When you have one successful restaurant already and are thinking of a second project, it’s not always easy figuring out what that second project would be like. If you first opened up a fine-dining restaurant, maybe it makes sense to have a more casual counterpart. Or if you are feel confident with crossing multiple culinary boundaries, you can try an Italian concept after your opening line in French. There is no wrong or right answer on these choices but it also means that the chef’s resources will likely be divided and there is certainly pressure to replicate the success of the first restaurant. For Greg Baxtrom, whose Olmsted has been perpetually mobbed with diners and considered a game-changer in Brooklyn dining scene since its opening in 2016, his second act was a rather curious blend of Japanese yakitori and French influences. Of course, the affinity between Japanese and French cuisines has long been well-known but I was surprised that chef Baxtrom went with a niche yakitori concept to merge the culinary influences of two of the greatest food countries. Good news is that, on a recent visit with my wife Jun, we had a lot to like about many of the dishes coming out from Maison Yaki.
The menu at Maison Yaki consists exclusively of small plates and skewers, with no single dish costing $10 or more, similar to the value proposition at Olmsted. Chawanmushi is one of the quintessential staples in Japanese cuisine, and Jun and I were surprised to find that the one from Maison Yaki was quite nicely done, with braised artichoke (“barigoule” in French) and summer truffle to give a French taste without sacrificing the soft texture of the egg custard. Japanese people are known to enjoy sandwiches (“sando”) with all kinds of meats (such as the pork “katsu” cutlet), and I had very high expectations for the wagyu beef tongue sando with gribiche sauce; I thought it was delicious while Jun remarked that the seasoning could’ve been toned down a little bit. The skewers at Maison Yaki uniformly incorporate Japanese yakitori techniques with French sauce. The trick at getting satisfaction out of these dishes is to not rely too much on the sauce which could quickly overwhelm your palate and undermine the texture of the food. That’s how we felt with Béarnaise sauce on top of shishito peppers, or the Dijonaise sauce that accompanied the pork belly.
The lobster skewer, which tasted more or less like fish cake, also could be enjoyed more once you lose some of the Americaine sauce on top. On the other hand, Jun and I both really loved the chicken breast with Allemande sauce whose flavor was more balanced and very aptly complemented the chicken, and our consensus favorite was the ribeye, accompanied by Bordelaise sauce made of wine that wasn’t overly heavy and grilled to near perfection to my surprise. At the end, we ended up ordering extra skewers of chicken breast and rib eye (you will likely also be doing this no matter how many skewers you have ordered, even with a side of potato puffs (pommes dauphine) we had ordered). For dessert, we split the classic French dessert of profiteroles with gingembre (ginger) and matcha (green tea); Jun, who loves both ginger and green tea, loved it and while my palate was slightly overwhelmed by the ginger’s flavor, I still liked it too.
Getting a reservation at Maison Yaki seems relatively more manageable compared to Olmsted from across the street on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, but for prime time dinner, it’s still probably best to make reservations if possible. There is full bar with a handful of cocktail offerings that the restaurant also sells at quite a discount compared to the standard New York prices (although the portion is also smaller). For a summer meal, yuzu gin and tonic which Jun enjoyed seems to be an excellent choice, although vesper martini and cherry blossom Manhattan that I tried are also good choices if you want to try stronger drinks. It was too hot to sit outdoor, but we managed to grab seats in front of the kitchen counter; if possible, I highly recommend you get your seats there and enjoy watching all the grilling activities going on. Maison Yaki is a fun second act that has its own distinct identity that stands out from Olmsted; if Olmsted is a destination dining establishment, I would consider Maison Yaki a place you would want to visit more often whenever you have a craving for some excellent grilled skewers.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 626 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Telephone: (718) 552-2609