Cherry Point sits on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, a few steps from the corner where Bedford Avenue, having flowed all the way across Brooklyn from the shores of Sheepshead Bay, suddenly comes to an end. The area is marked by a cluster of restaurants. Some have a washed-up feeling, as if they’d all been drifting along in Bedford’s currents and had been stranded there. A few stand out in the landscape.
In the fall, Cherry Point took a decisive turn into the second category when a new chef took over, but not everyone in the neighborhood seems to realize it yet. People still tumble in for happy hour, when servers whose hairstyles take a minute to adjust to will pour three-gulp martinis, manhattans and Rob Roys (due for a revival) in little Nick & Nora glasses for $8 each, and then after happy hour ends at 7 p.m. most of the crowd generally drifts out to find somewhere else for dinner. The space, with its old-timey wainscoting and its central bar, is easy to mistake for a tavern.
Let’s say you were among those who stayed put. Contemporaneously with your cocktail, you worked on a few smoked olives, green and warm; swirled a few of the golden, bite-size pig’s head croquettes in a pale-pinkish ketchup made from pears; and became curious about what else this kitchen was up to. At one point you noticed that the dining room suddenly smelled like an herb garden in August, and a minute later Belon oysters on a nest of smoking rosemary branches sailed out of the kitchen opening that lights up the back of the restaurant. You ordered a plate of your own because you wanted to know how the warm oysters would taste under their yellow blankets of smoked rosemary hollandaise.
From a short list of charcuterie you chose the squab and pork terrine, with a few prunes embedded into the pink and pleasingly coarse-grained slab. You spread this on toast with creamy whole-grain mustard, apricot-ginger mostarda or some of the pear ketchup, all of them made on the premises, like the pearl onions pickled in beer and the terrine itself. And you might have thought: If these are just the snacks, what is the food going to be like when this kitchen gets down to business?
Whatever happens, odds are there will be meat on the table. Cherry Point opened in 2016, taking over what had been a Polish restaurant called Cinamoon. The charcuterie was made on site from the start, but the menu swerved in a more meat-focused and English-leaning direction last fall when Ed Szymanski was hired as the chef. This might have been predicted, if not from Mr. Szymanski’s English upbringing and British citizenship, then from his work history. He has cooked at the Beatrice Inn, where various beasts of air and land are posed on silver platters for their roles in a fall-of-Rome spectacle; the Spotted Pig, in the days when it was still known for burgers basted in Roquefort and toasts buried under chopped chicken livers; and Pitt Cue, a London outpost of the modern, urbanized barbecue genre.
For a panoramic tour of Mr. Szymanski’s accumulated meat wisdom, you could call two days ahead and reserve a game-and-beef dinner, $65 for at least four courses along the lines of grilled tongue on watercress. The everyday menu, though, is not exactly made up of grain bowls.
On any given night, you can drop in and marvel at the fried lamb ribs, their apple glaze augmented by broken coriander and fennel seeds and raw curls of shallot. The quail will be butterflied, grilled over charcoal and served on toast, with pickled prunes above it and a reduction swirled with port below. The duck breast will be seared down until the skin is a thin brown sheet next to pink and juicy meat. This is served with roasted, puréed celery root and brûléed pears.
The plates are marked by a refinement and moderation that is not always achieved by other chefs in the guts-and-fat school of cookery. A creamy pheasant, leek and bacon pie is sealed inside a cast-iron pot by a beauty of a suet crust — lacquered, scored in a starburst and very tender. Care is even lavished on the grilled rib-eye for two, which comes to the table with neatly sawed lengths of bone marrow under a tidy crust of parsley, chives, pickle shallots and buttered bread crumbs.
Mr. Szymanski does not gesture toward fish and vegetables very often, but when he does he generally musters some conviction. True, the roasted pumpkin mash with toasted hazelnuts and fresh cheese has an obligatory air, as does the grilled bread with labneh and honey. But the smoked whitefish salad, with caramelized shallots and crème fraîche and a side of saltines, is more energetic than you might guess.
Grilled flatbread looks out of place on this menu, but it is a fine canvas for roasted hens-of-the-woods and other wild mushrooms that are fleshy and flavorful enough to get noticed on their own. Skate, a main course, comes with smoked German butterball potatoes and a soaring, fino sherry-laced beurre blanc. The salad of radicchio and other bitter lettuces is as crisp and refreshing as any plate of leaves can be in February. It is also a very good thing to eat with steak, as it happens.
Anyone who has not caught on to the English theme so far will get a last chance with the dessert menu, which offers treacle tart, sticky toffee pudding, a posset and three cheeses, all from England. The treacle tart was dry when I had it. The sticky toffee pudding was surprisingly but not unpleasantly cakelike. The posset, though, is a small miracle, an eggless custard of sugar, lemon juice and cream scented with Earl Grey tea, dressed up with Cara Cara orange wedges and a few Earl Grey meringues. There should be more possets around town. There should be possets galore.
And by the way, there should be more wine lists like Cherry Point’s. Assembled by Garret Smith, who owns the restaurant with Vincent Mazeau, it consistently favors obscure and surprising over familiar and dull. By the bottle, there are oddities such as apple wine and mead, but also a few things you might have heard of: a cremant d’Alsace from Dirler Cadé, a Sybille Kuntz riesling, an Olga Raffault chinon and a lean, exact pinot noir from Enderle & Moll. Only two bottles, both sparkling wines, are over $100, and most of the others are closer to $50.
At these prices, you could just close your eyes and pick something, which is lucky because the servers, though charming and truly unpretentious, haven’t fully internalized the list’s ins and outs. It’s one of the ways in which Cherry Point seems not to have caught up yet with how good it has become.
If you treat it like a bar, you might not notice. But if you eat the way I did, ordering half the menu at a time, you could be putting more stress on the infrastructure than it can handle. You might be in for a very slow meal. But it will also be a very good meal.
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Pete Wells joined The New York Times as dining editor in 2006 and has been its restaurant critic since 2012. For three years, he wrote a column for The New York Times Magazine called “Cooking With Dexter.” EMAIL [email protected]
Ligaya Mishan’s Hungry City column will return next Wednesday.
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