There are restaurants that are more appropriate for special occasion dining, like the expensive multi-Michelin Star establishments with long tasting menus. Then there are restaurants where you feel comfortable visiting at least once every couple of months not only because of the budget consideration but because you generally like the restaurant’s vibe, food and drinks. In that category, I would like to nominate LaLou as a strong newcomer in Brooklyn’s ever-evolving dining scene. This natural wine-centric bar and restaurant opened last year, and already went through one turnover of chef before I even had a chance to visit with my wife Jun. We finally found an opportunity to visit the restaurant on a recent weekend, and there was just so much to like about our dining experience here.
Let’s talk about the food at LaLou first. The concise, seasonally changing menu consists of farm-to-table themed dishes that emphasize the freshness of ingredients. In fact, our server who experienced the food of both chefs during her time at the restaurant remarked that she preferred this style of the current chef, Jay Wolman (who used to work at restaurants like Hart’s and King), over the predecessor (who, based on my cursory look at the menus from the early days of the restaurant on the Internet, seems to have pursued a more classical and refined version of New American food you see at upscale restaurants). You’ll get this simplistic yet focused cooking from dishes like house ricotta with preserved lemon and candied almonds, which Jun praised effusively for how fresh the cheese was, or the roasted radicchio that displayed great texture and was delightfully sour and sweet in flavor thanks to the use of black currant agrodolce sauce. If you are feeling something smoky, by all means go for the head on prawns that were grilled quite capably. For a main dish, I knew Jun would want to try the roasted duck, and it turned out the meat was quite a smart choice, displaying very good texture (which not many restaurants in the city can accomplish) and working absolutely beautifully with savoy cabbage to balance out the meaty taste. The only disappointment for us during our meal was the sticky toffee pudding that we ordered for dessert; while it was quite rich in flavor, it somehow lacked the extra punch that Jun was looking for.
Getting a reservation at LaLou isn’t too difficult using Resy, but do try to book in advance; the dining room was completely full during our meal with local Brooklynites looking to have some good time with friends and family. The cozy vibe of the space with just the right amount of lighting makes LaLou an ideal place to enjoy an intimate dinner for a variety of occasions, and really makes it a neighborhood restaurant you want to go every month. The wine list at LaLou features mostly natural and biodynamic wines but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something more conventional that can still work very well with food, like an elegant bottle of Bourgogne Rouge Jun and I enjoyed together, especially as it started opening up in the air after we asked to decant it. We really enjoyed our time at LaLou and would love to visit again in the near future to try other dishes. This place gave me such favorable impression that may warrant getting the KenScale All-Star badge eventually in the future.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 581 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238