Without going into the details, suffice it to say that Justin and I had several momentous things to celebrate last night. Ok, I’ll give you one of them: he parallel parked his car (a pickup truck) in NYC with less than an inch between him and the car in front of or behind him. The other stuff is personal, but equally necessary to celebrate. He was coming home (to Staten Island) from work in the city, so I didn’t think he’d want to drive all the way back there. But I didn’t want to eat on Staten Island, after my recent Mario’s disappointment. So I looked up some places in Brooklyn, and was thrilled when he chose Traif, in Williamsburg.
In preparation for writing this review, I looked up the word “traif,” expecting it to mean something decadent and porky, an innately delicious word. I was just tickled to find only the Urban Dictionary translation: “Traditionally, anything that is considered vile and non-kosher in the hebrew faith.” Not only did Traif provide me with, what may have been, the best meal of my life, but they’re funny, too! And if there are any Jews reading this, let’s not get all sensitive – I have nothing against you or your faith… I just love the irony and sarcasm in the meaning of the word. The restaurant’s website says, “Celebrating pork, shellfish, and globally-inspired soul food,” and it was indeed a celebration.
I can’t contain my excitement, I have to just proclaim it here and now: FIVE STARS, TRAIF!!!! You served, without a doubt, the most innovative and complex meal I have had in a very long time, possibly my entire life. You join the ranks of Toro, Casellula, and Alor Pasta, my only other five star rated restaurants. And – dare I say it – you were my favorite. Sure Alor Pasta has the best pasta, ever. And sure, Casellula was the coolest wine and cheese bar I’ve ever been to. But you, similarly to Toro, gave me foods and combinations I would never expect, and might never see anywhere else. Even better than Toro, you were more reasonably priced with a more casual ambiance. I’m in love with you Traif, and I don’t care who knows it.
I called at about 3:00, fearing that there would be no reservations available, but was easily accommodated for 8:00. When we arrived the place was kind of empty, but it wasn’t too long before the hipsters flooded in, and almost every table was full.
We checked out the drink menu, and went with the Rude Little Pig (lapsing-infused tequila, orange liqueur, pomegranate bacon rim) for me, and the Winter Cabin (buffalo trace bourbon, xocolatl mole bitters, 5 spice blend, orange, ginger) for Justin. Perfect and perfect.
Then we looked at the menu… OMG.
The waitress suggested 5-7 items for two people to share, tapas/family style. I did the only thing I (an OCD person with a huge fear of overlooking an amazing menu item) could think to do… I grabbed a pen and paper and made a list – there were 7 things on it. Then, I made Justin say out loud the things he wanted, without letting him see my list. He said some of the same things, but then also some other ones. Then I made the waitress tell me her favorites or “must haves,” again many of which were on my list, but one or two not. I had eleven items on the list. I started to panic. This was like Sophie’s Choice. In the end, we wound up choosing 8; the items we had cut being the hampshire pork belly, light stew of widow’s hole oysters, and the strawberry-cinnamon glazed berkshire baby back ribs. Let us pause for a moment of silence in memory of these three dishes, as I am sure, they were lovely…
Ok, so the 8 that we did go with, in the order they were served to us were:
First, a complimentary amuse bouche of warm red pepper soup
- Spicy bigeye tuna tartare, tempura japanese eggplant, kecap manis
- Buffalo milk burrata, bacon marmalade, blood orange, delicate squash, our own bread
- Joe’s chopped chicken livers, balsamic-bacon toasts, rosemary & shallots
- Dayboat scallops, parisienne gnocchi, mushrooms, black truffle & leek soubise
- Sauteed sweetbreads, roasted sunchokes, portobello mushroom, & sherry jus
- Bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-stuffed medjool dates, red quinoa tabbouleh
- BBQ, braised short rib sliders, sweet potato fries, smoked paprika aioli
- Seared foie gras, yukon potatoes, bacon, sunny egg, maple, hot sauce
Could you deal with reading and seeing all that? Because I could barely deal with typing it.
I’ve put a lot of thought into how I want to describe and write about each dish, and – as is the mark of a five star Baconboozer rated restaurant – I can’t think of any words besides “unique” and “outrageous” and “the best I’ve ever had” for each and every dish. Like the slider. I posted the close-up of the slider on my Instagram (@bacon_boozer) last night from the restaurant with the #myleastfavoritedish and #butiloveditsomuch. This was, in fact, my least favorite dish of the night, but it was the best and most amazing and unusual slider I have ever, ever eaten. I could go on and tell you the that foie gras was the best I’ve ever had (that egg, that bacon, that hot sauce), and that the scallops were the best I’ve ever had (the way the scallops and gnocchi matched, the generosity of the scallops in the dish, the perfection that was their light and fluffy and buttery gnocchi), and that the sweetbreads were the best I’ve ever had (the mushrooms, the sunchokes, the batter), and I could say the same thing for the chicken liver, and the burrata, and the tuna tartare, and the dates. And then even that little amuse bouche: that thing was incredible. But now I’ve already gone through every dish.
I hope the take away from my description (that everything I tasted was the best I’ve ever had) is that you simply, 100% without a doubt, must must must stop in this restaurant. I was not paid for this review, and took absolutely no form of compensation for writing it. I am telling you this simply because it would be a disservice to your tastebuds if they never have the chance to experience this food.
And can we talk about the calm/coolness that was going on behind the bar in the open kitchen area. There were three guys back there, as the restaurant completely filled up, cool as cucumbers. Sometimes even looking bored. I don’t know how they put out such perfect and detailed food. Every dish had so many components, and every one of them was executed flawlessly. It makes no sense. Last night I dreamed that there was a secret underground kitchen with an army of chefs preparing everything. I swear, I really dreamed that.
So Justin and I talked a lot about, if we absolutely had to rank the food, what would go where. And I think I’ve figured out my ordering, from least favorite to favorite. Again, this was like Sophie’s Choice. I don’t want the sliders to feel unloved, but…
Halfway through our meal, we had finished our cocktails, and switched over to beers:
Mine, the Stillwater, “of Love and Regret,” on the left, and Justin’s the Westbrook Citrus Ninja, on the right. Both great.
Ok so we made it through dinner, with completely disgustingly stuffed bellies. But we couldn’t skip dessert. We just couldn’t. I always, always must have dessert.
And who could ever skip dessert when there are bacon doughnuts (with dulce de leche and coffee ice cream) as an option? No one I know.
They were complete and utter perfection: surprisingly light, and the perfect salty sweet balance. The coffee was delicious, too.
And, as our bill came, so did the last bite, a complimentary candied pineapple bite with lime zest:
Ok, so on top of the meal being insanely, crazily, mind-blowingly yummy. The bill came to $180. I know, it’s not a cheap meal. But do you see the items we ordered? Do you see how many we ordered? Do you see how generous the portions were? I could probably get away with saying that I expected tiny, bite-sized portions for the prices listed on the menu and that’s why I needed to order eight (nine if you count dessert) dishes. Traif’s prices are incredibly reasonable. Service was impeccable, too. So I think that sums it all up: Best meal ever!