The farm-to-table movement took Brooklyn like a counterculture riptide, leaving in its kale-strewn wake a glut of seasonal spots serving composed plates in down-home haunts. In the most recent twist of the borough’s dining evolution, those scruffy locavores have put out more polished sophomore efforts—hipster shanty Roberta’s spun off sleek tasting room Blanca, while T-shirt-clad Franny’s gave way to the urbane Marco’s.
With their debut, the perpetually mobbed Battersby, chefs Walker Stern and Joe Ogrodnek dance the high-low jig particularly well, serving fine-dining food in a boisterous room. At Dover, the setting is more serene, and the food even more refined.
A central bar anchors the unadorned space, where couples on the brink of parenthood lean close over Ikea-esque tables. While the spartan decor is a bit of a snooze, the menu is anything but. Dish after dish, Stern and Ogrodnek throw down big flavors, never failing to whip them into a surprisingly delicate balance.
Small, crisp cauliflower florets ($12) swerve salty in a dressing of colatura (Italian anchovy sauce), but are straightened sweet by plump raisins and chopped hazelnuts. Lusty grilled lamb ribs ($28) and tender slips of eggplant get a briny slap from Thai fish sauce, but are soothed by a blanket of fried garlic, crushed peanuts and fresh herbs.
The young chefs also have a knack for creating subtle tensions between sweet and tart. A slab of confited pork belly ($15) mingles with roasted fruits and vegetables, its rich, quince-and-vinegar-spiked jus rousing the earthy meat. Silky hunks of lobster (half $21, full $36) are roasted in the shell, the sweet flesh burnished bright with a butter of mustard, lemon and roe.
In this ingredient-crazed era, when too many kitchens seem to put more effort into listing farms on a menu than tweaking dishes, Stern and Ogrodnek have figured out how to give proper attention to both farm and table.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meal highlights: Caviar pie, cauliflower, pork belly, lobster, lamb ribs, baked Alaska
Behind the bar: A white roussanne nicely balances sweet and acid, making it a worthy companion for the pork belly and lobster; at $52 for a bottle, it drifts toward the cheaper end of the list.
Vibe: Casual enough to not feel stuffy, but elegant enough to skirt becoming a stroller parking lot.
Cocktail chatter: Shocked by contractor prices, Stern and Ogrodnek built both Battersby and Dover on their own, laying floors and crafting the bar.
Soundcheck: Brooklyn couples arguing over baby names can get only so loud.
By Daniel S. Meyer