I had a few preconceptions about Bellwether before visiting. I knew it was a little expensive, and when I saw that the restaurant was located on a desolate stretch of Union Avenue in Williamsburg I pictured the stereotypical Brooklyn restaurant. You know the kind I mean: exposed wooden beams, lightbulbs in mason jars, and indifferent service. When I walked into Bellwether, I was surprised by the clean, modern design. The food was also surprising—seasonal, fresh, and interesting. Bellwether stands out in this part of Williamsburg with elevated food and service to match.
I started with roasted sweet peppers ($8), which sat atop a smear of fresh cheese and crumbled almonds. If you've ever had pimientos de padron at a tapas place, or shishito peppers (the Japanese equivalent) you'd be familiar with this dish, which features a variety of different peppers roasted until soft. The smaller peppers were fun to eat by hand, though the larger ones required a fork, and the cheese at the bottom provided a little relief from the occasional chili heat.
The tomatoes, melon, and squash ($11) may be the most beautiful plate of food I've been served all year. Looks aren't everything, but the dish matches. My server described it as "a last taste of summer," which sums it up pretty nicely. It's also a pleasant reminder that tomatoes are in fact fruits; they bridge the gap between ribbons of squash to chunks of sweet cantaloupe. They all come together with a bright vinaigrette, the sharp bite of jalapenos, and the refreshing taste of pickled young ginger.
The lone vegetarian entrée, whole wheat reginette ($17), comes with cherry tomatoes, corn, and chard. The thick twists of pasta were piled in a buttery, savory broth, and the barely-cooked vegetables lent their inherent sweetness to balance the dish. Between this and the pasta I had at Max Soha, I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my low opinion of whole wheat noodles.
And I'm going to have to reassess my opinion of "Brooklyn" restaurants. Between the great, seasonal food and the comfortable atmosphere, I can see myself becoming a regular at Bellwether.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.