Right on the main drag of Flatbush Avenue, elberta is within coveted proximity to the Barclay’s Center (the current calling card for restaurants from Park Slope to the farthest corner of Clinton Hill). But it would be a shame to hold off on dinner at elberta until you can get your hands on tickets for the NKOTB/Boyz II Men/98 Degrees extravaganza…scheduled for mid-June, in case you were wondering.
To be sure, the intimate restaurant has undergone a few growing pains in the last couple of years, transforming from Heights Coffee to a full-fledged eatery, existing for a short while as the Velvet Peach Café. When husband-and-wife team (and former Peach investors) Erwin Caesar and Erica Philips took it over, the re-named elberta experienced further starts and stops, flirting with a Southern-inspired menu (shrimp and grits, catfish po boys, buttermilk fried chicken), that’s been gradually phased out.
Now, with chef Kingsley John in the kitchen, elberta has come into its own. Although John brings classical training and a refined sensibility to the fore — having worked at high-end restaurants like Aquavit and Charlie Trotter’s — the dynamic flavors of his native Caribbean (so seldom referenced in this brand of seasonal, New American cooking) are often, deliciously, front and center.
You’ll sense them in the creamy Carrot Soup, flavored with coconut and ginger, as well as in a dish of sorrel-glazed BBQ Lamb Ribs, and an escabeche-esque Marinated Sardine, layered with kohlrabi and apple vadouvan puree. John’s defining dish, however, just may be his Goat Ravioli — as strong an argument for checking out elberta’s as their infamous,
pickle, olive, blue cheese and bacon-topped Bloody Mary, or insanely affordable $20 three-course prix fixe.
Inspired by the oxtail tortellini he used to make at Charlie Trotter’s, John’s been trying to get this dish on a restaurant menu ever since. Thank goodness elberta has decided to give it a go. John makes his dough daily, stuffing it with goat meat that’s been stewed in vegetable stock, and flavored with curry, cumin, onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, and a cinnamon stick. The hand-formed bundles are bathed in a rich cauliflower cream and dotted with plump raisins and an extra shake of curry…both sweet and savory, not at all gamey, and maybe, just maybe, one of the best pasta dishes we’ve eaten all year. If elberta continues to green-light dishes like these, they sure won’t need the Barclay’s Center to guarantee success.
335 Flatbush Ave, (718) 638-1936
*One of our other favorite things about elberta is the bathtub-sized cocktails, made by mixologist George Duval. He keeps extra close tabs on the kitchen, making sure his tasty libations pair perfectly with the food. He recommends the herbaceous and citrusy Winter White Sangria as a partner for the peppery Goat Ravioli, and was kind enough to share the recipe below!
(makes one drink)
5-6oz Herb Infused Sangria (see recipe below)
1 Spoonful of Fresh Mixed Fruit
Dried Citrus Zest
Sugar in the Raw
Dip ½ of the rim of a wine glass in lime juice, and then in a mix of the citrus zest and sugar in the raw. Fill glass with ice, and add the sangria mix and fruit, and top off with champagne.
6 Bottles of Sweet Wine (Muscato, Riesling, Demi-sec)
5-10 Stalks of lemon grass
1-2 Bunches of thyme
1 Bunch of Sage
1 Bunch of Parsley
1 Bunch of Basil
1 Bunch of mint
1 Lg Can of Pineapple Juice
1 Quart of Fruit Puree (Peach, Mango, Pear, Plum, Quince, etc.)
1 Bottle of Brandy (Apricot, Apple, Pear, Etc)
1 Bottle of Peach Schnapps
Muddle cleaned herbs in a glass container. Add in all of the liquid, and seal the container. Allow to sit for a few days — the longer it sits, the more herbaceous the sangria will be. Mix and strain before using.