good shmeats

one food-loving vegetarian taking New York City's restaurants one plate at a time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kush Cafe - Clinton Hill

Kush Cafe
17 Putnam Avenue (at Fulton)

The recently opened Kush Café offers diners a touch of the exotic with the familiar charm of a neighborhood café. Named after the African civilization that flourished between the years of 1700-1500 BC, Kush’s cuisine features a Pan-African menu with French accents. But despite the ancient namesake, the welcoming staff at Kush is focused on the local community of Clinton Hill and the culinary satisfaction of their customers.

Kush displays locally produced artwork on its exposed-brick walls, interspersed with swaths of bright cloth. (I was fortunate enough to dine with the currently featured artist, Fort Greene’s Rebecca Potts, on my most recent brunch trip to Kush.) Shielded from noise and visual distraction by a 5-foot brick wall, Kush’s backyard provides a lush bit of respite in the middle of concrete Brooklyn. The copious green plants along the wall’s edges attract butterflies and other “wildlife” to the airy space. During brunch, an orange kitten appeared, darting skittishly amongst the tables before launching itself over the brick fence and out of sight.

(Gum Tree, Rebecca Potts - 2002)

Kush’s menu feels slightly sparse at first glance, but offers enough intriguing options to compensate for the lack of choices. My brunch mate sampled the sorrel and tamarind juice alongside her salad – a mixture of greens and hearts of palm. The glass of murky juice she received resembled a turn-of-the-century health elixir more than a brunch drink. Its depth and tartness tingled unfamiliarly on our tongues. Although not an unpleasant drink, it would probably be more satisfying on a crisp fall day rather than a steamy summer morning.

Feeling slightly wilted after my bike ride from Park Slope, I ordered the Salad de Chevre ($7.00) which paired fresh salad greens and slices of bright red tomato. Each tomato round was crowned with an ample spoonful of fruit and nut chutney.

Medallions of cornmeal-fried goat cheese rested along the salad’s periphery. Each medallion crunched slightly and then gave way to a rich, crumbly center. The entire salad was laced with a spice-infused balsamic dressing that highlighted the greens without overpowering the dish. Both beautifully executed and refreshing, I left feeling satiated and dreaming up ways to recreate the fried goat-cheese in my own kitchen.

Entering into the Kush Café, I felt as if I had stumbled upon an ancient treasure. Upon leaving, I realized that I actually had just dined at a soon-to-be neighborhood hotspot.