August 21, 2012
LULU & PO: A Little Plate, A Lot o' Dough
Having made its Brooklyn entrance in late May with enough time to simmer and settle like a good pot of pasta sauce, Lulu & Po did not deliver the depth of flavor one might anticipate. Upon my recent visit some three-months later (encouraged by a mostly positive NY Magazine review) what I expected to be a well-formulated, expertly executed taste of farm-to-table brilliance from chef Matthew Hamilton (of Belacourt and Prune - the latter, a favorite of mine), was instead a lack-luster, unfulfilling $65-dent in my wallet - and hardly one in my stomach. The meal left my guest and myself wanting more food- not because we gluttonously desired these tastes to graze out tongues, rather, we were still primitively hungry. (After placing our order and inquiring if we had ordered too much, the waitress herself offered with a chuckle that the dishes are "pretty small." But still, my optimism had rested in the mastery of flavors and freshness.) After four meager (and mediocre, save one) dishes, we didn't dare take our chances on a fifth with such a high price and probability that it would fail to satiate and satisfy.
Word on the street was pushing the Bone Marrow Tacos ($13) and the Heirloom Tomato & Peach Salad ($10) with Mozzarella and Basil. I still cannot quite seem to figure out why. The salad was unremarkable, with wedged fruit overdressed in oil, the tomatoes barely heirloom with just a lone green guy making a coquettish appearance. It was buttoned with only two tears of mozzarella and the most miniscule slivers of basil, which did not even warrant their menu ink as an ingredient. (No lie, my guest and I managed to get one shred each.)
The Bone Marrow Tacos were the ultimate let-down dish. The salty and oily marrow encapsulated in the thick bone did not impress once it was scraped free. Each bone provided nothing more than a quarter sized scoop - a laughable portion further punctuated by the evidently excessive three tortillas provided. One would be hard-pressed to fill even one demure disk with the marrow, which is why the grassy parsley-cilantro-capers salad probably made it on the plate. A stocking stuffer, indeed.
The delusionally-priced Pork Loin appears as a "medium plate" with the number 18 next to it - a number which unfortunately was not referring to its ounceage. (Apparently, "large" dishes do not exist here. Humor me at least.) Oh, I was certainly amused. When it arrived sliced and rare on top a bed of white beans (the most abundant component which curiously did not make it on the menu) nestled with (more) peaches and accents of thyme and juniper, I thought perhaps they had split it on two plates for easier sharing, and this was just the first to hit the table. No sooner was the thought abandoned when the server quickly smiled "Enjoy," clearly capping the prospect of any more table deliveries. It must be noted the meat was grilled to a perfectly pink tender center and well complimented by lemony thyme and saccharine juniper. The pickled peaches felt like an afterthought, the kitchen's excess slices tucked in instead of tossed out. For $18, it was painful to see it disappear so quickly. I even cut my four modest slices into yet even smaller baby bites to give the illusion of longevity on my lips.
The only dish to go back for is one that will probably not be there (should you courageously return): the soup special. This night it was a lovely White Beet Borscht, a chilled pool of serene sweetness cut with the biting edge of champagne and balsamic vinegar. Still overpriced at $8, this was the only dish that could get away with it.
The fleeting nature of a seasonal farm-to-table menu means you may not always get what you go back for. At Lulu & Po, that may not be such a po' idea.
154 Carlton Ave (at Myrtle)
Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY
*All photos by Rebecca Kritzer unless otherwise noted