I’ve by no means noticed branzino glance rather like this, like some historical, jewel-encrusted weapon unearthed from volcanic ash, prickly with glistening shards, beaten obsidian and olivine. Steam rises from the fish’s mouth, a protracted, pensive exhale.
The armor — cracked wheat, cumin, allspice and garlic, blackened over charcoal — crumbles on the knife. It’s lemon-bright with a faint, corrective bitterness from its dalliance with fireplace. Within, the flesh is immaculate, as juicy and gentle as you could possibly want.
This is a grand dish to devour within the humble white-tile storefront of Little Egypt in Ridgewood, Queens. Up entrance, a cluster of tables are set with plastic black damask position mats and electrical candles; within the again, grocery cabinets may also be learn like a library, a scholarship of fava beans and black molasses.
Nashaat Youssef, the chef, opened Little Egypt two years in the past together with his sister, Nagwa Hanna, a chemist with a sideline in pastry. Ridgewood has been his house since he arrived in the US in 1991. He grew up in Alexandria, Egypt’s greatest seaport, and spent a decade cooking at a cafe steps from the docks. In New York, he took a detour, running for a limousine corporate, ahead of deciding to go back to what he cherished.
Within the entrance window are relics of the rustic left in the back of: a big reproduction of King Tut’s sarcophagus, a bust of Nefertiti in her turquoise cap-crown, a hookah coiled in on itself (“ornament most effective,” Mr. Youssef stated). Above the tables stands a small determine of Christ sporting the move. On Sunday mornings, Mr. Youssef makes meals for his fellow parishioners at…