Friday, February 5, 2010

Come to where great food and drink always hit 'The Spot'

By Marshall Slater

On a quiet corner, on the outskirts of Prospect Heights, sits The Spot American Bistro and Bar, a little gem of a find that has captured the whimsy of this changing neighborhood with a laid back and welcoming dining room, which offers a wide range of crowd pleasing food and an equally popular bar.

It’s an intimate place that wraps around the corner of Prospect Place and Grand Avenue, with barely a dozen tables for two or four. But don’t be misled by the casual ambiance…they know exactly what they are doing in terms of a great menu and a neighborhood watering hole, which always brings a friendly crowd.

Upon one wall is a hand painted tree whose sprawling limbs stretch across the space; there are burgundy and white linens and candles on the table. The place is ringed in windows and the bar takes up one side of the room.

Most come for the food, but still others come for the large pitchers of freshly made sangria, a smooth and fruity concoction with a delayed kick. An orchard of lemon, lime, orange and cherries swim in the mix. You can order it red or white.Settle back with the delicious basket of whole grain and black bread, served with an excellent olive oil, herb and balsamic dipping sauce and ponder the meal to come.

Open for two years, the place is the brainchild of John Harris, who is also the man behind Elevation Burger, specializing in organic fast food.

So settle back and enjoy a Caprese Salad, with fresh milky mozzarella and tomatoes drizzled with a thick and sweet balsamic plus basil olive oil finished with fresh basil leaves. There are two varieties of cerviche — Peruvian and Mexican variations; both offer slices of red onion, chopped tomato and white onions with cilantro. The latter adds a really hot red salsa with Mexican spices while the former boasts heavy cream and lime. The mixed shellfish cerviche combines scallops, shrimp and calamari with mussels, all first rate and enhanced with chunks of fresh garlic.

The Atlantic Crab Cake is finished with cracked peppercorns and served with a fresh avocado purée on a bed of hot corn salsa with a dollop of pickled mango atop it all. The extra large crab cake offers a gently seared perimeter and a flavorful crust covering the excellent seafood mélange.Other starters include a four cheese garlic bread; wings, mussels with tomato and basil in a white wine sauce and a bunch of others.

Pastas are given extra special attention and their scope runs from the traditional, such as baked ziti chock full of chicken and covered in melted mozzarella to the mushroom ravioli prepared with garlic and thinly sliced stalks of fresh asparagus, finished in a silken white truffle sauce.

Other temptations from this category run the gamut from Penne Vodka to Linguine with Little Neck Clams in a white wine and garlic sauce; there is also a four cheese or lobster ravioli, the latter made with fresh tomatoes and tarragon.

All dinners come with the added incentive of your choice of two of the many sides: grilled asparagus, sweet plantains, garlic mashed potatoes, cream spinach, yellow rice and nearly a dozen more.

A great choice for entrée is the tilapia, two massive filets served over stalks of fresh asparagus, which are, in turn, nestled on a fluffy mountain of mashed potatoes, all in a buttery sweet coconut sauce that is purely addictive.

The Paella comes in two versions: the Marinara style a mix of mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, and sweet crabmeat with a saffron understatement. The Valenciana substitutes chicken and chorizos (smoky Spanish sausage) for the crab. The broth saturates every kernel of rice with the infused flavors of the seafood and the seasoning. The result is that you will consume every grain.

Other temptations include a larger portion of the aforementioned crab cake, a Grilled Atlantic Salmon, jumbo shrimp with lobster sauce, a filet mignon grilled and topped with truffle sauce; braised lamb shank, the house’s own spot roasted chicken, beef short ribs and even chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, mozzarella and bacon.

You can easily see the scope of the entrées and why they appeal to almost every culinary slant.

The brunch menu is another big draw, which includes unlimited mimosas for the $12.95 tab. Choose from four egg omelettes with any of 18 different stuffings, from smoked salmon to sausage, turkey bacon to asparagus.

Or try the smoked salmon Carpaccio, eggs Mexican style with jalapenos, onions, cilantro and tomatoes. There are Belgian waffles with strawberries and bananas, pancakes topped the same way, eggs Florentine and many others.Of course, any time of the day or night, you can also partake of burgers and creative paninis.

And if you want to linger, bring your laptop as they provide free wi-fi.

The Spot American Bistro and Bar
417 Prospect Place at the corner of Grand Avenue

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Most major credit cards are accepted.Private parties accommodated up to 45. Outside catering is a specialty.

There is a two-for-one happy hour on Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m.Check out the $5.95 lunch specials featured Tuesday-Friday.

Saturday and Sunday features a price fixed brunch at $12.95 which included unlimited mimosas.

There is free delivery with a $12 minimum with Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights and adjacent areas.

Photo: Chef Effrain Garcia invites you to try one of his delectable creations. Photo by Stefano Giovannini


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