The team behind Prospect Heights’ Michelin-starred Oxalis is headed to Clinton Hill this week for its second restaurant, a more casual endeavor that started as a backyard pop-up in 2020. It’s called Place des Fêtes, and though the name is French, the restaurant is looking to the wine bars of Spain and Portugal, which operate with little more than planchas in their kitchens and lean heavily on grilled and raw seafood. It opens at 212 Greene Avenue, between Grand Avenue and Cambridge Place, on March 31.
“We’re just trying to mimic our favorite places in Europe,” says chef Nico Russell, who opened the bar with partner Steve Wong and beverage director Piper Kristensen. In Prospect Heights, the trio is known for their seasonal tasting menus, but here they’re going for a vibe that toes the line between casual and celebratory.
Everything at Place des Fêtes, from its fried skate wings to $22 plates of fancy ham, is a la carte, while much of its seating is set aside for walk-in customers. The wine list, curated by Kristensen, includes a dozen glasses that pull from Spain and the Americas, most priced around $15 each. “Imagine someone gets off from work and they come straight to you for a salad and a glass of wine,” Russell told Eater earlier this year. “That’s the kind of place we want to be.”
Tables at Oxalis can book weeks in advance, and its $112 eight-course tasting menu warrants a special occasion for many people, but customers can easily spend as much during a night out here as at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Most plates cost between $10 and $20, and a small group with an appetite could probably eat their way through this menu of almost 20 dishes.
From an open kitchen, pork ribs sizzle and raw scallops appear in their shell with hazelnut, kelp, and horseradish. A plate of mussels comes stuffed with pickled vegetables in a pool of squid ink, while Russell, who previously considered adding tinned and canned seafood to the menu, is aging and preserving fish himself. The menu will rotate regularly.
To make it happen, the team has brought on chef Jacob Harth, a 2019 Eater Young Gun who became known for his Portland seafood spot Erizo. The relationships Harth made with the country’s fish suppliers while working there have followed him to Clinton Hill, and the team discusses East Coast seafood — “Our mussels come from these guys up in Maine,” “These scallops are harvested using a technique from Hokkaido” — the way a sommelier might talk about the origins of wine.
The wine bar has been in the works for more than two years. In the summer of 2020, Russell, Wong, and Kristensen piloted Place des Fêtes as a pop-up in a courtyard behind Oxalis, a restaurant that itself started as a pop-up before opening in Prospect Heights in 2019.
Plans started to materialize after the Finch — the neighborhood’s only Michelin-starred restaurant — closed in 2020, opening up a restaurant space in residential Brooklyn. The team added a few bar railings to fit more people, but the dining room has mostly stayed the same. There’s around 70 seats between banquettes, bar stools, and a larger communal table at the back of the restaurant.
Place des Fêtes is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.