Brooklyn Heights is one of many charming neighborhoods which is pleasant to stroll through on a lightly cool March evening. With its historic, high-sealing-brick row homes, sporadically scattered bars, and quaint cafes, it's a calmly romantic excursion.
Tutt Cafe is nestled on a quiet street between the gorgeous, extravagantly mortgaged apartments. As we walk in we're a bit hesitant due to the initial, Chinese take-out atmosphere (aka non-atmosphere). With a flashy green awning, empty dining room with few tables (half of which were nude, while the others sported a double layer of cloth), random Christmas lights throughout, a soda fridge, and explicitly cheesy menu item photos, our initial reaction was plan B...which, due to its non-existent nature, left us with the opportunity to sit wherever we pleased.
The pleasant waiter/phone attendant/cashier/expediter/host rushed to our table with two menus and asked us if we might be interested in...
any beverages (non-alcoholic, as Tutt Cafe is BYOB). We chose the finest NYC tap water they had to offer, which was delivered in a large pitcher accompanied by lemon and two metallic glasses; a positive sign. As we made our choices, the phone rang non-stop, as the friendly multi-tasking, aforementioned gentleman hurriedly rushed to please everyone. A few more clients entered, all seating themselves and all greeted with the same respect and welcoming nature.
For appetizers we chose the plate of mixed salads (babaghanouj, humus, stuffed grape leaves, lentil & bulgar, and laba salad) as well as spinach and cheese pie. Our initial request of falafel was regretfully rejected, due to the fact that they just sold their last order of the fried savory balls. Nonetheless, we moved on to the Lambajin (middle eastern pitza with lamb) and leg of lamb sandwich.
Our colorful plate of salads was brought out after a much anticipated ~20 minute wait-with a surprise! Two, perfectly cooked, fluffy, fried falafel rounds topped our flavorful and delicate grape leaves (perhaps this contributed to our wait). The most tender, not over fried, appropriately crispy, and exceptionally sized falafel drops were a great start to what was going to be a tasting adventure. The humus and babaghanouj were fittingly flavored, while the laba salad (a middle eastern yogurt, flavored with mint), had a slight sourness and was a great dipping sauce for the puffed pita (which came with the plate). The lentil/bulgar salad was tender and the grains were perfectly cooked, however it's flavor was lacking. The fried onion garnish provided a nice texture alternative, yet did little in adding flavor.
Our next course-the spinach and cheese pie-was served on a wooden peel, escorting a lemon wedge. The puffed, homemade pita was stuffed with tender spinach-cut into bite size pieces, allowing for full enjoyment without the stringy mess which sometimes is encountered when the spinach is too large. The cheese was just melted and when combined with a tiny squeeze of the lemon, provided a fresh flavor to the large pie.
As we filled our bellies, our final courses emerged out of the open kitchen. The liberally served, extremely tender lamb, cradled by a fresh pita, lettuce, and tomato, had mild flavors and virtually no tendons. The generously sized pitza filled the restaurant with a strong aroma of cumin. Topped with ground lamb and tomato, it encompassed an incredible blend of middle eastern spices, while being carried on freshly baked pitza dough-with a golden crust,which once more made a great vessel for the left over laba salad.
As we slowly finished our exorbitant menu, the initial hesitation was completely forgotten. Feeling completely at home in Tutt's extremely warm (literally and figuratively) space our appreciation flowed for the abundance of variety, flavor, and hospitality. As we waited for the check, the distinctively pleasant waiter hurried over with a small plate of basbousa (semolina cake with yogurt and honey) "on the house". Being fabulously surprised, yet intensely full, we thanked our gracious host and had no choice but to immerse ourselves in the sweet. Semolina's particular texture, combined with the strong honey flavor gave this pudgy cake a pleasant mouth feel, however, was a bit dry (perhaps a bit of Arak-the milk of lions-a Middle Eastern distilled alcohol would have done the trick).
The last delight arrived in a little black book...our indulgent, multi-course evening set us back only $30.00...tax and all! An incredible find for a two person feast! Overall a satisfying self-made tasting menu in a great neighborhood and an embracing atmosphere awaits you at Tutt Cafe.
Tutt Cafe-47 Hicks Street-Brooklyn, NY 11201