Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget.
Five Leaves in Greenpoint specializes in Australian comfort food—a cuisine which, to my mind, conjures up images of Vegemite sandwiches and kangaroo jerky. But I'm no expert in Australian cuisine, so I thought it best to check out Five Leaves for myself before passing judgement.
This being Greenpoint, there is a pronounced hipster vibe to the restaurant, which had Heath Ledger as an initial backer. That said, there's very little ego; it's a dependable neighborhood joint serving simply prepared dishes. The menu is well suited to the Apps Only approach—there are a number of salads, sides, and small plates that are easily shared.
We started with the House Made Ricotta ($9), a bowl of light, fresh ricotta cheese topped with olive oil, sea salt, figs, thyme and a chunk of honeycomb. The ricotta is perfect—firm, and not too wet, delicious spread over the fruit and nut bread the dish is served with. While the figs and honeycomb were a nice touch, they verged on overpowering the subtle sweetness of the creamy ricotta itself, especially on top of the fruit bread. In my opinion, all it really needed was olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Still, we ate every last bit.
Next up were the Spiced Pork Ribs ($13). These ribs, served four to a plate, are succulent, fairly fatty, and crispy on the outside while still falling off the bone. They were served with a radish and celery salad loaded with cilantro, with the lightness of the vegetables playing nicely off of the hearty meat. The highlight of this dish, however, was a green apple mustard for dipping the ribs in—like a honey mustard, but with fresh apples acting as sweetener. This was the standout dish for me; I easily could have eaten another plate of these ribs.
Fries are always a good way to go if you're looking to put together a meal of apps and sides; they're filling, they almost always taste good. Five Leaves serves regular Fries ($5) and Truffle Fries ($8); we decided to splurge on the Truffle Fries. The fries themselves were good, crispy and fried up to order. But the $3 drizzle of truffle oil didn't really add much. Sure, it had that truffle flavor going on, but I would have enjoyed the fries just as much without the schmancy touch.
The surprise winner was the Sauteed Tuscan Kale ($6). Cooked with anchovy butter and caramelized onions, the kale was salty, nutty and perfectly tender.
Finally, we had the Devils on Horseback ($7), dates wrapped in bacon and served with dijon mustard. These were good, but at six dates for seven dollars, it is not the best value on the menu. There was something I didn't love; perhaps I was thrown by the bacon, not as crispy as I was hoping. But I really can't complain.
In total, there were three of us and we spent $45 on food before tax and tip. While it's easy enough to put together a full meal of sides and small plates at Five Leaves, keep in mind that the bar makes a wide range of serious cocktails, all around $9-$10. So if you're looking to visit Five Leaves on a budget, bring a little more cash for drinks, or just plan to stop in for a drink and a snack.