Considering a sizable Bay Ridge contingent memorably lost its mind over the very notion of a craft beer garden, potential merchants are advised to proceed with caution, when introducing the neighborhood to Industry City-sourced charcuterie and cronut-style Franken-sweets. It’s a district that—in a charming sort of way—doesn’t take too kindly to outsiders; meaning that it’s no coincidence that the majority of change has been largely affected from the inside, with longtime residents beginning to nudge at the boundaries of spaghetti bolognese and Bud.
So it only makes sense that a chef’s table (perhaps the most potentially elitist of all restaurant offerings), was recently pioneered by two natives—Ted Fleetwood Nugent and Michael Esposito. The owners of the 13-year-old Cebu Bar & Bistro, a reliable favorite for fried calamari and to-go jugs of sangria (it’s also one of the few local spots to actually serve brunch), Nugent and Esposito have already fully ingratiated themselves to the community, thus making them perfectly positioned to engage in a bit of culinary rabble rousing.
As such, they’ve given their executive chef, Mikael Bueno (formerly of Bagatelle), the opportunity to spread his wings at least once a month, organizing intimate dinners in their private party room, featuring up to 13 unexpectedly high-concept courses. Instead of chopped parsley, plates are ringed with fairy trails of dehydrated beet dust, like in a beet salad reimagined in miniature, moistened with droplets of lemon oil and squiggles of curry-infused goat cheese mousse. Regularly drawing on his Colombian heritage (only hinted at in passing on Cebu’s regular menu), Bueno’s artful compositions include funky huitlacoche empanadas, anointed with puddles of sweet and smoky burned corn oil; and warm ceviche composed of shrimp and squid that’s been lapped with leche de tigre, an opaque marinade jolted with chile pepper, fresh cilantro, fish juice and lime.
Hand-patted cones of cannelloni might serve as the pasta course, wrapped around a faintly gamey lamb and goat pâté, and instead of roasted chicken, diners are more likely to be presented with delicate, burnished joints of achiote-rubbed Cornish hen, paired with petals of barely-blanched brussels sprouts, cupping fruity dribbles of tamarind aioli. Not that this poses any risk to locals, who’ve come to depend on Cebu for their daily dose of fried calamari and burgers—but instead, serves as a low stakes, special occasion option, for anyone interested in dabbling in the brave new world of fine dining, without having to leave the cozy confines of Bay Ridge.
8801 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge