Entries in Williamsburg (11)


Big Stars and Brooklyn

Since his early days in New York kitchens, Atlas in 2000 and Papillon in 2001, Paul Liebrandt has had a by-any-means-necessary attitude in his quest for perfection. Having shared our thoughts on The Elm (and the N.Y. State of Restaurant Minds) back in July, we were curious to know what Pete Wells would think of the chef's latest venture. Today, he awards the restaurant two stars.

"The Elm, in other words," the critic writes, "would be just like a hundred other restaurants if not for Mr. Liebrandt. He has ratcheted down the complexity and the number of surprises in his cooking," Wells says, comparing Liebrandt's cooking in Williamsburg to Tribeca, where the chef left his most recent post at Corton this summer. "This could have dumbed down the cuisine, but it has focused its pleasures instead."

"A dish called Flavors of Bouillabaisse, in quotation marks, sounds ominous," Wells writes, before concluding, "It is lovely. Mr. Liebrandt has kept it in seafood-stew form but rearranged the emphasis." And in the Summer Garden, with an array of vegetables, the critic notes some were "raw, some were pickled, some were roasted, some were braised; all tasted extremely fresh and delicious."

Wells touches on the restaurant's price point. He writes, "But while you can find a couple of sleepwalkers on nearly any menu, you’d be lucky to find just one dish as good as Flavors of Bouillabaisse. The Elm has at least a half-dozen that equal or surpass it, and none of them is more than $30." More than $30? The times they are a-changin'. How long ago was it when entrees in and around Williamsburg weren't more than $20? Then again, when was the last time a Michelin starred chef thought it a solid career move to leave Manhattan for Brooklyn? It's a move that seems enticing to more and more chefs and restaurateurs. Eater notes Tom Colicchio is opening some version of his Craft empire in Downtown Brooklyn, Hill Country hopes to open their location in the same neighborhood by year's end, and Grand Central Oyster Bar will soon be in Park Slope.

Despite the pair of stars, Liebrandt's new project in the King & Grove Hotel is closer to Corton and Manhattan fine dining than it is what we've dubbed the two-star template – the current trend of sophisticated food served cheaply in casual, whimsical, and oft slightly boisterous environs. Then again, Liebrandt has worked against the grain from the moment he donned an apron. Maybe he's a trendsetter. His presence in Brooklyn certainly reveals the borough's changing landscape and, with The Elm, he's taken a giant leap towards proving it can sustain a highly-refined and well-curated vision.


Brooklyn Owes the Charmer Under Paul Liebrandt

Sally Rowe was wowed by the food Paul Liebrandt was cooking at Atlas in 2000. Liebrandt was 24 at the time. As a result, Rowe, a documentary filmmaker, was inspired to follow him around for nine years thereafter. The footage came together in 2010 as a documentary called A Matter of Taste: Serving up Paul Liebrandt, and it provides a candid look at Liebrandt's career.

After menu disputes at Atlas, Liebrandt quit and found work at Papillon in 2001. He left less than a year later. "I like to think of myself as a culinary mercinary," Liebrandt says in the documentary while between jobs, "on hire to the highest bidder." Liebrandt started his own consulting company after Papillon and it wasn't until 2005 that he returned to the kitchen: working as the Chef Director at Gilt, a position he held for less than a year. A short stint making cocktails for a large beverage company followed, and in 2007, Liebrandt was approached by restaurateur Drew Nieporent to be chef and partner in Corton, opening in the former Montrachet space in Tribeca.

On the collaboration with Liebrandt, Nieporent says in Taste, "The reason I want to work with Paul Liebrandt comes from the basic instincts that I've had from the beginning, which were, if I'm going to distinguish myself, if I'm going to do a better job than everybody else, then I have to be associated with the best people." Nieporent's instincts earned Corton three stars from the Times, two from the Michelin Guide, and kept the spark dormant that burns within Liebrandt to constantly seek out new challenges. Six years later, that spark has caught fire and the Siberian-born, London-raised chef will soon be splitting his time at Corton and the Elm, opening late spring in the King & Grove Hotel across the river on North 12th Street in Williamsburg.

The current space in the hotel will undergo a complete renovation, so we were asked not to share our pictures of what used to be Pillar & Plough, but the open, lofty, garden-level space that will house the Elm when it opens in late spring is going to be an exciting stage for Liebrandt's new act.

In the hype surrounding Brooklyn restaurants, Liebrandt reveals in a recent interview with Grub Street that he isn't concerned with a restaurant's location, "To me there are only two kinds (of food): good and bad. I mean, Williamsburg is so close, proximity-wise. We're all in the same city; we're all part of it, and it's not really at all like going to the West Coast. It may sound a bit corny, but we're all New Yorkers — I consider myself a New Yorker. For me, it all comes under this "New York" umbrella. I'm proud to be here, and I'm very, very thrilled to be doing this project in Williamsburg." [GrubStreet]


Suzume Opening Tonight in Williamsburg

Michael Briones and Sam Barron are opening a humble restaurant on the corner of Devoe and Lorimer. Suzume, which means sparrow in Japanese, is bringing sushi and ramen to Williamsburg via 30 seats set in a cozy room rife with Eastern influence. Barron is a carpenter with two other Brooklyn projects to his name in Maggie Brown and The Emerson. Briones honed his ramen skills in the kitchen at Momofuku Noodle Bar and learned his way around fish filets during his time at Bond St. In addition to sushi and ramen, Briones' menu at Suzume is one of izakaya-inspired small plates and everything on it shares a focus on sourcing the freshest ingredients possible. The restaurant opens tonight at 6pm.

We were lucky enough to get invited to a soft opening earlier this week. Here's a look at what to expect from Suzume.

Click to read more ...


The Williamsburg Fox Gets a Star

Reynard is a name for a fox that was used in medieval tales.  In the Wythe Hotel, a fox earned itself a star from Pete Wells this weekReynards is the latest edition to Andrew Tarlow's Williamsburg empire, which includes Marlow & Sons and Diner, both a bit further south.  At Reynards, "nearly everything that comes out of the kitchen is chosen by hand and cooked with firewood." 

Sean Rembold is in charge of the cooking.  He started out with Tarlow as the sous chef at Marlow & Sons and his affinity for smokey, fire cooked food can now be found on Wythe Avenue between North 11th and North 12th Streets.  "Reynard’s hoods must be powered by jet engines because you don’t smell smoke at your table until you get close to your food. Then you can’t miss it."

The restaurant is open from 7am - midnight; serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  "The menu changes too often for recommendations," but the assortment of dishes may be accompanied with wine from "a cellar of offbeat and affordable French wines" Lee Campbell put together at Hip Town's newest hotel eatery.


Is That a Flatiron Whisk in Your Pants or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Whisk is a kitchen appliance store in Williamsburg.  It opened at the end of 2008 and today it gets a sibling with a Flatiron location opening at 933 Broadway (@21st Street).

Natasha Amott is the person behind Whisk and her Flatiron outpost features a larger selection than its Brooklyn counterpart.  You can find high-end appliances from labels like Le Creuset, Cuisinart, and Calphalon next to small batch bitters from Rochester-based Fee Brothers.  The hours are Monday to Friday from 9am - 8pm and Sunday from 11am - 7pm.

Whisk is owned by the same people that run Uva Wines.  Uva is on 199 Bedford Ave (@ North 6th), just up the street from the Bedford Whisk location.  The store pays close attention to quality and price and their wonderfully curated selection of wines always has great values.  This week they're featuring some lighter style reds from Languedoc in the south of France.  Put a nice chill on them and enjoy them at your next BBQ.


Taavo Somer Takes Isa Fishing and Throws Chef Ignacio Mattos Out to Sea

Eric Asimov paid a visit to Isa while he was the Times' interim restaurant critic. He awarded the restaurant one star and the attention brought Isa to new heights. The James Beard Foundation nominated Isa for Best New Restaurant. Things were looking up and much of this was due to the culinary mind of chef Ignacio Mattos, who was making very interesting, "quirky" food

The kitchen staff were pioneers leading Isa down the path of culinary reinvention. That's why it was such a suprise Monday when the Gone Fishin' sign went up and it was announced Taavo Somer let go of Mattos. Sous chef Jose Ramirez and pastry chef Pam Yung jumped ship shortly after. A post on Craigslist confirms the newly available kitchen spots at 348 Wythe Street in Williamsburg.

It seems the forward thinking of Mattos and his gastronomic visionaries clashed with the direction Somer wished to take Isa. The restaurant plans to reopen tomorrow with back of the house help from restaurants Freemans and Peels, both owned by Somer. Isa 2.0 will include lunch, delivery, and kid-friendly menu items.


Bicycling is the Way, Bicycling is the Way

This video was posted over the weekend via Eater New York Editor Greg Morabito.  The clip stars Bill Meier, a veteran bike messanger and the delivery guy for Roberta's pizza offshoot Best Pizza on Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg.

If you have headphones, plug them in.  Your co-workers probably don't want to hear about "quarter-pound lunger's."


Reynards is Open in Williamsburg

Andrew Tarlow and Sean Rembold are the duo behind Diner and Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg.  The opening of Reynards last night in the Wythe Hotel marks the beginning of their third endeavor.

The project is the combined efforts of restauranteur Andrew Tarlow and Chef Sean Rembold coupled with Brooklyn developer Two Trees.  Reynards is the largest in Tarlow and Rembold's trio, and due to its hotel location, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The use of a wood-fired oven and grill will enhance the seasonal, American cuisine that persists at the teams other restaurants.

In an interview with GQ, Tarlow talks about his inspirations and his approach to room service.

"I see the restaurant as being the focal point and the meeting point of the hotel for traveling guests and certainly the local people in the community who live around here. So the notion is that we really want those two worlds to collide and be together and use this big grand bar and this place as the centerpiece for that."