Meadowsweet: For Chef Polo Dobkin, a Culinary Journey Grows in Brooklyn

Let’s take things back to Brooklyn in the ‘90s for a second. The timestamp evokes visions of a raw, gritty borough filled with pockets of poverty. It represents rawness in all of its forms: an authentic, eclectic arts culture, a melting pot of diversity, and a time when Brooklyn was still the little sister on the block compared to “the” city, Manhattan. But during this time, before the cool, gentrified borough that we know BK as today, few people saw what Brooklyn was capable of, and embraced it early on. Michelin Starred chef Polo Dobkin is one of those people. And judging by the success of his restaurant Meadowsweet, which was awarded a Michelin Star in both 2015 and 2016, it was the right move.

“Rents were cheaper when I moved to Brooklyn,” says Dobkin. “I came out here in the early ’90s and kind of fell in love with it. A friend who lived down here said, ‘Trust me, once you move out here, you’ll never go back to Manhattan.’ And it turned out to be true.”

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Though Dobkin has worked in some of the most notable kitchens, moving his way up to executive chef, it wasn’t until recently that he opened up his own restaurant.

“My wife and my family both urged me to open a restaurant for years. Obviously, I’ve always wanted to, but taking that big step and taking that leap was always kind of daunting,” he says. After finally caving into the pressure a couple of years ago, they started looking for a restaurant space.

Thanks to being exposed to many different experiences while growing up, Dobkin knew from an early age that he wanted to cook for a living.

“The inspiration was definitely family, and also I was blessed enough to travel to Europe when I was younger, getting exposed to the cuisine of Austria, Italy, and Spain,” says Dobkin. “So between the home cooking and the home-cooked meals and cooking alongside my parents, also getting to travel and get a broad exposure to a number of different cuisines got me really excited about cooking at an early age.”

In this “Table 42” vignette, we bring viewers into Meadowsweet, Dobkin’s south Williamsburg, Brooklyn restaurant that specializes in contemporary seasonal American with a strong Mediterranean influence. Dobkin walks us through from-scratch squid ink fettuccine, a dish that begins with making hydrated squid ink pasta dough, which is then laminated and stretched repeatedly before being folded and cut into fettuccine. After the pasta is cooked, it’s married into a simmering sauce of deliciousness (red wine and tomato braised Spanish octopus) and met with chorizo, chiles, and topped with breadcrumbs.