A visit to Prospect Heights restaurant Olmsted is a viable challenge to the tasting menus at restaurants like Per Se and Atera, writes Pete Wells in his latest review. At Olmsted, chef Greg Baxtrom left behind the "hourslong" tasting menu format he learned at restaurants like Alinea, Per Se, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Atera. According to Wells, while three-star tasting menus can be exciting, they are often uninviting and exclusive to most.
The Times critic explains: "Olmsted is no competition to Atera and the other elite restaurants like it. But it is, in some ways, a challenge to those places, or at least to their notion that the best stage for a chef’s talent is the most expensive one." Still, you can see the influence of these restaurants in almost all of Baxtrom’s cooking:
The carrot crepe is a strange and fascinating appetizer. Arranged under or over the big orange circle of the crepe are buttered littleneck clams, carrots in several forms and a cluster of sunflower seeds. I didn’t warm up to the whole ensemble right away, but it got into my head and now I want it again.
Sweet-pea falafel, a main course, takes no getting used to. Some assembly is required, though. Into the fluffy purse of a pea-flour pita (or peata, as the menu has it) you pack some wonderfully light balls of pea falafel and dress them with puréed and whole peas, a salad of cucumbers and currants, and labne mixed with cardamom and fresh mint. You taste peas, lots of them, but you also taste summer.
There are a few missteps, like the seared hake with a panzanella made of rhubarb, but dishes like torn scallops and lavender-infused frozen yogurt bring Wells back. He gives the restaurant two stars.
Earlier today, Eater critic Ryan Sutton found the restaurant to be delivering "near perfect bliss," and he awarded it three stars.