A back garden filled with every micro green you can imagine, all of which are watered by a high-tech sprinkler system. Mini apple trees, a makeshift crayfish farm in a bathtub, and a quail coop, all under picturesque string lights. An interior covered in leafy plants, with perfectly-curated hip hop and classic rock playing through the speakers. Bearded, man-bunned servers roam the room. No, this isn’t an SNL sketch about Brooklyn, this is real life. And it’s a real life restaurant that will go down as one of our favorite new places of the year.
They’ve painted the prettiest of Brooklyn pictures at Olmsted, which is run by a chef who spent time in the kitchens of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Alinea, and Per Se, among others. And like those other establishments, Olmsted is definitely trying hard. Like, really hard: the video on their website is of a guy laser-focused on plating food using tweezers. But as outwardly serious as Olmsted may appear, what makes this place is so great is that they actually don’t take themselves too seriously.
The food is incredible, and some of the most memorable dishes we’ve eaten in recent memory have been here. Take the carrot crepe with clams - a big ravioli made out of silky carrot, filled with a rocket ship of flavors and textures involving (but not limited to) briny clams. The guinea hen two ways is another example - an insanely tasty roasted bird breast injected with a green ramp mousse, served alongside a bowl full of dark-meat confit (aka mashed-up bird parts) topped with hollandaise sauce that results in edible happiness. It’s one of the more unique and impressive dishes we’ve ever encountered.
While the food is fancy, Olmsted overall is not - the most expensive item on the menu is $26, and the place feels like a cool neighborhood spot. It’s by no means inexpensive, but for a restaurant as impressive as this one, this is an affordable-ish way to eat a world class meal. They also have a great bar, the aforementioned back patio which you should hit early for a drink if it’s nice out, and a chef’s counter where you should try to sit.
For as pretentious as Olmsted and its various perfectly-strung string lights and ramp mousse-filled hens could be, it’s actually all kinds of approachable and a really good time.
Get to Olmsted early, and have a drink in the garden. This is non-negotiable. They only serve drinks and snacks back here, so you won’t be able to have your whole meal outside.
Oysters Yam Yam
Icy cold (which is important) raw oysters topped with a bright, refreshing cucumber concoction. Were these harvested in the bathtub in the garden? Probably not, but we’re going to pretend they were anyway.
This is the dish that first made us freak out for Olmsted. A giant ravioli made out of silky smooth carrot, filled with clams. A truly unique dish, a fun idea, and most importantly, the kind of bite we’d travel back for time and time again. Hopefully this remains a fixture on the menu, because you need to taste this.
Guinea Hen Roasted & Confit
We’ll reiterate from above: this dish is phenomenal and needs to be ordered and devoured. If you’re sitting at a table right now about to eat this, we’re very jealous.
These fried up fiddleheads are a mandatory snack-sized order at Olmsted, and the spicy dipping sauce they come with is glorious. You may find yourself ordering multiples if you’re hungry (and smart).
Lightly breaded, lightly fried, lightly crispy long beans - another great snack to share that’s crunchy and fresh and super tasty.
When we first ate at Olmsted, we had pea sushi, and now they’ve moved on to watermelon sushi. Both times we were impressed - the delicate sushi rolls are held together by vegetable strands as opposed to rice. The watermelon version is topped with thinly sliced fluke and chiles for a really interesting sweet, spicy combo. Definitely order it.
Spring Onion Chawanmushi
Chawanmushi is a classic Japanese custard-like dish. Olmsted’s interpretation of it is fantastic. So many fresh flavors, all packed inside a little bowl.
English Pea Falafel
These falafel are all pea everything. They come with pureed peas and whole peas to add on top, plus cucumber salad, a minty Middle Eastern yogurt, and an absurdly good pita, which actually uses pea flour. Peas.
Dry Rubbed Scallops
Having written something in the range of 800 restaurant reviews over the past past seven years, we’ve eaten our fair share of scallops on menus all over New York City. These are the most memorable. Skewered on a stick, and served with a beautiful mess of creamed corn and green garlic.