LIFESTYLE

Chef Tomer Blechman is making magic with fish and fire at Theodora 

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In 2017, Chef Tomer Blechman built Miss Ada “from nothing, with my own arms,” as he puts it to Brooklyn Magazine. He gave his Fort Greene neighbors a homey Mediterranean restaurant that quickly became one of the most popular spots on that bustling stretch of DeKalb near the park.

It’s been a success story by any measure, but in early 2020, right before the pandemic hit, Blechman had a revelation while hosting a one-night supper club at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. “Miss Ada has an electric kitchen,” he says, “but at the supper club we did all the cooking on a big grill. It was just so incredible. The sensations, the smells, the smoke, the way people reacted, it lit a fire inside of me. I was like, this is what I want for my next restaurant.”

It took a bit longer than he hoped, but last week Blechman opened the glorious Theodora, located in the former No. 7 space right above the C train on Greene Avenue, centered around a blazing wood- and charcoal-fired Josper oven in the open kitchen. You will feel the heat of this beast as you walk by to your table in the back dining room.

Blasting the dual Josper ovens (Photo by Scott Lynch)

The kitchen’s co-star is equally important to Blechman’s vision for the place: a dry-age refrigerator where he hangs his fishes for three to seven days before slicing them up for crudo or blasting them on the grill. According to the chef, dry aged fish “are a little firmer, and there’s less liquid, so they get more smoke flavor. Plus there’s more umami.”

Something fishy (Photo by Scott Lynch)

After eating a multiple fishes feast at Theodora during opening week, I’d say the technique works. Our dry-aged kampachi, or yellowtail, was lovely, set atop a pool of turmeric coconut sauce, and the roasted salmon belly boasted a nice crackle on its skin.

Dry-aged kampachi crudo in coconut turmeric sauce, $20 (Photo by Scott Lynch)

There are some non-dry-aged fish on the menu as well, like the toro with mango crudo, and this, too, was very good.

Toro with mango on lavash (Photo by Scott Lynch)

The showstopper fish however, is Theodora’s double-entree-sized whole branzino, a zingy pile of greens keeping the firm-fleshed swimmer company. Other large format dishes include the menu’s meatiest options, a roasted half chicken with Brussels sprouts, and hunks of lamb piled upon a slab of chewy laffa.

Whole bone-in dry-aged branzino, $62 (Photo by Scott Lynch)

Speaking of laffa, for maximum pleasure here I suggest you run wild in the bread section, a marvelous selection from pastry chef Christina Cavales, formerly of Sullivan Street Bakery and Librae and soon to be leading the way at Blechman’s stand-alone bakery, opening down the block this spring. The sticky za’atar kubaneh with three dipping sauces is superb.

Za’atar kubaneh, $15 (Photo by Scott Lynch)

But the highlight of the whole meal might be the funky, fiery hummus, monkfish and ‘nduja spread that comes with Cavales’s fluffy pitas. We swooned.

Hummus, monkfish, and ‘nduja dip with the pita (Photo by Scott Lynch)

For dessert — and you’ll want something sweet after all that salt and smoke — there’s a fun baklava sundae, a dense chocolate cake, some sugary jelly donuts and a delightfully runny camembert cheesecake. House cocktails (and there a lot of them) are $18. You can get a can of beer for nine bucks, and wines by the glass average around $16. For bottles, well… I let you pore over the cheerily annotated 55-page list, courtesy of wine director Maggie Dahill, who also acts as Theodora’s front-of-house wizard.

The camembert cheesecake, $18    (Photo by Scott Lynch)

There are about 75 seats overall, and just about all of them were taken last Thursday evening. Blechman and the Gowanus-based design firm Home Studio completely redid the No. 7 interior in neutral tones and rustic materials, keeping only the big windows and those great skylights in the back. It all adds up to another Fort Greene go-to, where you can pop in for a drink and a snack or dessert, or do date night, or bring the kids, or come with crew and snag a booth in the back.

“Opening weekend was amazing,” Blechman says. “Like at Miss Ada, we want Theodora to feel like home. People can feel comfortable here and relax and be who they are. It’s not a snobby place. You belong here.”

Theodora is located at 7 Greene Avenue, just off Fulton and South Oxford Streets, and is currently open from Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.    

The post Chef Tomer Blechman is making magic with fish and fire at Theodora  appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.



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