Restaurant review: New Williamsburg taverns

Allswell and Lighthouse court the nabe's newest habitus.

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Short Ribs with Braised Red Cabbage, Caraway & Dill

    Short ribs with braised red cabbage, caraway  and dill

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Allswell

    Allswell

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Sweet Potato Gratin

    Sweet potato gratin

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Smoked Trout with Radish, Beets & Horseradish Cream

    Smoked trout with radish, beets and horseradish cream

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Veal Heart on Toast with Salsa Verde

    Veal heart on toast with salsa verde

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Shaker Pie with Creme Fraiche

    Shaker pie

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Allswell

    Allswell

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Allswell

    Allswell

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Allswell

    Allswell

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Allswell

    Allswell

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Short Ribs with Braised Red Cabbage, Caraway & Dill

Short ribs with braised red cabbage, caraway  and dill

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>1/5

Williamsburg is flush with new arrivals these days: Manhattan refugees pursuing their version of the urban dream in tight high-rise condos sprouting all over the 'hood. But while the skyline might look more corporate than ever, the dining scene has retained the do-it-yourself identity the area was always known for. It may be the epicenter, in fact, of the deeply personal mom-and-pop restaurant—the sort of self-financed, hand-built, chef-owned debut rarely seen on the other side of the river.

Such casual labors of love can be spotted on every street corner, it seems. They're often less ambitious than the first wave of hipster canteens—spots like Diner and Dressler—that put the 'Burg on the map. A neighborhood that's growing and maturing has less need for challenging destination restaurants than it does easy, everyday places to eat.

It needs places like Allswell, a new gastropub near McCarren Park, where the reception is warm and the food simple, satisfying, fresh and delicious; and Lighthouse, where the portions and flavors are big, and the barkeep—who also owns the joint—might have your stiff drink at the ready even before you sit down.

The former, which took over an old Polish dive, is a family affair: Nate Smith, who cooked for a while at the Spotted Pig, runs Allswell with his wife, pastry chef Sophie Kamin. With its antique wallpaper and baroque chandelier (a tangle of brass and hunting horns), their cozy tavern looks as if it might have been open for decades, though it's been just a few months. The menu, which changes daily, is listed on a blackboard and on the restaurant's blog. As is imperative in these parts, it reflects the season and the chef's general mood.

If he's feeling extravagant, there might be foie gras to start, a house-made torchon that's a bargain at $12, and as rich and creamy as any in town. It was a holdover from the New Year's Eve menu, carried into the first week of the year. But Smith is generally less ostentatious than that, favoring a Continental mix of Anglo, French and Italian fare—spare and rustic and moderately priced.

A more typical meal might begin with a simple toss of house-smoked trout, wilted radicchio and warm crushed potatoes. There are always a few bright salads and a hearty pasta or two, like a lemony mix of curly casarecce, cranberry beans, anchovies, capers and flaked hunks of swordfish. While there's still a winter chill, you'll find more serious sustenance, too, like a fortifying roulade of fork-tender wet-roasted veal breast with caramelized onions and celeriac puree. Kamin, who used to make pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, keeps the homey vibe going here with sweet treats like a fig-and-apple tart with a fine flaky crust and a caramel-sauced moist chocolate cake.

Vitals: Allswell

Eat this: Though the menu changes daily, look for pastas, like casarecce with swordfish, and hearty roast meats, like veal breast with celeriac puree.

Drink this: The old-fashioned cocktails fit the old-world space. Try the Merry Well, a wintry mix of Averna, Allspice Dram, dry vermouth and rye served chilled in a snifter ($11). The rotating beer selection includes seasonal brews like the dark and spicy Greenport Harbor Antifreeze ($6).

Sit here: The small tables along the far wall are squeezed in too tightly. There's more room at the bar or at the big communal table in the middle of the room.

Conversation piece: The wood sign out front and old particleboard menu on a wall near the bathrooms are the last remnants of the restaurant this space used to be, the Polish institution Raymund's Place.

Allswell

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>1/5

124 Bedford Ave at North 10th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-799-2743). Subway: L to Bedford Ave. Daily 10am--3:30am. Average main course: $22.


Lighthouse

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>1/5

145 Borinquen Pl at Keap St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-789-7742). Subway: G to Metropolitan Ave. Tue, Wed 6pm--midnight; Thu, Fri 6pm--1am; Sat noon--4pm, 6pm--1am; Sun noon--4pm, 6pm--midnight. Average main course: $22.

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