BIRDS OF A FEATHER
FINDS A NEST IN WILLIAMSBURG
by Sophia Hsu
Photos by Amit Chaffee
The now veteran restaurateurs Yiming Wang and Xian Zhang of Michelin star Café China and China Blue have found a new home in Brooklyn’s own Williamsburg. The power couple’s third location, Birds of a Feather, is located on a busy, car-lined stretch of Grand Street among Chinese Club’s Hakka Chinese cuisine with an Indian twist, Snacky’s Japanese, Chinese, and Korean small plates, Bar Omar’s North African dishes, Samurai Mama’s communal Japanese dining, and Beats karaoke bar housing Korean food pop-up Belly. If you are looking for new flavors and/or authentic bites, Grand Street is where to be. As neighbors waited with mouths watering, Birds of a Feather quietly opened.
Despite the feather-soft, loyal patrons of Café China now conveniently, and perhaps dangerously, have access to authentic Sichuan cuisine closer to home. One customer mentioned to Xian that he works near Café China by day, and now, Birds of a Feather is literally in his backyard. The restaurant is perfectly appointed by Yiming just like Café China and China Blue, but it has a character all its own, every detail. The focus of the main dining area is a long communal table that nearly spans its entire length. A secluded room in the rear of the establishment just beyond the kitchen entrance is perfect for hosting private events. The exterior is simple, clean, and elegant. [Mandarin Ducks] or yuanyang is printed in simplified Chinese in the window alongside the restaurant’s name, Birds of a Feather. The English idiom is, “Birds of a feather flock together,” generally understood to mean that those with the same tastes or interests tend to be found together. Traditional Chinese culture reveres Mandarin ducks as a symbol of a loving couple and lifelong partners always found together, so yuanyang is a perfectly precise pairing with Birds of a Feather.
The menu is modern Sichuan cuisine and shares about fifty percent of its dishes with the Café China menu. Many of the Café China favorites like the Husband & Wife Special, Mung Bean Jelly, Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil, Double Cooked Pork, Spicy Cumin Lamb, and Tea Smoked Duck make appearances in the Williamsburg location. However, new dishes will wow newcomers and Café China regulars alike. A few highlights that can be found exclusively on the Birds of a Feather menu are:
Wood Ears with Pickled Peppers and Cucumbers: a refreshing, cold appetizer with crispy wood ear mushrooms, sweet and sour pickled bell peppers, cucumber, and a splash of vinegar
•Okra with Sichuan Pepper Sauce: okra is not a vegetable typically found in Chinese cuisines but very prevalent in South and Southeast Asian cuisine, but it has found a home in this cold dish dressed in a scallion and peppercorn sauce, crunchy, not slimy
• Thousand-Year Egg and Tofu Rolls: a quarter of a thousand year egg is gingerly perched a firm but silky medallion of steamed tofu
• Fried Eggplant Accordions: precision cut Chinese eggplants batter-dipped and deep-fried to perfection are dressed in a sweet and sour sauce
• Braised Whole Fish in Chili Sauce: don’t let the name intimidate you – the fish is cooked to perfection, tender with the natural sweetness of the fish shining through the delicate and sweet chili sauce
• Baby Squid: these tiny, adorable sea creatures are gently sauteed with chili peppers and cucumbers and disappear quickly among the dining party
All of the flavors, textures, and fragrances lived up to the quality of its sister restaurants. Keep an eye out for the grand opening by following Birds of a Feather on social media or by going to their minimalist website: http://birdsofafeatherny.com. Go enjoy that numbing, tingly spiciness on your tongue.