All Hail Acadia

King Bee brings Acadian food to the East Village

Acadian food doesn't get much play in New York. Can you blame us, collectively, as a city? Most Yanks haven't heard much about Acadians or their cuisine, including, at one point, King Bee chef Jeremie Tomczak.

"My first reaction was, What the hell is Acadian food?" Tomczak says. But after a primer and research trip (read: eating extravaganza) with owners Ken Jackson (Herbsaint in New Orleans) and Eben Klemm (Pearl & Ash), Tomczak was in.

In a nutshell, Acadians were French settlers to North America, stretching from Eastern Canada's Maritime Provinces all the way down the East Coast to Louisiana, where they developed what we call Cajun culture today. Their food is hearty and rustic, heavy on the game meats and root vegetables. "It's an unpretentious and very welcoming cuisine, which is exactly what we wanted for a neighborhood spot," Tomczak says.

Caraway Ployes with trout roe and smoked maple cream | Venison Tartare with barley and banyuls sauce

The reasonably priced menu (the most expensive dish costs $28) has all sorts of frontier food, gussied up for modern palates with Tomczak's gentle touch. (He cooked with Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit.)

To start, there are Caraway Ployes ($8), slivers of pancake cradling puffs of not-too-sweet smoked maple cream and neon pops of trout roe. There are dense, chewy Pork Cracklings ($6) sticky with cane sugar caramel and malt-vinegar powder, served in a bundle in butcher paper. And there's a grassy Venison Tartare ($14), mixed with pearls of barley and a zingy dressing made from juiced apples, kale and banyuls vinegar.

Poutine Râpée (top) | The Greay Ray and Sunset Cox (L), chef Jeremie Tomczak (R)

Main courses introduce us to some new vocabulary—Duck Fricot ($26) is essentially Tomczak's take on chicken and dumplings, enlivened with thyme-y savory and Swiss chard. Poutine Râpée ($22) is a spin on a classic Acadian dish of potato dumplings stuffed with salt pork; here the could-be carbo-bombs are filled with tender braised lamb neck, then served on a bed of roasted turnips and partridgeberries. But salt pork pops up again—in flavor if not appearance—in the Salt Pork Confit Lobster ($28), a play on butter-poached lobster served over grainy Anson Mills grits and dotted with tiny Brussels sprouts.

Room must be saved for dessert, old-school Louisiana throwbacks like the multitiered Doberge cake ($8), alternating layers of chocolate and lemon. There's also a thick slice of Gâteau de Sirop ($8) cloaked in ultra-rich cane syrup. You won't be able to finish either, but they're fun to taste nonetheless.

There's no liquor at the moment, but cocktail whiz-kid Klemm works wonders with esoteric wines and beer products, resulting in drinks ($11) like the Sunset Cox (a sangria-esque mix of Bugey wine, blackberry and byrrh) and Great Ray (house-made Madiera milk punch, honey and bitter chocolate), along with a nice selection of sparkling wines, cider and dry sherry.

The vibe is cheerful and the staff charming—exactly the kind of guides you need to venture boldly into the Acadian frontier.

Poutine Râpée with braised lamb neck, turnips and partridgeberries ($22).

Tartare of venison loin and pâté with barley and banyuls sauce ($14).

Great Ray (L) with Madiera milk punch, honey and bitter chocolate; Sunset Coy (R) with Bugey wine, blackberry and byrrh (both $11).

Chef Jeremie Tomczak.