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Brooklyn's New Xixa

Friday, February 1, 2013
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Do your best to save room for dessert! Photo by Stephanie Singer

I spent a Saturday night a few weeks ago with my fiancé and friends at a new restaurant off the beaten path in South Williamsburg. Pronounced “sh’eeksa,” According to the restaurant's chef/owner, Jason Marcus, Xixa is an alternate spelling for the word Shiksa ("non-Jewish woman" in Yiddish). Marcus, who is Jewish and also owns Traif ("not kosher" in Yiddish) a few doors down on the same block, named this restaurant for his co-owner and non-Jewish girlfriend, Heather Heuser.

Since Williamsburg has a large Orthodox Jewish population, Marcus’s idea for playful restaurant names and fearlessness in celebrating pork, shellfish and globally inspired soul food is somewhat controversial among his Hasidic neighbors. Personally, I think it is bold. About a year ago, I dined at Traif and quickly converted to Marcus’s philosophy of cooking modern American, seasonal food with smart complexity.

Xixa is different than Traif in a few ways. There is no open kitchen and the design of the space is modern. A warm, ambient glow from hexagonal ceiling hung pendants creates light as well as wall art. As soon as we sat down, the hostess introduced the drink menu of craft beer, tequila, mezcal and wine. There were no cocktails and the liquor was only offered neat or on the rocks. We had barely begun perusing the menu when we saw the words, “Chef’s Tasting,” and unanimously agreed that that would be the way to go.

And so, our eating adventure began. Over the next three hours, small, tapas-style plates were brought to our booth. From what I read beforehand, Xixa was inspired by a trip to Mexico, but the flavors that Marcus uses are more like a flight that got rerouted through the Middle East then Thailand before landing at its final destination.

First up was the Mexico City-style sauteed edamame with arbol chili, lime and toasted garlic. It was a perfect balance of spicy and salty.
 
The next dish was a light, creamy guacamole made from braised artichokes, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin and toasted peanut macha - another word for salsa.
 
Our favorite from the vegetable section of the menu was the Thai esquites — sweet corn cups filled with tom yum broth, red curry aioli and cotija cheese. This was the dish that I woke up thinking about the next morning, wishing that we had some leftover broth in the fridge.

The highlight of the entrées was a plate of perfectly chargrilled chipotle-lime Korean short ribs topped with bulghur, mango and grape tomatoes. The plate size was tiny, but contained immense flavor.
 
Definitely save room for dessert, especially the crsipy sugar-coated churros.

It was no surprise to learn that Marcus is a friend and former kitchen companion of Michael Solomonov, the chef/partner of Zahav and Citron and Rose. These guys are culinary artists, crafting and designing flavor by flavor towards the deepest depth of the eating experience.
 
Finally, don’t let Marcus's cheeky way with names dissuade you from trying Traif or Xixa. There are options on each menu for all eaters, except if you are strictly kosher (sorry!). 
 
Xixa 241 S 4th St BrooklynNY 11211, (718) 388-8860
Cha Cha Cha,
Stephanie
The Bubbi Project

Disclaimer: The Bubbi Project doesn’t claim to promote exclusively kosher restaurants. The above content is about a restaurant that serves traif, delicious traif, which I have decided to leave out. For the record, it is similar to many restaurants today that have Jewish chefs or owners, but that’s a conversation we’ll have another day... 

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