Sunday, October 23, 2011

THE SUNBURNT CALF is Born in Brooklyn

Interior
The Moo Life Group Aussie-run restaurant empire recently gave birth to a baby calf in Brooklyn. Opening in early October to the trending public of Prospect Heights, The Sunburnt Calf BK joined his Manhattan brothers, The Sunburnt Cow (East Village), The Sunburnt Calf (Upper West Side), and Bondi Road (Lower East Side). Australian father-owner Heathe St. Clair has another offspring to proudly pat on the head. He enlisted the expertly soulful skills of Chinese Chef Jimmy Tu to create what they coin tapas-style “Australiasian” cuisine - though any touch of Australian influence is hardly detectable save for the linguistic accents of the staff. No matter as Tu, having deep family roots in Vietnam, showcases his familiar way around a wok with star power.



Shaking Beef
He knows his meats, utilizing enhancing and enriching marinades. Top of the list are the cubes of saucy “Shaking Beef” toppling over leafy watercress, creamy avocado, and bright cherry tomatoes. Sprinkled with crushed peanuts (as almost every dish here is), the textures are outstanding. (I had this dish on separate visits and it was consistently delicious.) So too is the red-braised pork belly stuffed in a puffy steamed bun, the rich flavors of lemongrass, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and orange marinade radiating with each tender bite. This could be ordered a million times over. With a welcomed detour to India, the large, melt-in-your-mouth lamb mussamam curry bowl served with a chunk of succulent sweet potato was a comforting warm brilliance on the tongue.



Pork Buns
Lamb Mussamam Curry
The seafood is not a strong suit - yet. There is plenty of time to improve the tiny scallops tossed over spicy glass noodles, and the beer-steamed prawns devoid of punch - both proved the provided slick chopsticks to be useless. The beer-battered Baramundi fried fish chunks disjointedly rested upon sauce-less cold noodles. Also a futile attempt with chopsticks, perhaps grilling the fish to provide levity and serving all components at the same temperature would achieve harmony.



Beer-battered Barramundi

Scallops with Spicy Glass Noodles

Papaya Salad
The fresh papaya salad is not to be missed, its mountainous shreds peppered with crispy shallots, crushed peanuts and juicy tomatoes. Nor is the “Lollipop” shrimp, minced and packed into an oblong patty that is grilled and perched on a luscious lemongrass sugarcane stick. Served with lettuce wraps and fresh whole leaves of basil and mint (another thoughtful motif found in other dishes like the spring rolls and the “Bang Xeo” shrimp and crab crepe), these lollies are all too easy to pop.



"Bang Xeo" Shrimp Crepe
Spring Rolls
Shrimp Lollipop
If you like to interact with your food, the fun “Roti” wrap board provides cupped compartments of goodies for you to fold into a crispy semi-soft “bread” akin to a scallion pancake. With a choice of two proteins (mine were that glorious pork belly and glazed chicken), they marry beautifully with a dollop of fresh guacamole, kaffir lime pickled cucumber and cauliflower, a vibrant mint leaf, and endless drizzles of a sweet and spicy roasted tomato sauce. Every bite will remind you of its excellence.



Roti Board
Thai Tea Cupcake

Tapioca Pudding

The Asian thread weaves through the desserts as well, with tannic Thai tea cupcakes donning sweet cream cheese frosting, and the best-balanced bowl of savory tapioca-pearled pudding coddling slightly sweet diced mango and pineapple. These go down as easily as the cocktails, like the Kaffir Lime Gimlet and the Cucumber Margherita with chile-infused agave.


Kaffir Gimlet
Cucumber-Chile Margherita
With an all-Aussie (er, New Zealand included) staff who welcomes you down-under with accented charm and attentive service, and banging tastes to back it up, I advise you make this newborn Calf your mate.


Back Patio


Tom Yum Shrimp Wonton Soup
Baby Bok Choy

Steamed Prawns


The Sunburnt Calf BK
611 Vanderbilt Ave (moolifegroup.com, 347-915-1000)                                       
Photos by Rebecca Kritzer

*Article originally written by Rebecca Kritzer for CityPath.com