Why is Brooklyn getting all the cool new restaurants? Two-year-old Olmsted is definitely one of New York’s best new additions. And actually driving there was less painful than driving to Tribeca for dinner. This simple, tiny, approachable restaurant is a new breed, popping up in Brooklyn. A restaurant that is turning out gourmet food, cooking with skill, detail and imagination for reasonable prices, in a casual setting.
Chef Greg Baxtrom has quite the pedigree, having cooked at Alinea, Per Se, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Atera. These were all multi Michelin star restaurants, where dinner could be well over $600 for two. So what a treat to be able to eat gourmet on a budget. His partner is Ian Rothman, who has a ten acre farm in Massachusetts and is the horticulturalist. The wine list is by Jeff Ruiz, another veteran of Atera. But here, there is a reasonable curated list as well as fun craft cocktails.
The restaurant is tiny. We were lucky to snag the only table large enough for 6 people. There is a living wall, of potted ferns and ivy, an open kitchen, and an actual garden out back, where they can snip fresh herbs for your dinner. There are benches set up with cushions, plus picnic tables. You can come a sip wine, have a cocktail, a few appetizers, or come back to the garden to toast your marshmallows over some coals, for your s’mores and take in a little nature. There are fish swimming in a bathtub, birds in a cage, and herb and vegetable garden, where you can connect with nature and see farm to table in action.
There is some ambitious gastronomy and some beautiful plating going on here. They encourage you to share, but honestly, the portions are tiny. If you are more than two, you better order doubles of everything. The menu consists of snacks like a plate of 4 oysters with a delicious mignonette du jour. A clever take on watermelon sushi, with thin sliced lemons and topped with bonito. Lobster thermidor is a riff on the original, with lobster crackers and a warm lobster sauce to dip the crackers in. There is a section called Plates, with smaller and larger options. The deep fried kale crab rangoon, comes to you fresh, hot and crispy, and is accompanied by a sweet and sour dipping sauce. The garden spätzle cacao e pepe, is a larger dish and a bargain at $14, for a plate of tender pasta in a lovage (green herbs), quark cheese and black pepper sauce. The carrot crepe is a signature dish, on the small side, but Instagram worthy with heirloom carrots, sunflowers and little neck clams. I thought this dish was extremely tasty and original. Another innovative plate was the heirloom tomato schnitzel, a large frittata size creation, crisped in the pan, with ricotta, bagna cauda and pineapple. The dry rubbed scallops came with grilled corn, chanterelles and blueberries and had a nice spicy bite to them. The roasted and grilled duck, was cooked in a plum sauce with shishito peppers and togarashi. It was the most expensive dish at $24.
They are bringing more refined cooking at a more affordable level, and this includes the cost of drinks and cocktails. Dessert was also most pleasing. Whether you choose a cheese fondue for two, or one of the four sweet items. Of course we tried all four for research purposes only. If ordering the s’mores you must take your dessert in the back garden, which really is a pleasant experience, except for the bugs.(but they do provide bug spray if you are so inclined). The young crowd loved melting the sticky marshmallows, on hand carved sticks, over charcoal and placing them on graham crackers with a Hershey’s chocolate bar. But I thought the other choices were more delicious and memorable. The frozen yoghurt with lavender honey made me swoon, and the bitter chocolate mousse, with vanilla crème fraiche, and the raspberry and decadent cream dessert, were not far behind. Kudos to whoever is the pastry chef, as everything was pure bliss.
Sophisticated food at moderate prices is so hard to find. It really is worth the trip to Brooklyn for creative small plates, that are refreshing, whimsical and ambitious.