Laser Wolf Is Good

By on Monday, October 3rd, 2022 at 2:43 pm

the sign for Laser Wolf restaurant outside the elevators at the entrance

Our child’s daycare celebrated Rosh Hashanah this year with a two-day closure so we did the only sensible thing: we shipped our 18-month-old to New Jersey for an overnight and made dinner reservations.

We’ve been lucky. My in-laws enjoy watching the baby sleep. This is not a metaphor. I mean they literally stare at him. Their enthusiasm for observing his dream state has meant we occasionally get to grab dinner at hot spots like Winonas and Bonnies, but there was one place that seemed like white whale: Laser Wolf. The restaurant of the summer, Laser Wolf reservations fill up weeks in advance. In July I saw a way in – barside reservations for after 10pm. If only we didn’t have a baby, I lamented.

When we received the daycare calendar in August, we saw our chance. Back-to-back days off was the perfect opportunity for grandma to get an overnight visitor. Not surprisingly, two people who literally enjoy watching the baby sleep were thrilled to have him stay all night long. We booked the Laser Wolf reservation for 10:15.

The Experience

Perched on a rooftop in Williamsburg overlooking the East River, Laser Wolf promises the COVID cautious (us) enough fresh air to feel safe. The other effect of the views was the feeling of being a tourist just a few blocks from home. In New York, usually you can have great food or a great view, not both.

The East River and Manhattan skyline from the roof of Laser Wolf. From the Left: 14th street generating station, Madison Square Park Tower, One Madison Park, Metropolitan Life Tower, Hudson Yards, Empire State Building 4 Times Square, Bank of America Tower

The menu draws inspiration from Israeli cuisine. The main event is a ten dish salatim, an Israeli mezze plate, followed by a main course, and capped off with a soft serve ice cream. There is an additional à la carte menu too. The real hook is the special charcoal roasted skewers featuring meat, fish, and vegetables.

The city lately has been crammed packed with Israeli cuisine and eastern mediterranean more generally. Our regular options include Newtown, a vegetarian restaurant, Dar 525, the Glasserie, and a handful of others I’m forgetting. Laser Wolf is different, and not just because it is imported from Philadelphia. Eater calls it “buzzy,” an apt description for a restaurant that I have no recollection of first hearing about it, recognizing immediately. It somehow manages to live rent free in my head like Pepsi Taylor Swift’s ex, without ever knowing where it came from.

Laser Wolf is named for a butcher character in Fiddler On The Roof, although spelled incorrectly I assume to avoid intellectual property complications. The restaurant is a collab between Chef Michael Solomonov and Restaurateur Steven Cook.

Late in the afternoon we received a text from Laser Wolf asking if we’d like an earlier reservation. Rosh Hashanah apparently is not a super popular night for an Israeli restaurant, no matter how buzzy it is. Since we were already worried about falling asleep at the table, we agreed, and magically had a much more reasonable 9:30 reservation. We had some drinks in the backyard of Spuyten Duyvil, a famed Belgian-style beer bar that now also features an entire wall of Amaro. My wife and I had our first date there something like nine years ago, and since it was halfway to Laser Wolf, it was the perfect place to get ourselves buzzy enough for such a hip restaurant.

We arrived in the hotel lobby right at nine. The Hoxton, one of those hotels that caters to the least interesting brand of tourist, serves as Laser Wolf’s pedestal. We decided to check in with the hostess. Surprisingly, our table was available.

the rooftop space of Laser Wolf

The covered roof deck is a long narrow space, enough room for a four-top or two two-tops to sit comfortably along the balcony edge. The plants soften the space. Every table has a view and fresh flowing air.

We had a spot nearish the open kitchen. Some people might see this as less desirable, we could watch the hustle of the staff. The charcoal grill was just to our left and every now and then a puff of smoke would rise before quickly disappearing into the vents.

cooking in the open kitchen of laser wolf brooklyn

The Food

the salatim mezze plate from Laser wolf includes 10 salads and hummus

We started off with a round of cocktails. They have fancy inventions like any half-way decent place these days, but nothing especially memorable. (To be honest, the only restaurant cocktail I really ever think about is the Coconut milk Phil Collins from Mission Chinese)

We were handed a menu describing the ten mezze dishes in the salatim tray. All we had to do was choose which of the charcoal grilled mains we wanted. We also looked over the à la carte menu and spotted a foie gras starter. Thankfully, an activist judge has suspended the city’s foie gras ban set to come into effect in November.

We settled on the chicken and the beef-lamb koobideh, similar to a kofta, and then also added the foie gras and the french fries from the à la carte menu. In retrospect, the tuna on offer also looked spectacular. It was all too much food for two people, but I would go again and order some fish.

The mezze plate arrived with hot pita. There were ten small dishes surrounding a plate of hummus, and more of anything was available if we asked. There were a few standouts. The Gigante Beans with Harissa was absolutely spectacular. The texture was perfect and the flavor uniquely delicious. The pineapple and celery was light, crispy-fresh and citrus sweet. Finally, the pickled tomatoes with hot peppers were also standout.

The other dishes – babaganoush, pickles, green beans with harissa, cabbage and fennel, celery root, and corn with zucchini were all delicious, but the only two we asked for more of was the beans and pineapple.

foie gras with grilled pita and plum from laser wolf

The foie gras arrived while we were eating the mezze plate. The seared liver was cooked perfectly and provided a strong umamani flavor balanced by the sweetness of the plum. What made this dish was that the other ingredients enhanced the foie gras rather than burying it. For instance, Brooklyn’s Traif had a foie gras with pork that suffered because it buried the flavor of the liver under the pork fat.

French fries from Laswer wolf

The fries came out just before the meat. These were cooked absolutely perfectly and offered a salty crunch to balance off the flavors of the mezze plate. The more I think about it, the more I swear they must have been fried in duck fat. I would absolutely go back tomorrow and eat nothing but the foie gras and french fries and that would be an absolutely spectacular meal.

Then the chicken and beef-lamb arrived. The flavors on these meats were rich and full without tasting overly charred. Sometimes chicken especially can easily become overcooked on the grill, but their grillmaster nailed it. Also mixed in with the meat were some onions that had all the flavor of the meat but slightly different texture.

chicken charcoal grilled and beef-lamb koobideh from laser wolf in Brooklyn

By this point we had probably eaten enough. The last time I had been this full I had completed a “meat train” in Belgrade, Serbia. But anyway, we were quietly sipping our wine when the soft serve ice cream arrived. I suspect based on other people’s experiences, the flavors change with availability, but we had a brown sugar soft serve topped with sesame and cherries. It was delicious and superior to Roberta’s soft serve concoctions. I was so full I could eat only half of the ice cream.

Laser Wolf provided a standout meal, not just among the mediterranean restaurants, but of all the many trendy restaurants I’ve eaten in. As the weather cools down, I suspect it will be easier to score reservations. Even with all the plastic sides tied down, the winter wind off the river will be strong and cold.

On the way out I noticed high chairs stacked against the wall. Maybe next time we would just bring baby.


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