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Bussaco

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Starting a chowder trend in Park Slope

833 Union St., near Seventh Ave., (718) 857-8828. Mon.-Thur., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri & Sat., 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

CUISINE: Contemporary American
VIBE: Domesticated firehouse
OCCASION: Casual date, group dinner
DON’T-MISS DISH: Crab chowder, sweet potato tortellini, Greek yogurt cheesecake
AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $10; entrees, $21; dessert, $7
RESERVATIONS: Accepted

 

Eating the crab chowder at Bussaco makes me wonder why chowder isn’t
more popular. Was there a chowder trend? Did I miss it? Why don’t we
have one now? After all, it’s a good time for one. The economy sucks
and the weather is starting to suck, too.

Just imagine – a cold
evening, a warm restaurant and a hot bowl of chowder, the white not the
red. And what makes it even cozier is that you’re seated in a roomy
banquette at Bussaco, a converted firehouse in Park Slope. Bussaco’s chowder is not your average bowl of chowder. It’s fancy.

That’s
what you get when a chef who trained at Le Bernardin makes chowder.
It’s got tons of sweet, fresh blue crab meat. Most chefs use flour to
thicken the broth. Not Matthew Schaefer. His chowder is more of a creamy consommé made with celery, chives, shallots, bacon and potatoes.

Instead
of oyster crackers, he serves tapioca chips dusted in Old Bay
seasoning. The crab chowder is all you need to order. Not that it’s the
only thing worth ordering at Bussaco.

What makes this menu
interesting is that Schaefer serves only food that he really likes to
eat – Mom’s sauerkraut, homemade gravlax, Yorkshire pudding and fried
chicken. If you can’t make it to Roscoe’s Chicken n’ Waffles in Los Angeles,
try the fried chicken and waffles at Bussaco, also one of Schaefer’s
favorite dishes. His version is poussin – baby chicken – and
vanilla-scented waffles topped with caramelized apple-onion butter.

It’s likely to be one of your favorite dishes, too. So is “the
freshest mozzarella.” It isn’t really mozzarella until you ask for it.
After you order, Schaefer drops curds into hot, salted water and out
comes “the freshest mozzarella.” And then, he turns it into an autumn
cheese plate by adding diced delicata squash, candied pecans and sweet
dumpling squash puree.

There are a few dishes on the menu that
I’d stay away from. The pastrami duck breast came out practically
uncooked and unpastrami-ed. The slow roast pork and crispy pork
cracklings tasted like unbarbecued barbecue – no sauce, no flavor,
really.

I really hope Bussaco can grow into this wonderful
room, which manages to be elegant without being fussy. The tables are
generously spaced – you have room to eat, room to think, room to talk.

One thing’s for sure: This is a Brooklyn-centric restaurant. The long, communal table in the bar is made from an oak that once grew in Prospect Park, the coffee comes from Beford-Stuyvesant, the ale comes from Red Hook, and the chef and the pastry chef come from the borough, too.

The pastry chef’s name is Deborah Snyder,
who learned her trade at Judson Grill. There’s a wonderful maple crème
caramel that tastes just like crème brulée without the burnt sugar top.

Refreshing and light aren’t words you associate with cheesecake.
Except here. Snyder makes a Greek yogurt cheesecake, flecked with
vanilla and a perfect finish to a bowl of chowder.

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