At the new Nightingale 9 in Carroll Gardens, Rob Newton cooks with the zeal of a convert.
The Arkansas-bred chef didn't encounter the vim of Southeast Asian flavors until he began culinary school, so he's been capitalizing on lost time ever since.
In a turn from the resolutely Southern menu at his firstborn restaurant, Seersucker, Newton traveled north to south through Vietnam, glomming inspiration as he went.
The food at Nightingale 9 is a compilation of happily edible souvenirs, such as squares of caramelized Phu Quoc peppercorn pork, first braised and then deep-fried ($16), and lard and country ham with a headlining role in fried rice ($10).
The Hudson Valley beef ($14) is cleverer than the menu description lets on. It's steak frites with passport stamps from France, Vietnam and Brooklyn: Lemongrass and fish-sauce-marinated beef mingle with morning glory greens and potato chips of two textures--some slightly damp from a sauté, others added at the last minute for crunch.
With fresh flavors like these, we'll happily sign on as chef Newton's disciples.