Greenpoint Gazette

Barberry Brings a New Concept to a Familiar Place

BY Elizabeth Brady

Fear not, fans of Williamsburg tapas eatery Zipi Zape – the restaurant has closed, but hasn’t exactly been killed off. Rather, it’s operating under a new incarnation as Barberry. The vamped up, rustic bistro-style restaurant is now offering Mediterranean-American dishes, and is still being managed by the Zipi Zape team.

The space at 152 Metropolitan Avenue has operated as a bar and restaurant for most of the past century, and owner Asu Whiteman has become a historian of sorts. Indeed, she has been a fixture of the Williamsburg food scene for nearly a decade, first running now-defunct Aioli on Grand Street, and then occupying her current space on the corner of Berry and Metropolitan for about five years with Zipi Zape.

But why the change, and why now? Whiteman answers that even though Zipi Zape’s owners weren’t feeling the economic tension that many local restaurateurs have been experiencing, they indeed felt that it was time for some rejuvenation. So Whiteman, her sister Ayse, and Ayse’s husband Diego Gonzalez (who also serves as Barberry’s Executive Chef) decided to re-conceptualize their project.

“We’re confident in the service industry, and especially in Diego’s cooking,” Whiteman said. “It’s about understanding the neighborhood, and the changes, and what people like.”

Barberry’s updated design still reflects the owners’ interest in the neighborhood and the legacy of the building. Antique photographs are framed on the walls, with pictures documenting some local history. The structure’s exposed brick, tin walls and original window arches remain, creating an authentic, stunning look.

One of the biggest renovations is a drastically expanded dining area: The antique bar that once bisected the room has now been moved to the rear wall. What was once an appropriate design for factory workers lining up for after work drinks, or the “Penny Club” meetings in the 1950’s proved to be an inefficient use of space in a contemporary restaurant.

“We wanted to open the room up, and to create an ambiance where people can connect,” Whiteman explained.

It isn’t just the interior of the restaurant that has undergone some significant changes – the menu has been transformed as well. The tapas concept has been abandoned completely and replaced with a concept that favors large portions of fusion cuisine. By combining traditional Mediterranean ingredients with a unique style of preparation the Barberry team seeks to “leave that question mark in people’s mind,” Whiteman says. “We really want the food to taste different.”

So far, one of the most popular dishes at Barberry is the selection of Argentinean meat for two, which features lamb chops, chorizo, ribs, sweetbreads and quail. Other popular main courses include sandwiches, burgers and even a fish Po’ Boy.

Appetizers run the gamut as well. There is a filet mignon carpaccio with manchego cheese, which perfectly illustrates the amalgamation of flavors with which Chef Gonzalez experiments. Other examples, like the grilled sardines appetizer and Barberry’s potato wedges (a hybrid between french fries and homefries) help to reinforce the selection and this Medi-American flair.

The restaurant also offers a generous amount of beverage options and a robust wine list, which was designed by Rafael Matteo. The selection includes international wines, with everything from Oregonian Chardonnay to Lebanese Chateau Kefraya. A full cocktail menu will arrive this week.

For now, Barberry serves dinner seven nights a week. Whiteman expects to incorporate a weekend brunch in a month or so, and as the weather warms up their large area for sidewalk dining will be reopened.

152 Metropolitan Ave, 718-599-3027.

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