Brooklyn’s dining scene may be getting more attention than ever, but the food here has been rich and vibrant for years thanks to the culinary traditions of its international communities. And opening for dinner, Milk River, located in Prospect Heights near the Barclays Center, is where Caribbean and Asian cuisines come together.
Located on a non-descript industrial block, the bi-level restaurant, bar, lounge, and venue housed in a former parking garage is a neighborhood oasis. Milk River is the brainchild of Chef La-Niece Lyew, a Brooklyn native whose ethnic background is part Jamaican and part Chinese. She named the restaurant after Milk River in Clarendon, Jamaica – a popular hot springs and mineral spa. The name not only represents the direction of the food, it symbolizes the fact that the restaurant is a social hub, enriching the area with its warm and welcoming presence.
The first floor of Milk River is a 150-seat dining room with plush booths and intimate tables. Reclaimed wood makes up the communal bar tables for a casual dining experience with friends, while the 16-seat bar pours local draft beer and wine. Late-night live music, jazz during weekend brunch and a revolving art display further enhance the surroundings. The second floor is Milk River's lounge, which boasts comfortable couches, banquettes and a 20-seat bar where you can drink and nosh while watching New York sports teams on the flat screen TVs. But the star attraction of the second floor may be the stunning digital wall-to-wall, stretch-art mural of the Brooklyn Bridge, lighting up to depict a nighttime scene. The restaurant also features a rotating selection of works by local artists such as Amy Theard, whose bold portraits of musicians such as Jay-Z, Biggie, Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah are displayed throughout Milk River.
Chef Lyew, an alum of Jean George’s Mercer Kitchen in Manhattan and acclaimed Brooklyn restaurants Umi Nom and Kuma Inn, has created a menu that beautifully reflects her heritage and the passion for cooking she developed while spending time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. Dishes include Crispy Salt-Cod Fritters with Scotch Bonnet aioli; Steamed Cod with black bean vinaigrette and sautéed bok choy; Seared Prawn Salad with candied kumquats and yuzu-soy sauce; Lamb Ribs in a barbecue-rum glaze and two types of chicken wings: Jamaican Jerk and the Asian-inflected Coriander-Anaheim Chili Wings. And in addition to specialty cocktails, there is also a great selection of inventive non-alcoholic drinks, as well as craft beers and wine on tap.