The Very Best Thing I Ate in Brooklyn This Year Is… a Vegetable Side Dish

photos by Jane Bruce

This year has been, like literally every other year ever, one of ups and downs. (And some damned good writing.) But through it all, one thing has remained consistent: I’ve eaten some really, really good things. All of us have, I’d guess! In fact, our Food Editor Sarah Zorn has an excellent rundown of her ten favorite dishes of the year right here, and you could literally dine out on that list alone (as well as this list of the best new Brooklyn restaurants and this one of best new Brooklyn bars) for the rest of the year, if you want. In fact, I’d encourage you to do so! Me, though? I’ll be sitting quietly at the bar of Williamsburg favorite Extra Fancy, eating bowl after bowl of my favorite thing I ate all year: Dry Fried Eggplant.

A relatively new addition to the Extra Fancy menu, the Dry Fried Eggplant is something even the eggplant-averse (who are you monsters) will happily inhale. The memory of its scent alone—a warm, savory, smoky, spice that beautifully lingers in the air even as the eggplant disappears—is enough to make my mouth water. But it’s really all about the flavor and, especially with eggplant, the texture. In this case, my favorite nightshade has an meltingly creamy interior with perfectly crisp exterior; the flavor is just as intoxicating as the scent, without being overpowering. Chef Sean Telo, who tells me that the dish is a tribute to Peter Chang’s, his favorite restaurant in Atlanta (now sadly closed), which held “a special place in [his] heart and always delivered the gansterist of gangster food.”

While I never had the food at Peter Chang’s, I can pretty safely say that Telo does it proud. The eggplant is redolent with Telo’s own “36 Chambers” seasoning, which, he explains, which is “obviously a shout out to the Wu-Tang Clan, who for all intents and purposes are [his] favorite band of all time, [and which] includes dried Island Creek oysters, dried count neck clams, kochukaru, Szechuan peppercorn, cumin and a few other top secret spices.”

All told, it makes for a pretty perfect meal, particularly when enjoyed during Extra Fancy’s happy hour, where $6 glasses of wine-on-tap are pretty much mandatory, and it’s easy to feel just about as satisfied as it’s possible to get in this crazy world.

Extra Fancy: 302 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg

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