A chef who's an alum of Alinea, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Per Se is opening his own seasonal restaurant Olmsted in Brooklyn tonight — and he's trying to make "refined" food affordable there. Chef Greg Baxtrom created the menu with co-owner, friend, and farmer Ian Rothman based on what Rothman could grow in a small garden in the backyard and what their purveyor friends have available. All the entrees cost under $25, and Baxtrom and Rothman plan to keep it that way. "We have our ambitions," Baxtrom says. "But we want to be a neighborhood restaurant."
It takes some creative thinking. Good scallops, for example, can cost $21 pound, which would command a menu price of more than $30 for a plate of three, Baxtrom says. So instead, they buy scallops that have accidentally been torn during the shucking process, from the same purveyors, for $8 per pound. They then cut the scallops, put them on a skewer, and grill them with a dry barbecue spice rub. It's on the menu for $21, served over polenta. "Instead of trying to use all these techniques from Alinea and Per Se to show off, it's more, 'How do we use those bags of tricks to keep our prices down?'" Baxtrom says.
In the restaurant's backyard, Rothman's already growing a garden filled with food and flowers for present and future menu items. Expect to see fig trees, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, garlic, turnips, and radishes. A tub turned into a pond also features living crawfish and watercress. Once Rothman harvests a vegetable, the restaurant will turn it into a special, or hold a neighborhood event to sell them, Baxtrom says. In the meanwhile, the outdoor space offers 25 seats for people to sit amidst the mini-farm.
Inside, the restaurant features 50 seats, a chef's counter, and a 12-seat bar. Baxtrom and Rothman want it to be casual and comfortable, a contrast from the lengthy fine dining experiences of their past employers. "I'm just trying to blow minds for $24 an entree," Baxtrom says. Olmsted is located at 659 Vanderbilt Ave. and is open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. Check out the garden and the opening menus below, and if you stop by, let us know what you think.