltz like “I Believe I can Fly”).
Anyway, James wasn’t there last night, but I still enjoyed my Ithaca Nut Brown Ale.