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PO BROOKLYN :: AS GOOD AS THEY SAY?

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After reading the article on new restaurants in ZAGAT, I am wondering just how good PO BROOKLYN really is. The reviews have been uniformly good, and there have been some good reports here.

We are planning to try PO soon. How does it compate to other Brooklyn options, like Al Di La, TEMPO, CONVIVIUM, QUEEN?

Any recent report on Menu, Food, Ambiance, and Service will be appreciated.

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  1. I've posted a couple of times on it, once at length, if you search back.

    It is what it is...a pleasant neighborhood Italian. Don't expect anything particularly innovative or that you couldnt also get at Lunetta or Frankies (with a couple exceptions like the sweetbread dish). I had really hoped they would have taken some risks and brought some more imagination to smith street. But nevertheless the service is great, the food is polished, it can be a little noisy if that bothers you. But you'll get a very good meal, just won't blow most away.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Nehna

      In other words, a carbon copy of the Manhattan branch of Po. Not a bad thing but scarcely something to quicken the heartbeat.

      1. re: Nehna

        I agree with your assessment, except that I found it to be much better than Lunetta (which I was really disappointed by) and Frankies (which I think is uneven). Everything we had was solid, with a few standouts like a cucumber salad with chili oil and something else that I'm blanking on and a super simple but delicious dessert of ricotta gelato with strawberry rhubarb compote (granted the gelato was from il laboratorio).

        Service was great.

        I think it's definitely a welcome addition to smith st., though i agree that Po could easily stand to take a few more risks.

        1. re: robotcoupe

          Maybe give Lunetta another chance? I've probably dined there at least a half dozen times and dont think I've ever been disappointed.

          I would say Po is 'slightly' more polished. But other than that, I've enjoyed the dishes at Lunetta equally or more than most of the Po dishes I've had.

          That said, why oh why, cant one Italian in Cobble Hill do a proper roman style Carbonara? Everyone uses cream, incl Lunetta. Now THAT would excite me, if Po would do it. Queen also uses cream...I nearly ordered it when I visited last week but thought to ask.

          If only Crispo would open a Brooklyn outpost :) Anyone know of any cream-less Carbonara to be had in the area?? Particularly one that could hold its own alongside the superlative one to be had in manhattan at Crispo?

          1. re: Nehna

            Nehna, have you tried Red Rose at 315 Smith Street (around President/Union streets)? I know from perusing their menu that they do a carbonara, but not sure about the cream. They look pretty old school, though I'm not sure what that means as far as cream use.

            If you find out about their cream status, please let us know!

            1. re: Puppimus

              No, never...I've passed it a billion times and have thought about trying it before.

              Not sure...I would have thought that Queen, being old school, wouldnt put cream in, but alas they do. I'm not saying you cant do a tasty dish with the cream included, but its just not real carbonara to me.

            2. re: Nehna

              That's funny you mention carbonara, because I RANTED about that very thing in my Lunetta review. That, plus the dish was overcooked and gloppy. We just felt everything there was a little off and it was too pricey to justify giving it another try.

              1. re: robotcoupe

                Well I've had the 'carbonara' at Lunetta and while I dont consider it traditional or ideal (they use cream), it wasnt bad on the occasion we had it. It wasnt what I prefer but if I'm to compare it to other cream based versions I've had, it was totally competent.

                1. re: Nehna

                  What I've noticed is that carbonara styles are geographic, not time-based-southern has no cream and has onions; northern has cream, no onions and may or may not have pancetta (tho it doesn't seem right to me without pancetta); central can vary.

              2. re: Nehna

                I second Lunetta's overall superiority. Lately Frankie's has been disappointing with food and services. Lunetta just got that "soul" factor. While there's nothing in particular wrong with Po, it's just not amazing. It's just so Manhattan. IMO, just does't have that Smith Street brooklyn flavor.

          2. I was totally disappointed by Brooklyn Po. Service ok. tables tight. food mediocre. let's just say when linguine w/ white clam sauce is dry, you have a problem. and when the waiter doesn't understand what you mean, you have an even bigger problem.

            1. I wouldn't rely on Zagat. I'm amazed at their success, though I admire it. All they do, after all, is paste together comments from diners to form a few sentences. I prefer to use Chowhound as a guide. To me, Al Di La is still the best.

              1 Reply
              1. re: soupcommie

                For the record, they just had a small article about PO BROOKLYN under "new openings" . It has not yet been rated.

                ZAGAT uses a sophisticated rating and weighting system and is, IMO indespensible for getting a good general idea about restaurants. We have found that recommendations and ratings in ZAGAT tend to be accurate.

              2. I ate at Po last night for the first time. I was a little hesitant, I don't know why, I guess with all the hype and so on... I must say the appetizers were fantastic, goat cheese and another dish of meatballs, nothing to fault there and the salt levels were just great. Then comes my main course, tagliatelle with ragu sauce, things changed for the worse. The sauce was unbelievably salty and clumpy (dry) and I struggled to eat the tagliatelle with as little sauce clinging to it as possible! What a disappointment. When the waiter asked me if I wanted extra parmesan I said "No!!" The panacotta dessert was nice but not amazing! I have had better. I haven't tried Lunetta yet and I found Frankies a little uneven too. I am sure the Po in Manhattan is better as I have eaten ragu at Babbo before and it was amazing! What is the manager doing on Smith Street???

                7 Replies
                1. re: delfina

                  just stick to noodle pudding and al di la...two of the finest italian restaurants in new york.

                  1. re: delfina

                    I am sad to hear that you didn't enjoy your dish at Po. I was there last weekend and the whole party I dined with all really enjoyed their meal. The veal sweetbreads dish was very good, although more along the lines of a breakfast dish in its preparation and presentation.

                    1. re: ChowDiva

                      Agreed I've had all tasty meals there, esp the last visit for a late evening meal with friends.

                      That sweetbread dish is pretty addictive...the first time I had it I thought the preparation hid the sweetbreads too much. And it's true that its more of a hash than a dish that highlights the sweetbreads. But damn its tasty. We've already replicated it at home.

                    2. re: delfina

                      Ragu is suppossed to be on the dry clumpy side. I don't mean like jerky dry but it should be kinda dry with not too much sauce. Enough sauce to complement the pasta. Still, from your description it seems they simply didn't execute it correctly.

                      1. re: brickscoli

                        OK food, poor service, clueless bar staff.

                        1. re: nitsujwolrah

                          We've now been there several times and I think it's fine but non-impressive. There are at least 2 male bartenders and we've eaten at the bar when each has been there. The one that works on Cornelia St is friendly but not as knowledgable as he pretends to be. And he really doesnt have a clue on the food. The other guy (beard and pony tail) is both friendly and solid. Knows his wine stock, gives different suggestions to diners based on their preferences and what they're eating, and knows the food as well. We had a much better time with him there. But, bottom line, the food really is mediocre. Better than some places but I like Lunetta much better. Actually, I like Savoia better, but that's somewhat apples and oranges.

                          1. re: nitsujwolrah

                            I went for the first time on Tuesday night. There was a female bartender who was friendly, attentive and made a great recommendation when I asked for a full-bodied red. When we moved to a table, the waiter knew exactly what I'd ordered and offered a refill once my first glass was finished.
                            Sadly, I agree with SteveR regarding the food. My salad (watercress with olives, tomatoes and cheese) was fresh and flavorful. The entree (Papardelle with sweet-corn and chorizo) failed to remain satisfying after two or three bites. When I read the description of the dish on the menu, I imagined the delicious interplay between the crisp corn and spicy meat. Unfortunately, the corn had been pureed and, to my palate, the chorizo bore more of a resemblance to keilbasa than to the Spanish sausage. My dining companion's gnocci was soggy and bland. The panicotta dessert was lifeless as well. I think Italian food is at it's best when the ingredients are sharp, fresh, and the various flavors compliment each other. Aside from the salad, that wasn't happening here. I admit it may be that I ordered the wrong thing so I will definitely make a second attempt.

                      2. HOW COULD THEY GET IT SO WRONG...?

                        I was so disappointed with dinner at Po this past Fri, I woke up Sat morning at 6:30 tossing and turning thinking about it, while constructing my Chowhound post...

                        I lived in the W. Village during the Batali era, when Po was an institution (at least I thought it ws), so in my mind Po is a survivor, a stalwart, solid and singular. I didn't even think to read reviews about the Brooklyn location, unwisely assuming the place would uphold the sterling rep of it's Manhattan parent. How wrong I was...

                        If you want to stop reading, leave with this one warning: the tasting menu is a sucker punch, an "early bird special", a tourist menu. A tasting menu is meant to reward a diner's commitment and openness to eating adventure. Not here. Salmon, anyone?! With that said, the service was very attentive and friendly.

                        Every dish failed in composition, texture and ranked about a 6 in taste. The most basic cooking techniques were lacking. Orechiette, sausage & broccoli rape--over-sauced & undercooked broccoli rape. Why is this dish swimming in red sauce anyway? The pasta special--a sweet corn ravioli in an unidentifiable white sauce--thick and undercooked. My salmon dish had 'sauce art' on it--very 80s. That didn't bother me as much as the unappetizingly large chunks of undercooked vegetables.

                        A 'Stinky' cheese course with 0 condiments (Otto nails this) was good, but could have been so much more. The cherries served with the panna cotta would have been gorgeous with the cheese.

                        Dessert was the aforementioned panna cotta (yawn) and a slab of chocolate torte with butter finger bits (huh!?) that ate like boardwalk fudge.

                        Was it the tasting menu that resulted in these safe, greatest hits of Italian food? Was it the reasonable $50 prix fixe? Maybe.

                        Po is caught in the cracks. It's a mediocre suburban Italian in a pleasant room in a hip neighb. Foodies won't buy it. Locals might--for convenience. I won't be back.