Olmsted – review



Manhattanites (myself included) obediently acquiesce to the burden of trying every new dining hotspot the city offers up. And the mere thought of bridge-and-tunneling it across to any of the other boroughs seems troublesome, treacherous and traitorous. Why do I need to drag myself across to Brooklyn for a meal, when there are 10,000 options right here? Well, there are a handful of excellent reasons, and Greg Baxtrom’s Olmsted is one of them.




The neighborhoody shotgun room crowded with regulars, was named for the designer of nearby Prospect Park. And given chef Baxtrom’s background for having worked under Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller and Dan Barber, it’s no surprise that he wanted somewhere to cultivate at least a few of his modern American, veg-forward, seasonal ingredients – even if it meant standing up to his frown-browed neighbors at the prospect of raising herbs, flowers, quail and crawfish on his suburban premises.



Carrot Crepe, Olmsted

There are only 12 items on the neatly folded menu that range from $7 – $24. In my experience, there are two reasons for such limited options: it can either mean a cramped kitchen with no room to accommodate a broader selection, or that a fastidious chef has clipped, filtered and trimmed the variety of dishes down to only offering standout stars. Olmsted is combination of both. The three line chefs can practically reach every pot, pan and plate without taking a single step, and by cooking every item in batches of 4, many of the plates were prepared in anticipation of us ordering them. If I were to do it over, I would simply order one of everything ($194 total, which can easily feed 6) to solve the debate of what to order, and the food would arrive almost immediately.


Crawfish Boil Crackers, Olmsted

Don’t let the super-attentive service fool you – it’s all about the food. I’ve never eaten hand-made shrimp chips before. Normally they come dehydrated in a cellophane-wrapped box before curling and stretching out in hot oil, tripling their original size and tasting a whole lot more like UPS packaging than actual shellfish. But these chicharone-like Crawfish boil crackers, poking out of a newspaper basket were a very tasty tribute to those lethargic crustaceans sharing a bathtub with some goldfish out on the patio outside.


Non-Fjordic Oysters, Olmsted

Next to arrive were four Non-Fjordic oysters, flavored with tiny pickled beets, some horse-radish cream, a few salmon roe and a fluff of dill set atop a bowl of pink, diced ice. The briny, vinegary, salty, anisey combination is a solid hit.


Beer battered Delicata Squash, Olmsted

A mere wipe of the napkin later, a wooden bowl of Beer battered Delicata squash replaced the empty oyster shells. The short stack of yummy donut-ringed vegies are wrapped in a light, ketchup-flavored batter and crusted in crunchy herbs, crispy rice and salty splinters of nori.

Probably the most requested dish (and therefore the only menu perennial) is a Carrot Crepe. Made from, with (and possibly by) carrots, it’s a wonderful example of transformative cooking. Adding to the heavenly combination of 3 different carrot textures, little neck clams provide some salty chewiness, roasted sunflower seeds (home-grown) yield some crunch, and a few daisy petals finish off a totally Instagrammable package.



Rutabaga Tagliatelle, Olmsted

Whenever I think of rutabaga I imagine a thick, turnippy, cabbagy alternative to mashed potatoes. Never would I have expected this shy bulb to grab the spotlight as the most delicious ribbons of soft and crunchy Tagliatelle, flavored with Burgundy black truffle breadcrumbs, brown butter and melted Parmesan.

But that was hardly the end of the story. The street cart inspired Gai Tod Hat Yai (Deep fried Thai Chicken) is served two ways: as expected in tightly battered and fried strips before being dunked in the most delectable ginger glaze, and an unexpected confit, tossed in a cabbage, carrot and raw turnip slaw with crunchy fried shallots and a superb fish-sauce and lime dressing.


Lavander honey Frozen Yogurt, Olmsted

But how can I ever look a plain yogurt in the eye again after knowing that it can be topped with a meringue-like foam made entirely from whipping honey and water? Despite the sub-freezing temperatures outside, this magical concoction found its way onto every table (sometimes twice) which fully deserves a slot in the next time capsule.

So, don’t feel intimidated to veer coyly away from the island in search of great food – run!




The Musket Room review

There is really only one thing more impossibly difficult than opening a restaurant in New York city – and that’s keeping it open. Fickle diners, persnickety critics, fierce competition and a winter built for arctic penguins are likely to force even the finest kitchens to tap out. And so despite the incomparable odds, Chef Matt Lambert, a talented, small town kid from New Zealand, armed with his new wife, a unique vision and a little help from Kickstarter, opened The Musket Room in 2013. Fast forward 4 short months later, and the kid goes on to win his first Michelin star. This is one of those stories that warms the belly like hot rum and coffee. So can we please hear it for the (down) under dog? 

You might not realize it, but Chef Lambert has probably cooked for you already, having spent his first years in the city behind the stove at Public, Double Crown and Saxon + Parole, but his unique signature is evident just about everywhere in his lime-washed brick, Nolita bistro with its own herb garden on the side. The menu offers a half-dozen apps, mains and desserts as well as 2 chef’s tasting menus, which according to his wife Barbara, “…is where he really has fun!”

But this is by no means fun food. In fact, at first glimpse the presentation might even appear a tad too fiddled with, however even though each winter blossom, micro green or baby nasturtium leaf seems perfectly balanced by tiny tweezers, the flavors, colors and textures are nothing short of monumental.

St. Simone Oysters - The Musket Room

St. Simone Oysters

The trio of St. Simone Oysters bathing in just the right amount of a smoky vinaigrette and sweet-and-sour grapefruit foam would be thrilled to know that their final moments were immortalized with so much drama, as they each rest with their very own flower on a bed of river pebbles, while the last few wisps of dry ice smoke envelope their immediate air space. In fact many of Lambert’s dishes can be described as built around the most adorable little botanical tableaus.

Quail - The Musket Room


The tender roasted Quail breast and thigh (with tiny claw still attached) lay beside a small thicket of blackberries and leaves with roasted half-onions and a sublimely velvety bread sauce, while the beautifully decorated, house-smoked Ora King Salmon with oils, herbs and seeds is a field day for Instagramers.

Ora King Salmon - The Musket Room

Ora King Salmonq

Every chef has their particular form that defines them. For Chef Lambert it must be the cylinder. He uses it to shape, hide and contain any number of ingredient parts that give the diner a thrill of discovery. His Beet salad divides conical statues of the purple root around a foam puck, punctuated by ivory nipples of zesty goat cheese and crunchy pistachios.

Lamb - The Musket Room


Being a New Zealander – where sheep far outnumber humans – I was dying to find out just how dexterously Lambert handles his lamb. And so when the rectangular, fork-tender slithers of picture-perfectly pink tenderloin arrived, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad for how lonely they looked until their table-side garnishing of a lusciously minty granola of mixed grains gave the dish an unexpected twist and crunch. Equally unexpected was the pair of Jerusalem artichokes both pureed and then hidden inside their own wafer-thin, crisp-fried skins. In case you were wondering, that’s how you spell Michelin!

Beef - The Musket Room


The circular crescent of Berkshire Pork (tenderloin and belly) done two ways, with a pillbox of kale that was shredded into moss along with a cauliflower floret and a mandarin slither or two, managed to capture most of the colors of the rainbow onto a single plate. And the flavor-forward Beef with salsify, eggplants and a delicious lobster cream scored even more goals for the Kiwi team.

Passion Fruit Pavlova - The Musket Room

Passion Fruit Pavlova

Chocolate is by all accounts the popular dessert du jour. It’s a rich log of gooey, chocolatey goodness teased by a Shirley Temple ringlet of salted caramel toffee. This was followed by another cylinder (a sweet one this time) that encased the even more challengingly sweet Bananas Foster, surrounded by bits of cake and a squiggle of lemon, but the Passion Fruit Pavlova is pure drama. While an innocent-looking meringue cylinder is supported by a medley of strawberries with a dribble of passion fruit – there lurks a thick shot of sweet cream deep inside for subsequent discovery… This dessert comes with a message. In my case it read: “Happy Birthday” – but what it secretly meant to say was: “Do Not Share!”