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Cu 29 Copper’s Cuisine is Undefined, and That’s Just Fine

(Photos: Rebecca Kritzer. Above, Seafood Moqueca)

Where can you get a shrimp ceviche and pork taco along with your black linguini pasta and brick oven pizza? Cu 29 Copper in Williamsburg mixes and matches Mexican, Italian and American cuisine, and a few other things in between. While the large brick walled space with intimate lighting suggests a rustic Italian wine bar, closer examination exposes Margaritas and Mojitos alike. This seemingly offbeat combination of two disparate ethnic food styles is not so strange to owners Kathy and Johnny who pride themselves in their love of "eating out." But the problem can lie in satisfying the distinct cravings of an entire dining party, thus their concept was born. Opened in July 2011, the restaurant, they say, “provides an eating experience where the choices make everyone happy, instead of committing to one cuisine.”
 
And the name? The owners point to chemistry for inspiration: Cu 29 represents the symbol and atomic number of copper on the periodic table of elements - a metal they find to exude perfection in chemical combination which they try to emulate in their decor with copper accents and in their cuisine with a multi-elemental menu.

While not a fusion, but rather an a la carte offering of Mexican, Italian, American, other influences like French and Brazilian manage to slip in. The deliciously sweet strawberry crepe (photo right) oozing with Nutella ($6.50), for example, is a fine French finish to the expertly executed Latin-style arepa ($10.50), a fluffy corn cake mounted with chipotle butter shrimp and creamy sliced avocado with small puddles of savory black beans. By the same token, the "moqueca" ($21.50) is not Mexican, but a Brazilian stew of seafood swimming in a cilantro-green coconut milk-lobster broth - a welcome calm after a flavor-packed pork taco boasting a tomatillo salsa carefully coddled in three layers of soft tortilla.

Speaking of the tacos ($3.50-4.50) which included shrimp, tilapia and chicken as well), the fairest one of all must be the robust marinated steak - grilled, chopped, and topped with glorious avocado sauce. Suffice it to say, the chef knows his way around steak. Namely with the entree-sized churrasco ($18.50, photo left), a grilled skirt steak that is all too familiar to Latin menus, but not necessarily familiar to all who cook it. The preparation can easily go awry. Fortunately, this one is perfectly marinated, seasoned, and charred to a tender ruby-pink center. The accompanying fresh jicama and walnut-laden greens, and thin crisp tostones (mashed and fried green plantains) add a welcomed levity and crunch.

You can also throw classic Italian into the mix with the Fra Diavolo mussels ($9.50. photo right) steamed in pale pink wine sauce - or bring Mexican piquancy back into the fold by opting for the jalapeño sauce. For the typical Hispanic arroz alternative, the creatively cultivated quinoa salad ($8.50) sings a sweet note with a diced mango-tomato salsa and juicy orange wedges. And know that your meal will be enhanced by the fried slices of authentic sweet plantains ($4.50), or the guacamole and chips starter ($8.50) which is truly too small to satisfy with just one order.

Cu 29 Copper: 232 N 12th Street, Williamsburg

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July 26, 2014

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