Head-to-tail anchovies have proved a perfectly easy sell to the crowds of gastronomic thrill-seekers at Smorgasburg, but how do you push assertively piquant small bait to patrons practically weaned on red sauce-swaddled calamah? Since single concept spots often have a tough enough time just treading water (outside of browsy, idiosyncratic food markets, that is), Bon Chovie has wisely fleshed out the menu for its first dedicated restaurant, located in the culinarily cautious neighborhood of Bay Ridge.
That means, these namesake anchovies are essentially a postscript (or, to the uninitiated diner, a dare), keeping company with all manner of deep-fried, seafaring creatures. Since the area’s wealth of Italian eateries is only equaled by its abundance of British bars, there’s a mighty fine (and mercifully fresh) fish and chips available; colossal hunks of cod cloaked in voluminous peaks of beer batter, and lined with batons of crunchy russets, liberally speckled with Old Bay. Alternatively, you can pair your newspaper-swathed spuds with fat commas of shrimp, juicy and taut under their brittle cornmeal shells, or yes, even springy spirals of squid, served not with red sauce, but tomato-kissed pools of creamy remoulade. It all goes down well with Narragansett — the Eastern seaboard’s answer to Bud — although hipster baiters are sure to feel some sort of way about those quaint, handled mason jars.
There’s a lot of lily gilding afoot when it comes to lobster — the rosy claw meat proffered in a roll is top quality, but its inherent sweetness numbed by a pass through the fridge, distilled further by pre-lemoned mayo and biting scallions, then padded with lettuce, which always feels like a cheat. A respectable, all-beef cheeseburger is no better for its three optional ounces of lobster salad (albeit $10 more expensive), and for purists that barely embrace butter, submerging succulent lobster in mac and cheese seems tantamount to sacrilege. Kind of makes you long for the audacious nakedness of those marvelous, head-to-tail anchovies.