Daniel alum Nico Russell’s new Prospect Heights restaurant Oxalis serves “unshowy” yet “highly impressive” fare, although the pop-up-turned-restaurant is struggling through some growing pains, Times critic Pete Wells writes in a one-star review.
Russell serves a lot of vegetables in his four- to six-course reasonably priced tasting menu, probably as a way to cut costs, although Wells says it doesn’t come across that way: The rutabaga, for instance, made him smile.
He praises the “spaghetti-like” strands of rutabaga topped with Alpine fontina and a cream sauce made of coffee and chicory, as well as the “fantastic” little potato cakes that come “crisp,” with bay leaf powder and topped with nori. Wells says the latter evokes “powerful emotions,” especially when he learns the potatoes are stewed in duck fat before deep fried.
But after multiple dinners there, he finds certain dishes somewhat repetitive, writing:
The price seems meant to encourage frequent visits, but if you return often you may experience déjà vu. At meals in December, January and February, I was always served some variation on raw sea scallops with daikon and apple and some version of duck breast, sweet potato and yogurt. The portions in both cases were restrained but the flavors were outsize. The scallops were cured in miso and refrigerated for a few days and came out of it with something like the concentration of flavor that beef gets from dry-aging, but none of the funk. The duck’s flavor was less surprising, but there was some energy in its collision with sweet potato purée and fig-leaf yogurt tart enough to cause double-takes.
The restaurant opened in December but its liquor license arrived later in January.
While he gushes over the chef’s cooking, Wells says dining at Oxalis is a “solemn” experience; the layout works against the restaurant, the decor is plain, and the servers speak in stiff, coached lines. One Star.