Zagat blogger James Mulcahy headed over to Carroll Gardens to take a look at one neighborhood chef with two very different concepts. He filed the following report.
Chef Robert Newton first made waves in the neighborhood with Seersucker, which showcases Southern cuisine inspired by his native Arkansas. Guests can expect dishes like Hudson Valley Berkshire pork served with Carolina grits.
"Seersucker is my interpretation of hyperseasonal, modern Southern food," said Newton. "It's the kind of food I grew up eating, 'cause I'm from Arkansas, and it also incorporates the other part of the South, which I'm very inspired by. We just kind of go through the seasons using Southern inspiration and seasonal ingredients."
Based on the success of Seersucker and his casual neighboring spot Smith Canteen, Newtown decided to open Nightingale 9, which takes inspiration from a completely different region of the globe.
"Nightingale 9, it's my newest restaurant, and it's straight-up Vietnamese, with a couple Southern touches," said Newton. "What it really is is sourcing good meats, good ingredients, taking the same philosophies that we do at Seersucker and applying them to a cuisine that I've been passionate about for over a decade, which is Vietnamese food."
Although the restaurants seem worlds apart, it turns out that Southern and Vietnamese cooking share more in common than you might realize.
"Southerners love greens, the Vietnamese love greens. Southerners love pork, the Vietnamese love pork. Southerners love fish, the Vietnamese adore fish," he said. "There's a lot of crossover there, so all we really do is take our same philosophies and apply it to this cuisine."
Even though the menus vary, all of Newton's eateries are distinctly Carroll Gardens. He even uses ingredients from a Smith Street farmer's market.
"I moved over here and was ready to transition out of being a private chef and have my own business, make my own statement," he said. "There was a farmer's market across the street, and there was a space available, and it all kind of started from there. It's a chef's dream to have a restaurant that's across the street from the farmer's market. I mean, that's awesome."
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