For years, YEARS, I read gushing accolades for Abistro in total disbelief since the Senegalese-meets-French menu is such a dull read. Nor did I believe the internet buzz, composed mostly of unsubstantiated statements like “The food was SO delicious,” or “It’s the best! Just go!”… like, what does that mean (and let’s pretend I *never* say such things). So I put off a visit for years. But with my move out of the neighborhood looming, I mustered up the will to make the walk into Fort Greene… and thank heaven I did… for the good, the bad…and the BYOB!
We began with the special appetizer of Sweet Plantains (which appears to be a standard special). The generous portion of ooey gooey fried plantains–smothered in maple syrup with a light sprinkle of scallions–is served with a side of pungent chipotle sauce. My Beau snickered as I gushed with delight over the creamy smoky sauce. “You know that is aioli… aka mayonnaise.” I didn’t–and I’ll admit, I cringed–but driven by flavor hypnotism, I summoned all my foodie courage and devoured the entire cup of my emulsified nemesis. If only all mayonnaises were as flavorful as this one…
Next on the agenda was the House Salad ($10). The bountiful mound of iceberg and arugula is robustly mixed with salty feta, roasted sunflower seeds, dried apricots and a perfectly light drizzle of apricot dressing. Although I expected the salad to incorporate fresh apricots (or some other stone fruit), I shoveled sweetly crisp forkfuls greedily into my mouth, leaving no leaf behind.
The vegetarian options at Abisto are admittedly limited. They have unappetizing names like “Vegetarian Burger” or “Vegetable Platter” – without any definitive descriptions (of course) – which to me means they might as well not exist. So, I ordered the only intriguing sounding entrée on the menu, Charette’s Seared Marinated Tofu ($16/$22) with braised kale, sautéed fresh strawberries, crimini mushrooms and a crispy yucca cake in strawberry vinaigrette. I really wanted to like this dish since I avidly support highlighting fruits in savory entrees, but this just didn’t work for me. The soy sauce flavor of the tofu didn’t jive with the pancake-topping-sweet strawberries. The mushrooms, meanwhile, were the average sautéed muck I’ve eaten across this country. As it turned out, the highlight of this course was the aromatically sweet and spicy yucca cake. I barely ate this plate – mostly because I had filled up on the addictive salad and plantains – so I packed it up and took it home…in the end, the yummy yucca cake was the only thing I ended up eating.
My Beau had the Senegalese Fried Chicken ($17/$23) served with pineapple scented jasmine rice cake, wilted vegetables with Senegalese salsa in dijonnaise sauce. The most notable comments he could make on the dish was that “the portion was too large” and that “your dish was better then mine”… ouch…
Abisto has proven, yet again, that small luscious appetizers and salads triumph, while bulky main entrees (vegetarian and omnivore alike) always lag behind. But despite these let downs, there’s no denying the sizzling smile of the waitress as she served the dining room packed with friendly locals. This restaurant is abuzz with cheer and joy, which (at times) is worth much more then a perfectly seasoned tofu cutlet.
154 Carlton Ave
(between Myrtle Ave & Willoughby Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11205