Wednesday, July 18

what happened to my ghoulash?

there's a downfall to having such an extensive restaurant/food list: it takes FOREVER to try and get through. for health reasons, for social reasons, for work reasons, and most importantly, for monetary reasons. some times a restaurant gets crossed off the list not because i've finally gone there to eat, but because the restaurant has closed.

while that didn't happen this time, something of equal importance did: the chef had changed and the menu had been completely revamped. so i had no idea what to expect when i went to The Karloff for dinner last night.

i have been trying to meet up with GI for over a month but he's always perpetually busy, this time even more so since he was the best man for 2 weddings which were only 2 weeks apart and training for a cross-county run in Europe. GI is one active fella. but the great news is that he just moved to my neck of the city: Brooklyn Heights! so many of the people i love are migrating towards my neighborhood and i couldn't be happier.

i suggested a late dinner at the Karloff in order to cross a restaurant off my list and play catch-up with GI in the process. my googling of the restaurant told me that they had closed for renovations in the beginning of June and had only recently re-opened as of June 28th with a brand new menu. and then 1 week after the re-opening their executive chef parted ways with the restaurant for "budget" reasons. so needless to say, i was now a little nervous about my dinner suggestion.

i had mistakenly believed that i had enough time to run home and change out of the torture devices aka high heels i had worn to work that day, which of course made me a few mins late to dinner.  i sat down at the table across from GI and noticed that we were the only people in the restaurant at 8 pm. now i was even more worried.

the waiter immediately swooped in and asked if i would like anything to drink. looking at the mason jar full of beer GI was already drinking, i inquired about it and was informed it was the House Lager ($5) and was similar to a light lager. the color of the beer seemed to confirm the waiter's claim so i ordered one. only to find out from GI that the beer was actually an IPA. it was still good but i'm not usually an IPA fan because of the bitter aftertaste it leaves in my mouth. and it gives me a wicked headache after 2+ glasses.

we started with an order of Potato Latkes ($8) and Meat Vareniki ($10) which had both been highly acclaimed by on-line reviews. plus, it seemed to be the only real russian/hungarian appetizer offerings left at the Karloff, which has severely reduced their menu offerings to a mix of more American type fare with a few Russian/Hungarian options interspersed. in fact, the entree offerings skewed entirely towards the usual American fare options, although with a culinary twist, but without any of the European influence that was the primary reason the restaurant was on my list in the first place.

Picture taken from Serious Eats, photographer Jessie Pascoe.  Our latkes didn't look like this. think smaller and fancier.  These are latkes from the Karloff's days of yore.
the Potato Latkes were actually very good, served with a vinegary red cabbage on top of each serving (there were 2 per plate-perfect for GI and i to eat 1 each). a small side of sour cream was belatedly brought to the table. but no apple sauce? in retrospect i doubt the applesauce is actually needed because of the sweet and tangy flavor of the cabbage. the latkes themselves were a little thicker than others i've had but had all the right elements: crispy crunchy outside with a nice tender center. these were probably a distant cousin to well-cooked hash browns.

the Vareniki, which you have the option of ordering meat or veggie, were yummy little baby pierogies filled with meat  instead of potato and cheese. i refrain from using the word dumpling only because they don't remind me of dumplings, they remind me of baby pierogies. the skin is not too thick or thin, but retains that slight crispy edge that i've come to associate with pierogies which are boiled and then pan-fried. the filling was a sufficient size and taste, although my inner (or outer) glutton would have preferred the filling to bursting out of their skins. but then that wouldn't have looked as pretty would it?

for entrees GI ordered the Trout ($19) while i opted for the Braised Oxtail ($16). the trout was the clear winner, grilled with a crispy skin on top but tender meat within without being dry. it was served with diced red potatoes and a slight cream sauce but maintained a relatively light feel to the dish. the oxtail on the other hand was 3 pieces of oxtail which, while tender enough that i could cut the meat away from the bone, was not exactly fall off the bone, which is what i would have preferred. it was served atop the biggest pile of mashed potatoes i've ever received in a restaurant portion. and although i am usually a big fan of that starchy side, i was getting pretty full from our heavier appetizers (and the giant breakfast and half a bar of swiss chocolate i had consumed at work. yes, i'm keeping it real).

overall, i thought the Karloff wasn't too bad. the food was good, if not exactly the type of cuisine i was expecting. i would definitely come back for the appetizers, and while the entrees were good, they weren't particularly special. but at least i get to finally cross it off my list.

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