When debating what to order for dessert at Olmsted, my girlfriend insisted that we get s’mores. A great call, it turned out, as we were led straight to the garden at the back of the restaurant where we had the opportunity to make DIY s’mores by putting marshmallows on top of the fire and then into the Graham cracker along with Hershey’s chocolate. What struck me even more, however, was that this seemingly unassuming neighborhood restaurant in Prospect Heights had a sustainable garden where you can see all the vegetables growing, and also a pair of quails named Lucy and Gary (not to be eaten, just to be clear) in a coop. That overused word “farm to table” is really difficult to implement literally in NYC, but Olmsted is doing a magnificent job breaking that barrier. What impressed me even more was that the food from chef Greg Baxtrom, who have had stings at some of the most renowned fine dining palaces like Alinea and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (which my girlfriend and I had just visited the previous weekend), is quite approachable while displaying full of creative energy.
The concise menu at Olmsted consists of mostly small plate dishes that may not always great for sharing. While the price of each dish is mostly under $20, the portion has been also reduced from what I typically expect to see in a restaurant. Still, the gobi pakora cauliflower had the delicious curry-based flavor and tasted like well-cooked chicken, and the now famed carrot crepe with little neck clams underneath totally lived up to its accolade, with such an elegant balance of flavor and texture that I secretly lamented sharing this with my girlfriend and a mutual friend of ours who joined us for the dinner. Maitake chawanmushi with bottarga and smoked roe was another winner, with the aromatic flavor of chawanmushi that was such a relief to the increasingly cold autumn night.
The main dishes more or less delivered as well. I felt the rutabaga “tagliatelle” contained a bit too much brown butter such that the texture of rutabaga that the kitchen ingeniously put into pasta form or the black truffle that accompanied it didn’t shine. Guinea hen came in both roasted and confit form; initially I liked the roasted one a little bit more, but over time the rustic touch of confit (I wished the seasoning were just a bit more toned down) eventually won me over.
The winner among the main dishes clearly belonged to tempura fried scallops. It’s not often that I encountered scallops in fried form, and the delicate texture of scallops in perfect fried shells was an absolute joy to my taste bud. Once we were led to the garden to make the s’mores (it’s no different from just a combination of marshmallow and chocolate inside Graham cracker as I described above), we also ordered frozen yogurt with lavender honey that was also delicious without being overly sweet.
Olmsted has been receiving universal praise from restaurant critics, and not surprisingly getting a reservation there is incredibly difficult to say the least these days. I would say the best bet is to show up when the restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. and try your luck for walk-ins, which is what we did (they set aside the entire bar area, which serves the full menu, for walk-ins). I was a huge fan of the modern, welcoming dining space (as well as the garden outside) with bright lights and inviting vibe that works for so many different dinner occasions. There is full bar with some creative farm-to-table inspired cocktail menus. Among all the new openings in New York City this year, I would say Olmsted is one of the most important ones; it seamlessly puts into action the vision of a farm to table restaurant in a comfortable neighborhood setting that works for everyone without breaking the bank. I would happily come back once the buzz starts to come down and I can secure a table at a more reasonable dinner time.
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Telephone: (718) 552-2610