11/27/2012 09:11:00 AM

First Bite:Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Goes Savory With Selamat Pagi

Balinese goodness 
At first, the idea of artisan ice cream and the island flavors of Bali don’t naturally mesh as a concept. Yet, the folks behind Van Leeuwen have made it work with their first restaurant, Selamat Pagi, which opened last month in the front of their Greenpoint production kitchen.

“We have always been really excited about Southeast Asian cooking,” said Laura O’Neill, who owns the business along with Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen. “We didn’t want to open another Van Leeuwen ice cream shop or a new American restaurant, so, we thought to do something different and harder to come by in the city.”

The idea to go Bali-style came from O’Neill and Ben Van Leeuwen’s numerous jaunts to the country. There, they fell in love with the cuisine and took a cooking class to better understand it. Now, under the guidance of chef Sophia Loch, you can sample dishes the owners learned like the Bali Fish Salad with blue fish, the Sticky Black Rice on yogurt, or the Bali Style Prawns with hot sambal and rice.

Like their ice cream, which is made with fresh milk, cream, and eggs from local producers, the food at Selamat Pagi also uses the best quality meats and produce.

“All our beef is grass-fed and our chicken heritage, which is rare in Southeast Asian cooking,” said O’Neill. “Obviously some ingredients like kaffir lime don’t grow around here, but we use local where ever possible.”
The name Selamat Pagi is Indonesian for “good morning,” and that’s exactly how they want to start your day. That means at 8AM Aeveryday they offer up the locally roasted Toby’s Estate Coffee, fresh pastries made by pastry chef Chelsea Wilkes, and, save for Monday, they serve brunch from 10 AM to 4 PM.

During that time you can find themed dishes like the Bali Egg Scramble with turmeric, roti, and papaya; Banana Pancakes with palm sugar syrup, coconut, and macadamia nuts; a traditional Indonesian dish called Nasi Goring, a Bali-style fried rice with homemade prawn crackers and a sunnyside-up egg.

When we visited the restaurant last week, predictably, it started out quiet. Even though we filled only one of the tables, the muted, eggshell-colored cafe proved cozy and comfortable, which pairs nicely with the rich seasonings experienced in the food. Take for example, the Beef Rending, a spicy beef curry spiked with coconut and chili. The Palm Sugar Caramelized Blue Fish also exuded coconut, a traditional Indonesian oil that O’Neill said they use almost exclusively in the dishes.

To drink, so far it’s BYOB, at least until they get their beer and wine license. Until then, you can schlep a bottle there, or try one of their house-made sodas like the lavender-galangal or ginger lime. They also offer plenty of coffee drinks and tea, which are served all day.

Despite the impending holiday (twas the night before Thanksgiving), by the time we were ready for some famous Van Leeuwen ice cream, all of the rough wooden tables had filled up. In the end, we decided to keep it Bali style with their black sticky rice, passion fruit mint, and palm sugar flavor. True, the focus is on savory here, but can you walk into a place owned by the Van Leeuwen folks and not have a cold treat? Didn’t think so.

Selamat Pangi: 152 Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, New York; 718-701-4333


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