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On 12/12/12, Celebrate Repeating Numbers at Kiwiana

Oh 12/12/12. Look at you, you little date you, all repeating with the numbers like that. You must be feeling PRETTY smug right about now. For eleven years now, people have been making WAY too big of a deal out of the one date every year where the month, day & year are all the same. After eleven years, you're it dude. You're the last time this repeating number junk will happen for another 88+ years. By that time, most of us will likely be dead. Unless of course science figures out the secret to longevity or some shit. Fingers crossed!

Tomorrow, to celebrate you, people all across the globe have decided to mark the occasion in varied ways. In Wisconsin, 12/12/12 will be "Aaron Rodgers Day," in honor of the Packers' beloved quarterback. At MSG, they're bringing out all the crusty dinosaurs of rock for a huge concert to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I'm sure there'll be a bunch of number geeks out there who'll use nothing but a base-12 number system all day long.

Chef Mark Simmons, of Park Slope's New Zealand restaurant Kiwiana, apparently loves numbers too, so for 12/12/12, he's decided to add another 12 into the mix, 'cause I mean...why the fuck not? On 12/12/12, Kiwiana's officially rolling out a new menu, and for one night only, everything on it will be going for $12!

This past weekend, Mark invited me to the restaurant to give the new menu a lil' taste. It was actually my first time stopping by, so going in, I was curious as to what exactly constituted New Zealand décor. Basically, I was expecting a bunch of tiny stuffed birds & perhaps a Lord of the Rings poster or three scattered about.

Instead, it's a low-lit room that seats about thirty, with homey wallpaper & an inoffensive amount of wall decorations.

They started my distinguished dinner companion & I off with a trio of cocktails.

The first--the Short Mack--was a semi-tart, semi-apple cocktail reminiscent of a midori sour, but without the bite. Not bad at all. I'm sort of a martini hater, so the second--the F'n G Martini--didn't do much for me. Still, it had a pleasant citrus flavor & compared to the average martini, was definitely smoother. Finally, there was the Muffin Top, made with spiced rum, ginger ale, lemon & poppy seeds. While the poppy seeds were sort of just there, the drink itself was light & refreshing.

Once the booze had started to warm up our cheeks a bit, they brought us out two appetizers.

The first was Crispy Whitebait with Tartar Sauce and Grilled Lime, a dish that basically takes fish & chips and mashes them into one item. Personally, before this evening, I had no idea what Whitebait were. Turns out they're a sardine-sized fish that's considered a bit of a delicacy in New Zealand due to its limited availability. Crisped up like they were at Kiwiana, they take on a consistency that's somewhere between fish & calamari.

Initially, as a New Englander who's eaten his fair share of mussels, I expected to enjoy the second of the appetizers--Smoked and Pickled Green Lip Mussels--more than the Crispy Whitebait. The green lip mussels, also known as New Zealand mussels, were served with whole grain bread and some butter. I started off spreading a little butter onto two pieces of the bread and making a sandwich with the mussels nestled inside but eventually decided the mussels were better straight up. With the mussels' slight sweetness & light vinegary flavor, I found the bread & butter to be a bit unnecessary. Compared to the Crispy Whitebait, it was good but not as immediately satisfying.

From there, we moved onto the entrees, starting with one for all you vegetarians out there--the Beet and Cauliflower Lasagne. Packed with the standard cheese alongside beet, spinach & slices of cauliflower, it had a flavorful mix of sweetness, saltiness & crunchiness. The greens on top were a bit extraneous though.

The lasagna came out at the same time as the Seared Salmon with Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Lardoons. Due to the lardoons, small cubes of pork that're great for sautéing vegetables in, the lasagne ended up playing second fiddle. Lardoons are basically bacon & as we all know, everything tastes better with bacon. While the dish centered on the Seared Salmon, which was cooked nicely, I enjoyed the chunks of apples & the Brussels sprouts, sautéed with the salty, porky lardoons, more.

This is where we got into the more high-class dishes, starting with the Poached Lobster Tail with Mac n Cheese Gratin and Grilled Bok Choy. Lobster's one of those dishes that, when cooked incorrectly, can end up bland and unworthy of the heavy price tag that usually accompanies it. In this case, the lobster tail was presented simply, allowing the flavor to stand out. Complemented by the crispness of the mac n cheese gratin & the heartiness of the bok choy, I rather enjoyed it as a whole dish.

We finished with a plate of Steinlager Braised New Zealand Lamb Shank with Mach Potato and Baby Vegetables. As a kid, when visiting the grandparents, I often dined on dry-ass lamb served with mint jelly & have had an aversion to lamb ever since. For now, Kiwiana's Lamb Shank has changed my view on the sheepish meat, as it was sweet & fell off the bone quite easily.

At this point, I was pretty damn stuffed, but dessert was still on the way.

They brought out three for us to try. Between the three--a light, fluffy meringue filled with whipped cream, kiwi fruit & raspberries, a tiny cup of ice cream with crunchy, toffee-like pieces in it & a cake like thang coated in coconut--I preferred the ice cream. I'm a sucker for toffee and/or caramel. On any given night, I could eat any of them though.

So tomorrow, if you're looking to celebrate numbers & shit, head on down to Kiwiana & check out the new menu. They won't be taking reservations, so it might be a bit of a shitshow, but the food's definitely worth it. Best of luck to you.

Kiwiana, 847 Union Street, 718-230-3682

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