Quick Bites: Oden omakase, Roman pizza, jerk chicken tacos, oh my!


Welcome to our fifth installment of Quick Bites, a semi-regular roundup of all the local food news that’s fit to eat.

Dashi Okume hosts an outrageously good ‘Oden Omakase’ on weekends through March

One of two bowls of oden served during the omakase (Photo by Scott Lynch)

Every day is a umami party at Dashi Okume, the shop within Greenpoint’s 50 Norman complex that specializes in preparing tea bag-like packets of custom-made dashi, a rich broth popular in Japan made from ingredients such as dried flying fish, sweet kelp, and maitake mushrooms. This winter though, on Friday and Saturday nights, Dashi Okume is taking their umami love to a new level with a $75, seven-course omakase centered on bowls of the soul-satisfying Japanese soup known as oden.

“Oden is one of Japan’s most iconic foods,” Dashi Okume’s general manager Shohei Miyajima tells Brooklyn Magazine. “It’s a winter favorite for Japanese people. If there’s a cold wind, everyone starts craving oden.” It’s easy to understand why. Dashi is a broth made from umami-rich ingredients. Oden is a soup made with that dashi, then filled with hearty and also very umami-rich ingredients. As Miyajima put it, “it’s umami on umami on umami.”

You get two bowls of oden with your omakase meal, though the dashi is the same with each. When I went last Saturday, the latter included dried bonito, boiled and dried anchovies, koshin shiitake, and hidaka kelp. It was startlingly good, sending a surge of pleasure through my body as I gulped it down. The first bowl starred a massive hunk of sodden daikon radish and a couple of fried tofu-vegetable fritters known as ganmodoki. The second was loaded with fried shrimp cake, an incredibly soft and pillowy flour dumpling, a slab of lotus root, and a meaty shiitake.

These two courses would have been plenty filling on their own, but your meal starts with a couple of snacks — the cured mackerel, or shime saba, was the best I’ve ever had — and ends with two more, including a crunchy rice ball in more of the dashi, covered in many, many bonito shavings. After all that umami, a scoop of yuzu sorbet provides a welcome, soothing finish to your feast.

The cured mackerel appetizer (Photo by Scott Lynch)

The dining area is set behind the Dashi Okume counter, and is very much integrated into the houseware and design store Cibone, which also inhabits 50 Norman. You’ll be sitting on backless stools, but the meal only takes about an hour or so depending on how much sake you order; carafes run from $17 to $53. I stuck with glasses of Kettl iced buckwheat tea, which were perfect. Really an awesome winter date night if you’re looking to do something different.

Dashi Okume‘s oden omakase is served on Friday and Saturday nights through March, and is located at 50 Norman Avenue, just off Guernsey Street. Reservations are highly recommended.

South Slope gets some stellar pizza and pastries at the all-day cafe Little Honey

Tomato and salumi slice, $5.50; mushroom slice, $6 (Photo by Scott Lynch)

From the street — in this case, Seventh Avenue in South Slope — the brand new Little Honey looks like a friendly and bright but otherwise pretty standard coffee shop. Through the big front windows you can see the coffee machines and such right up front at a wide counter, a pastry case near the register, and a narrow row of tables running towards the back. Nice, sure, but not necessarily newsworthy.

Ah but there are a number of exceptional treats in store for you at Little Honey, including some of the best slices of pizza in the neighborhood. Chris Irish, born and raised in Park Slope (he’s since moved to Clinton Hill, but his mom still lives down the street from the new shop), teamed up with two crack chefs to run the pastry and pizza program here: Myles Broscoe, who worked at the beloved Franny’s (RIP) for a couple of years, and Patrick Shaw-Kitch, also a Franny’s alum and most recently the head baker at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

The pizza is done up Roman style: thick, focaccia-like rectangular slices that are surprisingly airy and charred to a crisp around the edges. The secret ingredient, says Irish, is the Farmer Ground flour, stoneground up in Trumansburg, New York, and it does make for an excellent crust. But I’d say that the toppings are pretty key as well, like that bright tomato sauce, the big blobs of melty mozz, the funky salumi and the luscious porcini cream hidden within the mushroom slice.

The housemade pastries include a couple of croissants (one sweet, one savory), a buttermilk biscuit which you can turn into a upscale bacon, egg, and cheese, and a first-rate chocolate chip cookie. You can also get grab-and-go salads. Dinner is coming in a month or so, and Irish told us the nighttime menu will feature individual-sized round pies, entrees like roasted chicken, and probably a baked pasta or two.

Little Honey is located at 487 Seventh Avenue, between Prospect Avenue and Windsor Place, and is currently open on Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Cmarty’s killer jerk chicken tacos are popping up three nights a week at King Thai

Three jerk chicken tacos, $16 (Photo by Scott Lynch)

Christopher Martin, the chef and owner of Cmarty’s Jerk, first got into the grilling game because, like a lot of kids, he liked to play with fire. “Helping my dad cook at the grill, that was my excuse. It was as simple as me being a little pyro,” he told Brooklyn Magazine. “I didn’t realize jerk’s cultural roots and ties back then, but I felt it in my blood and in my body. It was cool.”

And so, after years of dabbling and a few detours along the way (studying civil engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, for example), Martin decided during the early pandemic to go all in on the jerk business. These days, in addition to a few corporate catering gigs, that means slinging jerk chicken tacos, nachos and quesadillas three nights a week under the name Cmarty’s at the occasionally rowdy Crown Heights bar King Thai.

Cmarty’s jerk tacos are terrific, a trio of añejo tortillas overstuffed with mounds of hacked-up, saucy bird. There’s a touch of sweetness here, and an underlying citrus tang, but there’s plenty of kick as well, thanks in part to Martin’s fiery salsa verde. It’s extremely satisfying bar food. And Martin, who lives right nearby in Crown Heights, loves to mingle with the crowd, so don’t be surprised if he chats it up a bit when he delivers your meal.

Cmarty’s Jerk can be found at King Thai starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday nights. The bar is located at 1095 Bergen Street, just west of Nostrand Avenue, and offers happy hours specials until 8 p.m. nightly. 

The post Quick Bites: Oden omakase, Roman pizza, jerk chicken tacos, oh my! appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.


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